Chinese Breakfast, Old Chinatown (Tiretta Bazar), Calcutta (Kolkata)
Old Chinatown (Tiretta Bazar), Calcutta (Kolkata)
Also see: My blog post on Calcutta (Kolkata) Chinatown
Its early Sunday morning and sun is yet to come out, but the stoves are already fired up and the morning silence is broken by the sound of the knife hitting the chopping plate.
Night owls crawl out of their late night parties and call centre night shifts to rejuvenate themselves with bowls of hot fish ball soups from the road side vendors. Hungry soles huddle around makeshift stall, jostling with each other to grab the day’s first meal.
Both side of the thoroughfare, are lined with stacks of momo containers, containing steaming momos with pork, chicken and shrimp stuffing. Sausages hung from ropes tied to lamp post like fancy lights. Yes, its breakfast time, Chinatown Calcutta !!!!
Dimsums and momos are always the most sort after items. Spring rolls and pork sausages are not far behind. Pau, the ball shaped over sized dumpling, which comes with all sorts of pork, chicken, and fish filling is definitely on the must have list.
The food is cooked in home style following the authentic Chinese recipe and are served with homely warmth. The place has a laid back attitude, with elderly Chinese reading the Chinese newspaper and sipping on cups of green tea and women talking about the latest gossip in Chinatown.
In the recent years the Chinese Breakfast has become extremely popular but sadly popularity has its ill effects too. Many have the age old Chinese stall have stop selling pork items and ingredients and recopies have been modified to meet the requirement of Indian, or Calcutta (Kolkata) taste buds. Even stall selling puri – bhajis and other standard Indian breakfast items have also sprung up.
The Chinese connection to the city dates back almost 250 years. In the late 18th century a Chinese tea trader by the name of Tong Achew landed on the banks of Hooghly, somewhere near present day Budge – Budge (about 30 km south of Calcutta). He fell in love with the place and decided never to return again. He applied for land which was granted by the Governor General Warren Hastings.
According to records to British East India Company “Achew was granted 650 bighas of land about 6 miles south of Budge – Budge for an annual rent of Rs 45.” After acquiring the land Achew set up a sugar – cane plantation along with a sugar mill. He brought in a band of Chinese workers to work in his plantation and factory and thus forming the first Chinese settlement in India.
But Achew died soon after and his sugar factory was abandoned. His workers left for the city of Calcutta, where their descendents still continue to live. The place came to be known as Achipur after Tong Achew. Sadly today apart from a Chinese Temple and Achew’s horse shoe shaped grave Achipur has no Chinese connection.
It’s definitely not a fine dining experience. Timing is odd as the breakfast literally starts at the rooster’s first call and ends before the first public bus rolls out of the terminal. Every thing is served out of make shift stall and eaten on the pavements and people concerned about hygiene must keep away. But in spite all odds the Chinese Breakfast of Old Chinatown in Tiretta Bazar, Calcutta (Kolkata) can well rate among the most sought after breakfast of the country.
No trip to the Chinese Breakfast of Tiretta Bazar is complete with out a visit to Hap Hing Co., Chinese Provision & Medicine Stores, which can well remind one of Diagon Alley of Harry Potter. It is a place to stock up authentic Chinese ingredients and try the recopies at home.
The inside of the pre – independence store, is dark and smoky, the black polished wooden shelves are stacked with the most amazing oriental provisions. Exotic green tea, pickled plums, rice noodle, orange peels, sun dried mushrooms, pink edged prawn wafers you name it and Hap Hing Co., Chinese Provision Store has it. Hap Hing Co. also stores a unique assortment of Chinese Medicine from the ever popular Tiger Balm to strange medicated oils with miraculous cures.
Run by Stella Chen, who prefers to use a abacus instead of a pocket calculator, is a gazette of information on Calcutta’s Chinese community. A extremely friendly lady always in the lookout of striking a conversation about the glorious days of Calcutta Chinatown.