Golden Joy (Calcutta, Jan 2020)


Indian Chinese food, as I’ve said before, is arguably the country’s true national cuisine. (I am speaking here not of the more recent, putatively more “authentic” Chinese food that has made inroads into the higher end of the market in major metros but which has a more limited reach.) This is true in two senses. It is available all over the country—in large cities and small towns, from fancy restaurants to street stalls to dhabas in the middle of nowhere—and has been for many decades. And it is a cuisine that at this point has been adopted without much/any rancour in every part of the country it has gone to (which is to say, again, to every part of it). This latter cannot be said, for example, of North Indian restaurant food—which is also everywhere but whose popularity inspires grumbling in many places outside North India. The only other contender is South Indian food of the idli-dosa-vada-sambar kind (I refer to it generically because that’s largely how it’s presented and received outside the South)—but that has never quite shed its (broad) regional origins. Indian Chinese food, on the other hand, is now of everywhere and from nowhere. And in most places there are no Indian Chinese people actually associated with preparing or serving it. Continue reading

Big Wong (Delhi , December 2018)


It’s hard to know what to say about Big Wong, a chain with seven or eight locations in the greater Delhi metro, past its logo—I mean, just look at it. There are Chinese restaurants in the US with the name Big Wong as well and if any of them had a logo that looked like this you can imagine how it would be (correctly) read. In India, however, there is little outrage about this sort of a thing—even if my nephews, who picked this as the location for a Chinese meal in Gurgaon in December, were a bit embarrassed about it. On the one hand, the deployment of imagery like this in an Indian Chinese chain—whose owners are not Indian Chinese—does not signify the same things that it would in a contemporary American Chinese chain, precisely because the discourses and demographics of race in India are not the same as those in the US; on the other, and it pains me to say this, it shows just how casual racism in India continues to be. The people responsible for the Big Wong logo would probably be very shocked to hear that there’s anything problematic about it. Continue reading