‘Start your day right! It’s the most important meal of the day’, a line that’s been thrown our way since we were children, but sometimes an extra half hour in bed just seems so much more appealing than a half-arsed bowl of muesli. There in the bustling roads of Tiretti Bazaar in Kolkata lies a breakfast that will keep you coming back at the crack of dawn.
Tiretti bazaar, or rather “New China Town” is it’s own little cosmos of vibrance, commerce, cultural exchange, and a whole lot of Mahjong. The entire area is packed with narrow lanes of rows of bustling stalls with vendors selling their exotic sauces, shiitake and herbs, restaurants with a constant influx of tourists and locals, clubs and Chinese temples (often termed as ‘churches’), all set up by various ethnic communities in the hopes of nurturing the social and cultural essence of the Chinese population. Some of these churches are also used as ‘clubs’ or public spaces for socialising and celebration.
The city has had a long and varied history and their Chinese population the immigrated during the British Raj has always been a major part of their cultural melting pot. You’re sure to find a few vendors in the area every day but the weekend is the busiest. They open for business at 6:30 am and by 8:30 they’re all but sold out, so if you want to get a wide selection, set your alarms!
Start off with some familiar comfort with the steamed momos that come in chicken, pork and fish varieties with a clear broth, perfect for a chilly morning. If you’re feeling a little less health conscious however, go for the fried versions that are a crispy indulgence. Sample a slice of fusion food with the shrimp pooris or if seafood’s not your thing, the meaty Chinese sausages are a must-try. Another unmissable treat are the steamed buns, either pork or fish that are soft and fluffy with a surprise flavour-packed centre.
Delve into the more traditional side of things with Sweet Rice Zung, a glutinous rice preparation with various stuffings, served in a bamboo leaf. Pick up a side of Ham Choi (salted vegetables) and Khwai Choi Pan (Vegetable Pancakes) for a a burst of freshness. Moving on the main course, the red roast pork, a rare delicacy that is smoked overnight on a charcoal fire. Tiretti Market is the only place in the country to sample this slice of perfection so don’t leave without trying it. Round off this morning indulgence with sticky rice puddings topped with sesame seeds, soft and sweet, you’ll want to take a few for the road.
We reckon that by this point you won’t be capable of hauling your stuffed self back home so take a seat and watch the incomparable goings-on of India’s only China town at work.
Feature image courtesy Apurb Singh