Indian-Chinese, with its fiery palate of ginger, garlic, green chilies and soy, used to be one of my favorites, but for about five years my love affair for one of the world’s original fusion cuisines was doused by waves of regional Chinese, Thai, and Uzbek food. I’ve been away from my old flame, Tangra Masala for far too long. It took a chef buddy, Jonathan Forgash, to reintroduce me to one of Queens most vibrant and delicious cuisines. And in so doing he introduced me to the man who is unquestionably the Godfather of Indian-Chinese cuisine in Queens, Chef Peter Lo. Chef Lo took the time out of his busy schedule to talk about the hallmarks of his cuisine as well as the upcoming Queens Dinner Club.
Where are you from originally and how did you learn to cook?
I’m from Calcutta. When I came to this country in 1984 I used to work part time in a restaurant. I really got fascinated seeing the way food was cooked and prepared. I liked the system. Back home my mother had an Indian-Chinese restaurant. She’s an excellent cook. Gradually I got to love cooking food, a friend used to say, “Why don’t you open a restaurant? You know you cook good food.” So that’s how I got to opened this restaurant in 2001.
What are some of the classic Indian-Chinese dishes?
Chili chicken, fried rice, and noodles. We could only make one chow mein back in India, hakka chow mein, it’s very popular there. When I started cooking here I improvised, so we have have Tangra masala chow mein, and Manchurian chow mein. We have four or five flavors, including Singapore, which we’ll be serving at Dinner Club.
Tell me more about the Dinner Club menu?
Jonathan is a lover of the Tangra masala beef so we’re definitely including that and lollypop chicken, Tangra masala soup with crab and shrimp, and, of course, chili chicken dry.
What’s the story with gravy vs. dry?
A lot of people like to mix the gravy with rice to eat. Dry isn’t really dry it’s not completely dry like Kentucky Fried Chicken. It has some sauce. A lot of people like to have it that way.
You can count me among those people, Chef. What are some of your favorite restaurants in Queens?
Oh I go to a lot of places. I am a lover of food! My favorite Colombian place is Tierras Colombianas [in Astoria]. The one that used to be on Roosevelt and 82nd St.—that was the best one. For Korean food I like Kum Gang San.
I love the pungent flavor of your Manchurian sauce? What’s in it? Does the red color come from ketchup?
No, the red color comes from dark soy sauce, and that sharp flavor comes from ginger and garlic.
Your chili paste is amazing, it has a lovely sweetness. What makes it so good?
If you compare this one to the Chinese one it’s totally different. It’s sweeter because I cook it for two hours. It’s cooked for a long time on a low fire. The Chinese one is made with high heat and gives a lot of people a stomach ache. Mine doesn’t do that.