Chicago chef Henry Cai’s signature fried rice helped launch his restaurant, 3 Little Pigs, which currently operates inside a virtual kitchen in Humboldt Park. The fried rice features three different types of pork: smoked char siu, Chinese sausage, and Spam.
3 Little Pigs is already one of the hottest restaurants in Chicago, but over the weekend, it received the approval of one of the biggest fried rice experts in the world. It wasn’t a traditional food critic for a newspaper or magazine, for they are allegedly an endangered species. Cai received the blessing of none other than Internet celebrity Uncle Roger himself.
Uncle Roger, whose real name is Nigel Ng Kin-ju, is a Malaysian standup comedian based out of London who was performing Saturday, April 2, in Chicago at Thalia Hall in Pilsen. He earned celebrity status through a series of Internet videos in which he critiques how accomplished Western chefs prepare fried rice and other Chinese and Asian dishes. He’s lampooned well-known personalities like Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver for improperly draining rice, adding the wrong ingredients, and other questionable techniques. His aloof demeanor sports a signature line — “haiyaa” — which he yells when a cooking clip shows a chef’s decision that disgusts him.
Cai was backstage at Thalia Hall, along with Anthony Scardino, an acclaimed Chicago pop-up pizza chef who goes by “Professor Pizza.” Scardino has made it a habit with providing food for comedians who visit Chicago, and he and Cai prepared a massive spread for Uncle Roger and his supporting staff. Professor Pizza and 3 Little Pigs both have space in the same shared kitchen at 3220 W. Grand Avenue. That’s why the two both got to meet Uncle Roger.
“I passed the fried rice test,” Cai says with a laugh. “He loved the barbecue, too — so relieved!”
Uncle Roger is no stranger to Chicago: he attended Northwestern University in Evanston, graduating in 2014 with an engineering degree. Cai says he didn’t get to spend a lot of time with him in Pilsen, but he seemed to be a humble guy and “real nice.”
Meanwhile, Cai keeps on forging alliances. The Chicago native is about to announce savory-sweet sandwich collaboration with Japanese dessert cafe Kurimu, this week.