It was a maddening affair – simple, passionate and absolutely unconditional. The way a lover’s name is always dancing at the tip of our lips, her name, too, was always right there waiting to be called. Always within our grasp yet oh-so-irresistible. A perfect mix of all things sinful, her power knew no bounds, she was the kind of lover who was available for all but somehow kept herself exclusive. Exotic, full of silky charm and just so delicious, one taste and she had the masses hooked and lined up for more. Whether or not she was real or unauthentic was never a matter of concern, we liked her just the way she was – in any and every form. At first her name was proudly whispered in circles - “Cathay,” they murmured. What started as a soft Chinese whisper soon turned into a powerful chant. Everyone wanted her and boy, did everyone have her.
Before the mushrooming of numerous eateries around the capital, the foodie in us had one true love - “Chinese.” It may not have meant authentic dim sums or chow mein, but it certainly meant happiness in all its oily, tangy, spice filled glory. At first there was the beloved Cathay, offering the generic favourites – beef with chilli, chicken with chilli, chop suey and chow mein. There were the soups as well – how can we ever forget about the rich, delicious goop we called the hot and sour soup? Or even the clear soup that came in a great big hot pot, ready to be doled out as the first round of appetiser at our family dinner?
A wedding, a family dinner, a birthday - “Chinese” in it’s inherently Bengali form was the go-to cuisine and why wouldn’t it be? Available just about everywhere, great tasting and giving us all a final break from the tried and tested biryani-polao dinner combos, Bangla-Chinese was our dream come true. From Cathay to Hwang Ho to Jing Ling and of course, the revered “X” family of Chinese eateries (Xian, Xindian, Xenial), we had it all and we had it good.
What began as a whispered affair was now an open relationship, with every child, every man and every family swearing by the addictive quality of Bangla-Chinese. Although many different lovers have graced our palettes and several types of eateries have sprouted up around the capital, there’s still one part of us that clings on to our love for Bangla-Chinese. New loves come and go, but our first love is such, it refuses to leave, it refuses to be just a memory.
This week we take a long, lonely walk back to our favourite Bangla-Chinese haunts to remind ourselves of a love that so captivated us before.
House: 72, Road 11, Banani, Dhaka
House 55, 55/A, Road 16 (New),
27 (Old), Satmosjid Road,
Phone: +88-02-8123830, 8150394,
House 2, Road 11, Dhanmondi,
Ph: +8809121235, +8808126993
House 15 (1st floor), Road 8, Dhaka
House 15, Road 8, Block F, Banani
House 2, Road 2, Sector 1, Uttara