Vermilion, which for years has been offering Chicagoans a unique cuisine combining Indian and Latin American influences, has changed its format and is now offering Indian-Chinese cuisine.
Owner Rohini Dey, PhD., made the change on Feb. 10.
Unlike the food previously served, which were the creations of Dey’s chefs, the new menu is based on Chinese cuisine as it is served in India.
Just as Chinese-American food is its own cuisine, so is Chinese-Indian food, which Dey says has been available in West Bengal, the Indian state where Dey is from, since Chinese immigrants arrived in the 1870s.
As in the United States, Chinese food is widely available, Dey said, and as the child of an air force fighter pilot, she lived in 13 cities across the country when she was growing up.
“The constant in every city was Indian Chinese [food],” which was sold affordably out of food carts, Dey said in an email.
“All Indians adore this food and it’s markedly different from Chinese elsewhere (better, I say),” she said, adding that Vermilion’s new menu is “my tribute to this fare, the rich history of Chinese in India, and the meshing of both our cultures.”
She added that, having offered Indian-Latin food for nearly two decades, others have since taken up the thread with Indian-Portuguese, Indian-Mexican, and similar efforts, and she’s “excited to introduce something new to Chicago” that’s Indian and non-Eurocentric.
There was also a Vermilion restaurant in New York City from 2008 to 2017.
Among the dishes on the new menu are Crazy Hot Asians, a tangy and peppery vegan soup with black mushrooms, tofu, tamarind, curry leaf and crisped lotus root, Kolkata Streets, a chaat or chopped snack of fried noodles, spiced buff rice, mango, onion, lime, cilantro, green chile, Chinese chile sauce, and mustard oil, and Squid Games, made with black squid ink rice noodles, shrimp, squid, and black mushrooms.
The restaurant’s fried chicken, called Not Your KFC, is a combination of the styles of India and the Chinese city of Chongqing in Sichuan province.
Another dish, Mary Had A Little… is black pepper grilled soy-oyster sauce sesame lamb chops with roasted baby carrots and the “holy trinity” of vinegar, soy sauce and green chile
Ancient Wisdom is a chilled black wood ear and enoki mushroom salad with black beans, blackberries, scallion, black cardamom, vinegar, garlic, and chile oil.
Apart from running her restaurant, Dey was a co-founder of the James Beard Foundation’s Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Program from 2012 to 2021. In 2020, partly in response to the hardships of the pandemic on restaurant operators, Dey founded Let’s Talk Womxn in an effort to collaborate and share ideas about improving their businesses and raising visibility. The organization now has more than 700 members across 14 cities.
Nation’s Restaurant news also named her the MenuMasters Innovator of the year for 2022.
Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]