Food, Experience

Chinese Cuisine in South Indian Fast Food Centres

“Master! Oru Chicken Noodles!” The waiter screamed on top of his lungs.

The Parotta master, who was flipping three parottas per second at the counter outside the shop caught the order and passed it on to a thin, young man who frantically tossed an iron wok (we call it “kadaai”, which means pan) cooking a batch of schezuan chicken fried rice. He nodded his head and continued cooking the chicken fried rice.

I called the waiter and said “One parotta until the noodle comes”

The waiter in the green shirt swiftly went to the counter outside, picked up a parotta in a large stainless steel tray, and dropped it on my banana leaf.

As I ate the parotta along with chicken serva, I watched the young chef work his magic on the Wok.

I like to watch chefs cook whenever I go to small restaurants. They have a great memory (no order slips clamped onto the counter), they work at lightning speeds and they deliver amazing meals.

When I was halfway chewing the crunchy parotta, I saw him empty the wok full or chicken rice onto three aluminum foil containers and pass it on to the delivery counter.

Without wasting a second, the chef got onto my order. He took the iron ladle and dropped it in the boiling pot of hot oil that looked like the oil they dig from offshore sites – dark and rusty. The oil that is already using all its might to cook a batch of Chicken 65 stooped further below to gave a piece of it for my chicken noodles. The oil that filled one-fourth of the ladle now met the hot wok.

As the wok sizzled, the chef cracked an egg on the rim of the wok and emptied its contents into the Wok. As the egg started cooking, he threw in a handful of cut vegetables, some cooked noodles, and some oddly chopped chicken pieces.

He tossed the wok with his left hand and sprinkled small amounts of salt, pepper, Ajinomoto, and garam masala with his right hand. Everything happened in the blink of an eye! Chances are he’s cooking the dish for a zillionth time.

When the mix of ingredients was getting cooked, he took a plastic bottle filled with soy sauce and squeezed it onto the pan. He then threw in a dash of coriander and tossed the ingredients. The clang of the ladle against the Wok gave out a beautiful rhythm that reminded me of trains. 

After a minute, he transferred the chicken noodles onto a stainless steel bowl.

“Line ku oru chicken noodles!” he screamed at the waiter.

In some South Indian mess and fast food centers, the word “line” referred to tables (dine-in customers)

The noodles tasted amazing. It had no trace of Chinese ingredients except the soy sauce, but it was the best bowl of noodles I had in recent times. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but chicken noodles taste the same in all fast food centers across Tamilnadu. 

Irrespective of the chef and the locality of the restaurant, you get the same taste and flavor in every single place. And, I’m not sure if we should even call it Chinese. I guess all credit goes to some unnamed chef who would’ve learned the recipe from somewhere and passed it on to all the other chefs who cooked at fast food centers.

I’ve tasted chicken noodles in fine dining restaurants, but they never taste the same as the one you have at the local fast food center.

Maybe it is due to the used oil. I recently saw an episode from Andrew Zimmern’s show that featured a burger joint in the U.S. where the patties are fried in 100-year-old bacon grease (they haven’t changed it for a hundred years!). Maybe the unchanged oil that cooks everything at the restaurant is key to the taste.

Fast food centers have a limited menu. In fact, most fast food centers don’t have a menu. They assume you know what you want to eat. They don’t try to win you over with ambiance or fancy cutlery. People either order fried rice or noodles and the sides are often confined to chicken 65, chili chicken, Chicken Manchurian, chili beef, and chili paneer.

People order, eat and get the hell out. No-fuss. No ratings. No reviews. Just good food and lightning-fast service.

If you haven’t visited a local fast food center, you should. It is a once in a lifetime experience. Considering the number of carcinogens in the cooking oil, it could be your “once in a lifetime” opportunity too!

But, I assure you one thing. You won’t regret ordering a bowl of chicken noodles in a fast food center. You’ll be hooked to the taste and you won’t stop until you lick the bowl clean.

So, the next time you’re hungry and are looking for a place to eat, stop at the nearest fast food center (the name of the restaurant usually ends with the words “fast food” or “biriyani and fast food”) and order yourself a scrumptious bowl of chicken noodles.