Ling's Pavilion at Colaba is your only hope for some reasonably authentic Chinese food at Mumbai. The photos taken by my BB under very poor lighting don't do the food justice
“Hello, my name is Kalyan, can I book a table for eight for 8.30 tomorrow night?”
“I also want to book a Hainanese chicken rice that Baba Ling said he would make for us”.
“Tomorrow difficult sir”
“I will be coming with Manisha, Cheryl, Ranjit. They are regulars at your restaurant. For many years”
“I write on Finely Chopped and I have written about you guys, please?”
“It is the Bengali New Year tomorrow. We really want to have the chicken rice.”
Hushed conversation at the background. Silence.
“Ok sir, we will make it.”
Well feast your eyes ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know which of the levers worked but this is a picture of the Hainanese Chicken rice that was put together for us for our Poila Boishakh dinner.
Having eaten Hainanese chicken rice at Singapore and its cousin, Ipoh chicken rice at KL, let me tell you that what they made for us at Ling’s Pavilion was as real as it gets. Right down to texture of the chicken skin, the taste and firmness of the meat, the demure finesse of the stock, the ephemeral nature of the rice cooked in chicken stock, the ginger and red chilli dips which came with the dish and the slices of cucumber that came with it. Last evening we were sitting at a table at one of Singapore’s many Hawker Markets. Bang in the middle of Colaba. This custom made dish for us cost all of Rs 700 (USD 14).
Three Bengalis. One half Bengali half Marathi. One Maharashtrian and honorary Bengali. One Parsi. One Goan.
Our dinner order, “No vegetables. Take no prisoners.”
Tagore, Bose and Ray would have approved off this.
Chilli garlic prawns as bouncy and fresh as we remembered it from last time.
A new discovery, pork in Chinese bread pouches...the pork mix more Singapore Straits than a Somerset Maugham story.
Pork belly, made in the base for their roast pork. Sujay, our maitre’ d from Darjeeling at West Bengal, put this dish together. Out of the menu. Marrying the cut of meat that we wanted with the preparation that we wanted. A dish so colourful that K, for a change, asked me why I hadn’t brought my camera.
A mixed meat Hakka noodles which I initially ignored with all the wonders around. Then I took a bite. There were tears of joy in my eyes. Firm noodles, tender meat, a riot of strong flavours, a very thin film of sauce at the base ... every bite screamed Jimmy’s Kitchen to me. The Cantonese restaurant at Calcutta’s Park Circus where my dad used to take my mom and me for lunch everyday after school, in between his chambers. More than a quarter century later my little sister in law took us there for lunch. “I am not that little”, she said.
I remembered Soumik’s comment at Purepur Kolhapur. For once I too didn’t want dessert. I wanted to sleep with the memories of Kolkata, Singapore, KL and the dreams of the Orient unsullied by anything else.
Then Sujoy came up to us with a smile that was bigger than him. “Coffee ice cream. The chef has sent”.
Honest food. A happy place. Great friends. Lots of chatter. Spectacular food which reduced us to happy smiles. Dinner dreams that came true. Happy memories which came alive in a warm yellow glow. Free ice cream.
Seems like 1418 will be better.
Shubho Poila Boishakh
Or as the Chinese say, Gong Xi Fa Cai