Fried rice and its popularity in Kolkata, especially amongst Bengalis
Is fried rice one of the most popular rice dishes in the world? If I would have been asked to pass on a verdict, then I would say yes without blinking an eye lid. A simple fried rice with optimum balance of flavours with chopped vegetables and your choice of egg/chicken/prawn/pork, all of them together would be a mixed one. If you are in South East Asia, then you can land up with more sea food on the plate. Fried rice is a great rescuer when it comes to indecision of the ordering food in most Chinese restaurants. For Bengalis, the presence of rice with vegetables and others strike a chord somewhere and there is an instant connection to this food. Is there any Chinese, Indo Chinese, roadside chinese, office Para chinese shop which doesn’t sell Fried rice? Isn’t Fried rice consumed as much as chow chow only?
There is still a restaurant in Chandannagore called Shahjadi (situated near baghbazar Kalibari), one of the first big restaurant with proper seating capacity to be opened up in Chandannagore makes one of the best fried rice I have ever had. I am biased and it’s not only me but this has been a favourite of Ma and my late Baba. Many a lunch or dinner, be it my birthday or Baba Ma’s anniversary, the small packets from Shahjadi with Fried rice has been a witness to our humble yet joyful celebrations. This was a time when eating out was luxury and still now, I think I can go back to this fried rice.
There are few steps which if not followed, the fried rice can be a bummer and I have experienced that also at some places. It depends on the quality of the rice used and the stickiness (depends on whether one has spent time in drying it up overnight or if cooked instantly had the rice dried enough). In the same way, the challenge lies in helping the ingredients retain their individual taste and minimum seasonings. Worst ever, I have seen turmeric powder and garam masala being added in Chinese fried rice; almost like Ripleys believe it or not.
Recently, we had a simple egg fried rice at Chinoiserie, Taj Bengal. This particular fried rice has stayed on our minds since then. Extremely honest flavours bound together and enveloped inside a thin egg omelette created a wow effect as soon as the omlette was cut with a knife and while the rice peeked out, the aroma was incredible. Nothing was in excess. Mild garlic flavour with soft spring onions and buttery grains of rice falling off the fork was just perfect.
Burnt Garlic Fried rice as made in home.
The love for fried rice has been passed on to the next generation also and anytime and any meal can have a fried rice. The burnt garlic fried rice was made at home topped with a full egg with a runny yolk (not mandatory) and we enjoyed our dinner. While writing this, I was curious about how many types of Fried rice there is. Perhaps that’s for another day. The preparation involved of whatever vegetables were there in the refrigerator and making of the scrambled eggs. One can also use some boiled prawns or chicken or even bits if pork.