Remember when the Internet went crazy in early July over, of all things, the proper way to cook rice? It all started with a YouTube video by UK-based Malaysian comedian Nigel Ng trashing BBC Food host Hersha Patel for her egg fried rice recipe. With close to 10 million views and counting, the video rallied equally indignant folks against Patel whose rice cooking crimes included not pre-washing the rice, draining cooked rice of excess water, and horrors, rinsing it in cold water afterwards.
Despite all the online hate, Patel took it all in stride, addressing “the online abuse that I’ve endured over the last couple of weeks” with the most apropos response—a TikTok dance video.
After Patel got trolled online, she and Ng met up to make peace, posting on Instagram to set the record straight that the BBC Food recipe wasn’t hers, and that she does indeed know how to cook rice properly. As the one responsible for landing her in that predicament, Ng made it up to her by pledging to join forces on a future rice cooking demo. And as promised, Ng uploaded that video on his YouTube channel on August 10, where it racked up almost 2 million views in less than a day.
For those expecting fireworks at this meet-up, the result is anything but. Instead, in 11 minutes and 34 seconds, Ng and Patel use humor and a healthy dose of irony to defuse the outrage and neutralize the judgement. And with our world going up in flames (literally!) these days, this enlightening little video may actually show us how to achieve world peace, or something like that. Here are my 5 takeaways:
1. Show respect
Instead of a neutral location, Patel invites Ng to her home as her guest, ensuring he’ll be on his best behavior, more or less. Using his “Uncle Roger” character, Ng reciprocates by referring to Patel as “Auntie Hersha” which in Chinese culture is seen as a sign of both respect and familiarity.
2. Stand your ground with a smile
Ng enters Patel’s small but efficient kitchen and proceeds to watch her make her own version of egg fried rice, ready to judge her every move. While he happily applauds when she pre-washes her rice and doesn’t strain the cooked rice, he can’t help but disapprove when she chooses to measure her rice with a measuring cup instead of using the vaunted Asian finger method. (On that note, let me admit that, even if I was taught to use the finger method, like Patel, I find the cup method infinitely more reliable and precise. Sorry Uncle Roger!)
When Ng brings out his big plastic pack of Ajinomoto MSG (vetsin to us Pinoys), Patel ignores as she abides by her healthier version with just a sprinkling of soy sauce. And while I know for a fact that soy sauce won’t do the trick to flavor up her fried rice, if she really prefers it a bit blander, then that’s fine. She stands her ground, refusing to get bullied into Uncle Roger’s version, and all with a smile on her face.
3. Expose the bullying
Uncle Roger plays the “online troll” by insisting his way is the only right way to cook rice. Patel counters by mentioning other popular rice dishes like risotto, paella, and biryani that use different rice cooking methods. And while he disses risotto and paella, he grudgingly admits that he enjoys biryani (because who doesn’t!).
Worse, when Uncle Roger goes into “creepy old uncle” mode with his bit of sexual innuendo (see 6:27, 8:44, and 8:55), all it takes is for Patel to make a face or just ignore him to put him in his place.
4. Diss each other equally
They both try to out-impress each other with the expert chef’s pan toss move—mixing the rice in the wok with just flicks of the wrist—but with equally disastrous results. Patel ends up with half of the rice on the floor, while Ng’s attempt is so pathetic that the rice is stuck to the pan. A fail for both becomes a good-natured, neutralizing tie.
5. Find common ground
Ng tastes Patel’s egg fried rice and gives it the best kind of approval he can muster—a decent 6/10 grade for home-cooked fried rice—but still a far cry from the superior MSG-laden Chinese restaurant version we all know and love. It’s as close to a mutually agreed upon judgement on Patel’s fried rice as they can come up with—and it works.
Towards the end of the video, Ng and Patel find further common ground by exposing the true crime of the BBC Food egg fried rice scandal—that Western food media tends to confound the diversity of Asian cuisines into the vague catch-all of “Asian fusion.” Patel demonstrates this by making a supposed “Anglo-Indian” version, dumping random ingredients into her fried rice —alfalfa sprouts, garam masala, curry leaves, chia seeds, baked beans, and yuck, marmite—to obviously disastrous results. If ever there’s a rallying cry to unite Asian fried rice aficionados everywhere, then this brilliant ending is it.