Breaking Dawn with Dumplings

There’s nothing better than starting your day with a homely, delectable Chinese breakfast in Kolkata. So, when my cousin Rumi paid a short visit to the city last month, we set out to venture into the narrow lanes of Kolkata’s old Chinatown – Tiretti Bazaar – at the crack of dawn(Not to be confused with the city’s new Chinatown in Tangra, which was built much later)!

It’s deliciously different… we savoured every bite!

It’s deliciously different… we savoured every bite!

A perfect hangout for gastronomes, the place serves authentic Chinese breakfast that includes everything from mouth-watering momos to spring rolls, and palatable pork sausages to sesame sprinkled buns.

As we entered the lane, the whiff of steaming momos aroused our senses. We found stacks of round aluminium steamers lined up invitingly, with fillings of chicken, pork and shrimp. The delicacies are served steaming hot, with a dollop of a spicy dipping sauce. It’s deliciously different… we savoured every bite! The bowl of hot prawn-ball soup only served to invigorate our senses further.

The Chinatown in Kolkata is unique and steeped in history.  As we looked around to explore the place, we were captivated by its old-world charm and wanted to spend some time with the Chinese community. We found a number of small beauty salons, restaurants and grocery shops on both sides of the lane – most of them were still closed. There was a laid-back atmosphere.

There were some bright-coloured houses with quaint doors and dangling paper lamps. We saw elderly Chinese men reading Chinese newspapers, sipping on cups of green tea and lively matrons gossiping and laughing in high-pitched voices in the neighbourhood.

Having settled in Kolkata more than two centuries ago, the Chinese have played a pivotal role in defining the city’s cuisine and its character. With a pleasant mix of Cantonese, Sichuan and Bengali flavours – their locally adapted (Indian Chinese!) dishes attract foodies from across the world.

Tom Leong runs a small restaurant

Tom Leong runs a small restaurant

We bumped into an enthusiastic old Chinese man named Tom Leong, who runs a small small restaurant. He lamented in broken English, “Our once-vibrant ethnic Chinese community has dwindled in population over the years, as young Chinese boys and girls have left for greener pastures.”

“There was no government aid to restore even the iconic temples and churches that were built even a century ago.” However, he said, “There could soon be new hope and cheer in the old Chinatown.”

Last year, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, following representations by some eminent citizens, sent a proposal to renovate Chinatown and promote tourism. Some work seemed to have started as the Chinese community in Singapore is providing technical support for this initiative and the local government has partnered with the project.

Called the “Cha Project” or tea project, it aims at preserving Old Chinatown at Tiretti Bazaar and will also focus on developing the New Chinatown (Tangra).

Nam Soon Church - the oldest Chinese Temple in Kolkata (19th century)

Nam Soon Church – the oldest Chinese Temple in Kolkata (19th century)

After savouring the authentic Chinese green tea from a stall, Rumi and I dropped in to a local shop to buy some exotic Chinese sauces. We also paid a visit to the nearby Nam Soon Church, the oldest Chinese Temple in the city built in the 19th century. The Chinese temple that houses the idol of Kwan Yin, the Chinese Goddess of war, mercy and love, was like as an “abode of peace” in the otherwise chaotic locality. We enjoyed seeing the numerous images and statues of Chinese Gods and Goddesses and came out with beaming faces and joy in our hearts.

If anything is worth leaving the comfort of your blanket at dawn, it is a date with Chinese dumplings. Chī hǎo hē hǎo! – that’s Mandarin for “eat well drink well!”


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Meera Roy Dixit on December 15, 2015 at 3:32 am

    Thank you. I came across your article while looking for some information on old kolkatta. This is an informative piece and good to read too. It takes you to a different world in the city which we overlook otherwise.


  2. I have never been to Tiretti Baazar, this makes me want to pay that place a visit


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