Opinion | Send me your Gobi Manchurian and Schezwan Idlis
You can boycott or destroy Chinese goods all you want—just send all your Chinese food my way
Send me all your Chinese food. That’s all I want to say. You know someone who wants to throw their TV from the balcony and then jump up and down on it, in an artistic rendition of Toddler vs Screentime, cool, cool, cool. Just send me all your Chinese food.
Send me your red efflorescence, aka Gobi Manchurian, singing the song of corn flour and ketchup, sitting decorously in thalis all over Bengaluru, in great heaps on street-side carts, with fresh spring onion in your mother’s house.
Send me the garlic chicken of Bengaluru’s Frazer Town and lemon chicken of Delhi’s Dwarka and the delicious red gravy of something I ate in Kolkata’s Park Street in my vegetarian decade. Send me the Chinese pretend-chicken-mostly-soya I ate everywhere in those 10 years.
Send me your spring rolls. All of them. The hard-fried one on the menu inside the dark Chinese restaurant above the Chinese Beauty Parlour in 1980s Bengaluru, possibly the first restaurant I had ever been to. The light spring rolls that precede bacchanalian dinners at the homes of my Marwari relatives. Send me even that spring roll that terrified me at Delhi’s Civil Lines Metro station by suddenly sprouting noodles, send me that scary fellow also. I embrace you like a prime minister.
Send me the eight dim-sum banquets I had in the place that used to be My One Place in south Delhi, whose chef has since gone back to China to be with his mother, damn him and his filial love. Once it was my place of pilgrimage. I prepared seriously, with devotion, with attention to detail, to eat 18 varieties of dim sum in one meal. Once a year, I prepared with loose pants and skipped breakfast to eat unlimited quantities of everything from Lenin’s Beard, a bright orange, fragile puff pastry, to the obvious siu mai to the irresistible char siu baos. Char siu baos, you giant kozhakattas of Cantonese cuisine, how much I loved you, white on the outside and dark barbecued pork on the inside. All I am saying is, send me your char siu baos.
Don’t send me your insults for Shiv Sagar. Why would you be mean to that ubiquitous inn of cheap, elevated comfort and Schezwan Idlis? Send me a Schezwan Idli.
Send me all your communal hotpots. The posh hotpot with tofu and seaweed and cloud-ear mushrooms, where the snooty owner first said to the young innocents who had wandered in, “No fried momos, we do not have anything fried." Send me the hotpot in its democratized decline, when we rowdily ate fried momos. Send me the vast sea of hotpots that I had somehow imagined I would get to eat in Taiwan someday.
Send me the mountains of mushrooms that farmer was talking about on Kisan TV the other day. Yes, sir, please send me those terrific oyster mushrooms you have been growing in Uttar Pradesh.
Send me your soup, boys. Send me your soup, girls. Send it with sweet corn. Send it with a film of chilli oil. Send it clear. Send it thick. Let’s not wait till someone’s sick. Let’s send it.
Send me your soup dumplings (which are not the offspring of any Kolaveri-esque soup boys, as you know). I will close my eyes and pretend that some day I will be in Shanghai and easily able to order Xiaolongbao and eat it with elegance. The way this year is going, I will be grateful to just order them in Koramangala, even if I burn my tongue and spill the soup all over my shirt.
Send me wontons from Mumbai’s Wanton House, subject of drunken pointing and giggling. Send me the shaadi chowmein—without it, my friend Shobhita’s father pointed out, no one can have a wedding in Lansdowne; don’t be silly, beta.
Send me your fried rice: bathed in grease or crisp and dry, elegant with tofu and spring onions or awash in soy sauce. Send me your egg fried rice, your mother’s version and my mother’s version.
Send me the best Chinese food we ate in Nagpur and Puri and Coimbatore and Shillong. Send me the memories of China, the gateways of China, the three quarters of China, the gardens of China, the palaces of China, the spices of China. Send me the red lanterns, the fluorescent delicacies and the neon-lit dragons.
In case I have not been as clear as a soup, let me say it again. If the world is coming to an end, just send me all your Chinese food. And if you like, I can send you some.
Cheap Thrills is a fortnightly column about millennials, obsessions and secrets. Nisha Susan is the editor of the webzine The Ladies Finger.
FIRST PUBLISHED25.06.2020 | 07:59 AM IST