There are at least four kinds of Chinese food known to all Indians.
First, is the kind you’d get in China. As delicious as it is, barely anyone cares too much about it. It’s complex, flavorful, extremely health and NOT HERE.
Second, is the kind you get at proper restaurants like Royal China, Bar-b-que and the lot. You could call it the more refined version of the Indian Chinese that we lust after. Third is the very well known and often indulged in – street Chinese. With bad hygiene and a haunting amount of ajinomoto, it still tugs at your heart-strings.
But the best kind is the one smack in the middle of these three. I’m talking about those old Chinese joints that we all know and love. Not really fancy, not too shabby and often have words like ‘Tung’, ‘Fa’, ‘Chung’, ‘Heng’, ‘Dragon’, ‘Golden’ and so on, in their names.
The names are important because it’s partly what assures me that I’ll get what I expect out of it.
These are the joints that will serve you the best egg-y spring rolls, amazing pork wantons, glossy thick noodles and the forever favorite – a bowl of fluffy egg fried rice.
Sure, other places could have all these things on their menu but the experience is never the same. While you’re gorging down on that rice from the stall across your office, a part of you is wondering which diseases your immunity system is fighting off right now. Fancy restaurants are really good, but I often find them a little boring.
When I go out for Chinese, I want the entire experience! The golden dragons painted on the red and white walls, the old Chinese couple sitting at the cashier’s desk who throw dead or mean glances at you, waiters who are always in a rush and the sound of ladles against a hot woks whenever a server passes through the kitchen door. I want all of that, a pair of chopsticks and a damn good table of food in front of me.
So I found myself one. It’s called ‘Original Chung Fa’ and it fared better than I expected it to. I know for a fact that these restaurants are always good in Calcutta. But Bombay’s Chinese can be very different. There are very few traditional Chinese restaurants, at least in South Bombay and most of them can be hella expensive. And if it’s not expensive, it’s usually red. People here tend to douse food with red coloring and call it szechuan. *Rolling my eyes*.
Anyway, the place had the perfect old Calcutta vibe and no red food coloring in the vicinity. We straightaway went for the fried chicken wantons and spring rolls. The wantons came with a lovely hot garlic sauce and we had enough to properly dunk the golden fried babies in it. The spring rolls were disappointing. The breading wasn’t eggy, neither was it crisp. While we asked for chicken and prawn spring rolls, all I could really see was noodles. They too, lacked in seasoning. So far, one-all.
Next, we went for the Chinese chopsuey. Now this was good. The Cantonese gravy was flavorful, full of veggies, chicken and prawn and it came in all steamy. We also called for a foo-yong – only because we didn’t know what it meant.
It turned out to be a stuffed chicken omlete. It was really lovely though. Hot fluffy steamy egg with a ton of chicken and spring onions in it. I barely had enough patience to take this image for you guys. Once we did start digging in, we only stopped once it was over. Gobble gobble!
Overall, it was a nice dinner. The food had a few hits and misses but I got to relive something I was craving. My quest for this kind of Chinese isn’t over yet. Which brings me to a solemn request. If you’ve understood what I’m looking for and know of such a place, please PLEASE let me know!