Whenever you think of a fried chicken shop, the first thoughts that come to mind will probably be yummy but greasy, tasty but fatty, definitely not fresh and salutary. Wouldn’t it be everyone’s dream to eat a fried chicken wing and not feel bad about it afterwards? Mirjanur Rahman’s Royal Fried Chicken takeaway shop beats all the odds by winning the Food for Health Awards in Tower Hamlets.
Understandably quite surprised, confused, but intrigued at the idea, I enter the takeaway on Whitechapel Road on a busy Monday night. The place looks like an ordinary chicken shop, simple wooden tables, white walls, not too clean, not so elegant. However, what tells me that it might be slightly different is the lack of that strong odour of fried oil that you would normally smell from the other side of the road. A counter at the back of the room holds all the healthy options you are advised to add to your chicken – tomatoes, salad, peppers, cucumbers, onions and a range of different sauces – while on the walls there are signs and posters about food safety, hygiene and the Food for Health Award, granted to the owner, Rahman.
Before getting all excited about this new healthy chicken, I must say that at first sight, the products sold would still be considered unhealthy by most of us. Next to the counter there is a fridge with fruity and frizzy sodas and Capri Sun juices included with your order, while at the back I spot the chicken wings and nuggets. The options from which to choose are numerous, including endless types of burgers, a hot dog, rice dishes, kebabs and more elaborate dishes from the Indian sub-continent. The prices for a complete meal (chicken or lamb with fries or rice, plus a drink) are very low, ranging from £3 to £6, which is not the best of signs, considering you are supposed to be eating healthy and fresh ingredients.
While waiting for my meal, I observe the movements in the kitchen: a big bag of what seems to be frozen, pre-cooked fries stands in the corner before being thrown in the frying oil. Having decided to order different options, I take my yellow plastic boxes, finally smelling that lingering odour, which, I must admit, is very tempting.
The first dish is basmati plain rice next to sautéed chicken, covered with a complete salad. Although I am well aware that the “fresh” tomatoes and cucumbers come straight from the counter, they actually look and taste good. The chicken is tender and extremely savoury, while the rice is just plain – no salt, no oil, so that all the different ingredients form the perfect combination. I then try the unhealthy option, the chicken nuggets and fries – the main reason I am here tonight. As soon as I take the first bite of the nugget I realise that it has a different crust, it is crunchy and mealy, maybe a little dry, but not as oily as the ones you would buy in any other fried chicken shop. The fries have the same texture; they are not the usual oily mess, although you can definitely tell they are not freshly-cut potatoes. Generally, it all seems slightly less fat than other junk food.
Even though it does not sell all the salutary and fresh products that you would think of when going to a Food for Health Award winning shop, the next time you are in the mood for fried chicken you should check Rahman’s shop out, because let’s face it, anything fried will never be the healthiest thing you can eat.