Though home means India, Jerry Wong hasn’t forgotten his Chinese roots
In his 62 years of life, Jerry Wong has gone to China — the land his forefathers belong to — just once, and that too very recently. Wong went there as a tourist, liked what he saw and came back to India, the country his grandparents adopted as home long back in 1940. There was no sense of belonging, for it was as alien a turf for him as it would be for any other foreigner visiting a new country. “I was an outsider there. I was born here in India,” says Wong matter-of-factly, adding that there is nothing waiting in that country for him. “I have an aunt there but all my family is here. I have my business here. We wouldn’t have got the opportunity and freedom to do what we are doing anywhere else except India.”
But all this in no way implies dismissal of his Chinese culture. In fact, there are things that Wong has been consciously doing to retain his Chinese culture and heritage, like speaking in Chinese at home. “My grandmother told us, ‘You can speak in English-Hindi in school or outside, but at home you have to converse in Chinese. Now, my children too speak in Chinese at home, though my daughter scored highest marks in Hindi in her class 10 Board exams. Also, we try and marry within the community, but there is no hard and fast rule,” says Wong, who has his roots in the Hakka community of Moyan village in Guangzon district. The tradition of Chinese food is being carried forward in any case, through the two restaurants — Jerry Wong’s Chinese restaurant in Saket, and Jerry Wong’s Noodle House, that Wong opened in 2003 and 2006 respectively. “We celebrate all Chinese festivals like Harvest Festival in June, Moon Festival and Chinese New Year. Since food is a big part of these festivals, my grandmother used to prepare elaborate meals. A minimum of 10 dishes are normally prepared in any of the festivals. I would assist her in making them,” says Wong.
What he ate was simple nutritious Chinese food sans any chilli and tomato sauce that is now abundantly used in Chinese preparations. “It was just simple soy sauce. There was no gravy. Everything was stir-fried. Chilli sauce was never put in the dish while being cooked,” says Wong who ironically has no problems with the popular versions of Chinese food served across the country. “We have to serve the customer. If a guest wants authentic Chinese, we give him that, and if somebody wants Indian Chinese, then also, we oblige. In any case, at our restaurant, we have been innovating on the Chinese dishes — like there is a Charsau Chicken (chicken cooked in rice wine) and there is red rice with wine,” says Wong.