Tiretti Bazar – a buzzing Chinese Bazar which starts as early as 5am in the morning and disappears sharp at 8:30 am, just before the offices start and the roads turn into parking spaces for the day – is a story that needs to be told fast before it disappears. Kolkata is the only Indian city with an official Chinatown known as Tangra and the unofficial count of the number of Chinese stands at 5,000 – 200,000. An interesting read on the history of Chinese immigration in Kolkata will explain how the Chinese have contributed to many areas of the social and economic life of Kolkata. And this history dates back as early as 5th Century A.D.!
Bengali language has borrowed the most important ingredient in their lives from the Chinese – Sugar in Bengali is called Chini which means ‘Chinese’!
Tiretti Bazar, near Poddar Court in North Kolkata is a Chinese Bazar in the mornings till 8:30 am, after which it is hard to believe that this place was ever a Bazar full of Chinese migrants selling Chinese food products and various Chinese stores selling from Sauces to home-made Noodles. When we were in college, we would visit this place often. Have authentic Momos and Dimsums for breakfast and reach college perfectly on time, smelling of garlic Momos and chilli sauce!
However, my journey back to Tiretti Bazar this time with the Z-SISTERS in tow brought only disappointment. Disappointment because there were hardly any Chinese around. There was only one lady selling Momos – the lady whom we used to call Aunty. Aunty and her husband looked the same even decades later. And the crowd gathered around them also seemed familiar – college students, office goers – but all of them had to be real foodies. Who else would wake up at 5 am in the morning and rush to Tiretti Bazar, just to have Momos!
Kolkata at this hour looks surreal. Empty roads rustling up as the cleaners start sweeping the roads, the birds chirping slowly as they wake up along with the other sleepy residents of the city…
Aunty and her husband serving up Chicken Paos (above) and Pork Paos (below left) – the strong aroma drifting out of the aluminium containers and hitting you once the lids are opened!
Fish Dumpling (above), Pork Momos and Pork Paos (below)
Fried Rice balls – definitely high Carb and high Calorie, but worth every paisa spent!
Why am I not surprised? I met Sayan – the Lonetrotter, another Food and travel Blogger – up and awake early (like us) just to EAT! Dear Lonetrotter, you made me feel so good that I am not the only loonie roaming around in the streets at various hours sniffing for food. Lonetrotter’s comment that ‘after this Aunty there will be no more Momos in Tiretti Bazar’ brought me into the grim reality of the dwindling Chinese Community in Kolkata. When I asked Aunty where were the other Chinese who use to sell Momos here, she bluntly told me that ‘ everyone else had gone abroad!’
A reality that is a part of many social structures in many parts of the world. A word of thanks to my friend Yummraj whose post on Tiretti Bazar had stirred up my desire to go back to the place which had been our frequent breakfast haunt as permitted by our student budget.
Holding on to the last remnants of home-made Momos in Tiretti Bazar, we had a brilliant morning. The rates are as follows –
Pork Pao – Rs 20/small Pao; Rs 25/big Pao
Chicken Pao – Rs 25/piece
Rice Ball – Rs 10/piece
Steamed Momos – Rs 10/plate
Fried Momos – Rs 20/plate
Pork Dimsum – Rs 12/plate
Timings: 5am – 8:30 am (closed on Mondays)
Location: Sunyet Sen Street, near Poddar Court behind LalBazar Police Headquarters and near the Central Metro Station in Bowbazar. If you drive to this place you have ample parking in front of Poddar Court. But please make sure you go early so that the Momos are still available and the Bazar hasn’t turned into a Parking lot for vehicles of the office-goers. If Cinderella lost her glass slippers exactly at midnight, here the crazy transformation happens exactly at 8:30 am – 9:00 am in the morning!
The Chinese Bazar (below) before it transforms into a parking space as the office hours begin…
Holding on to the past… The following are a few posts that I have come across done by my fellow bloggers on Tiretti Bazar. One common feeling prevalent amongst all of us is Tiretti bazar is unique and definitely shouldn’t be let to become just a chapter in history. A collaborative blog post with the help of media, perhaps? Is someone willing to give us that opportunity?
1) Yummraj – Tiretti Bazar: Home-made food sold by Chinese migrants on the streetside (near Poddar Court, Kolkata)
2) Finely Chopped – The Fading Chinese Whispers of Kolkata … Kim Ling Tangra, Tiretti Bazaar breakfast
3) Times of India – Breakfast at Tiretti’s
4) Itiriti – Breaking fast on a Rainy Day
A few things that one must do so that the memories of Tiretti Bazar lasts a bit longer is to buy the home-made Prawn Papads, home-made sausages, Chilli Sauces and many other Chinese savouries that you can buy from here and take back home. Although I wish a better future for all the Chinese migrants who used to throng this Bazar once upon a time who have ‘gone abroad’, at times I wish if time had stood still then Tiretti Bazar would still look like what my earlier memories recall it as… Do visit the lone Aunty of Tiretti Bazar to have her incredible Momos, Dimsums and Paos – before she too decides to ‘go abroad’!
Unblogging it all… Ishita