Fried rice fans from across the world united on Sunday when a YouTube comedian who teased a BBC presenter for her cooking skills made peace by teaming up with her for a new video.
The entire debate over fried rice kicked off in early July when Nigel Ng, a Malaysian comedian, released a YouTube video showing himself reacting to the egg fried rice prepared by BBC presenter Hersha Patel, who is herself a YouTuber.
In the video, Ng played a character he had devised named “Uncle Roger” – an orange Polo shirt-wearing, hypercritical middle-aged man with a stereotypical Malaysian Chinese accent – and reacted in exaggerated shock as Patel used a number of cooking techniques seen as unorthodox in East Asia, including draining the rice with a colander.
Portions of the video soon went viral on social media, attracting thousands of shares and commentary, particularly from across the East Asian and Southeast Asian diaspora. Comments ranged from laughter at Patel’s “hate crime” rice preparation techniques to more serious remarks on how Western cultures often appropriate Asian cuisine and distribute it to mass audiences in a modified format intended to be more palatable – a process sometimes called “whitewashing food.”
Patel – herself of Indian heritage – came across as the butt end of the joke, resulting in an unexpected turn of events where she reached out to “Uncle Roger” himself. The unlikely duo, who both reside in London, met in person, and Patel clarified that she knew how to make egg fried rice and had simply been doing a job for the BBC and following a recipe the network had given her. The pair then announced their intention to film a video together, and Ng denounced the judgmental trolling that Patel had received.
Shortly afterward, the kerfuffle over rice reached the BBC itself – which invited both Patel and Ng on-air to discuss the “cultural issue.”
In the BBC appearance, Ng acknowledged that perhaps he had been a “little bit mean” in his original video.
″[Uncle Roger] is just a character; I don’t actually feel that way towards Hersha or her rice techniques,” Ng clarified.
“The internet can be very volatile, and I wanted to make this a positive thing,” Patel added, explaining why she had decided to reach out to Ng and collaborate. “The idea is that we both have a sense of humour and we understand that there are lots of different ways to cook things.”
Despite this truce, the BBC presenter interviewing the pair cheekily said that the network would “take responsibility” for the recipe that had garnered Patel such criticism.
The final collaboration between Ng and Patel – dubbed “Uncle Roger Meet Egg Fried Rice Lady” – was the 9th most trending video on YouTube 9 hours after its Sunday release, quickly racking up over a million views. In it, Uncle Roger pays a visit to Patel’s humble abode and gets to experience her take on egg fried rice.
Uncle Roger’s verdict? “Not bad. 6 out of 10.”