A new Chinese-Indian Fusion restaurant has popped up on Highland Avenue near some the famed restaurants of the area like Bottega Cafe, Galley and Garden and Taj India. But instead of a beautifully-designed building complete with culturally-appropriate artwork, this new restaurant is located inside of the Shell Gas Station at the Sneaky Pete’s Hot Dog counter.
Perhaps inaptly titled, “Little India,” offers more Chinese-Indian fusion than they do Indian food. New names for the establishment are being tossed around. Most of the menu items sounded like Chinese dishes, however, many dishes of modern Indian Chinese cuisine bear little resemblance to traditional Chinese cuisine. Staple base options for an Indian Chinese meal include chicken, shrimp or vegetable variants of “Hakka” or “Schezwan” noodles popularly referred to as chow mein; and regular or”Schezwan” fried rice. Though the names sound similar to familiar dishes, this food stands alone.
On the recommendation of the Owner/Chef, we tried the Chili Chicken with Fried Rice. The dish came out steaming hot in a reusable to-go container. The chicken was battered and fried before being covered in “gravy”, a mildly sweet and spicy sauce. The gravy dishes are by default served with generous helpings of gravy, although they can also be ordered “dry” or “without gravy”. This dish was delicious and far superior to any Chinese takeout near the area, especially for a menial $7.
We also ordered the Chicken Hakka Noodles, a dish similar to Chow Mein, although more complex. Hakka noodles are a type of boiled noodles that are tossed and mixed with vegetables, chicken and sauces. Both Hakka Noodles and chow mein are made using noodles and similar kinds of vegetables are added to it. However, there is a slight difference between the two. While Hakka noodles have their roots in Hakka Han or Han Chinese, chow mein comes from Taishan. Hakka noodles have dominant Bengali flavours but chow mein has flavours that can be closely associated with Chinese flavours.
Whatever the differences in chow mein and Hakka noodles, they were certainly tasty! This dish was served tossed with chicken and green onions and a savory sauce with a latent heat. Another win, and again, for only $7.
We never expected to find such great food inside another of Birmingham’s gas stations. We are looking forward to trying more of Little India’s offerings.