Dhaka redux – Cheong Shing
I am back where it all started. I am back in Dhaka. A city I consider my spiritual home. A city where I am at ease. A city that always treated me well.
Nonetheless, trepidation almost tripped me for days before I arrived. I was about to leave what is best described as comforts of home. I was also about to leave the company of loved ones.
Wasn't easy at all.
So when I got off the flight, I felt more apprehension than exhilaration. I was asked at the immigration counter my purpose of visit. The moment I said “employment”, everything came rushing back.
The highs of meeting old friends, going to known places and exploring the unknown. I was ready to be here again. Good friends took me to dinner that night but I was too buzzed to take pictures or even cohesively talk. In a couple of nights, good friends took me to a place called Cheong Shing. Now as is wont in Dhaka, they have changed there location a few times and are now in a newly built road connecting Gulshan with Banani.
I had been to Cheong Shing before and the food has always been consistently good. Modern Chinese is the best description that I can come up with for the food. I had forgotten how good the food really is.
We had quite a banquet spread out in front of us. A crispy, crunchy fried calamari strewn with onions. The acid of the allium worked beautifully with the soft tenderness of the calamari. There was a whole steamed fish with lemon, soy and ginger. I don't have words to describe the freshness of the fish. Spoon tender, soy and ginger spiked, green onion bejeweled, it was the very personification of delicacy.
There was a fiery pork stir fry with loads and loads of red chillies that reminded me of the wonderful shapta of Blue Poppy in Calcutta.
We had a kangkong that turned out to be the mother of all kangkongs, including the old lady's on Soi 15. Spicy, light, spiky, crunchy, tender. Too many good things together. There was seafood and tofu in a clay pot that had the best of sea pitted against soft chunks of slightly fermented tofu. Ying and yang. Light and shade. Soft and softer. And a large platter of fried rice. Studded with little prawns, bits of chicken, shard of cuttlefish, it was the perfect bass to the treble of the spicy excess that we indulged in.
Well, there was a chicken with salt and pepper that did not appeal to me. Too salty for my taste, it had no subtleties nor did the chicken shine through.
But with the rest of the menu like that, who cares about one mishit?
Yes, I am well and truly back.
Photo: Kanishka Chakraborty