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Breakfast at Sunrise off Sun Yat Sen Street

Sayanti Mukherji

The sun doesn’t quite rise over the leaden sky of Sun Yat Sen Street in Territy Bazaar, Kolkata, when the Chinese morning market starts. Territy Bazaar is the old China Town of Kolkata, whereas the newer China Town (lies in Tangra) on the eastern fringes of the city, and was developed much later with its cluster of tanneries and restaurants. However, today, only the restaurants remain, as the tanneries have been relocated further east.

The Chinese connection to the city can be traced to the late 18th century when the first Chinese, a tea trader, Tong Achew landed at Achipur on the banks of the Hoogly approximately 30 km south of the city. At some point the early migrants moved to Central Calcutta in the areas around Territy Bazaar, a market place designed by the Italian architect and town planner Edward Tiretta.

It is usually at the crack of dawn on Sunday that the morning market comes alive with an assortment of typical Chinese snack items. Over time this area has become a favorite breakfast haunt for Kolkatan and a must for visitors to the city. One usually enters the market on Chatawala Guli from the Tea Board side, and confronts the fishmongers and the vegetable vendors squatting on the tarmac. Then there are the food stalls. Stacks of containers with steaming sumptuous  momos stuffed with minced chicken, pork and shrimp, and sausages hung from ropes, spring rolls and Pau (ball shaped over-sized dumplings with pork, chicken, and fish filling) can be found here. The food is usually served with steaming soup and fiery sauce that will surely kick out the last vestige of sleep from your eyes! You can also purchase locally-manufactured Chinese sauces and the ever-popular pink-edged prawn wafers.

In the next lane, at the corner of Indian Exchange Place Extension and the Kolkata Improvement Trust is the Sea Ip Church − a Buddhist temple dedicated to Kwan Yin, the Goddess of War, Mercy and Love. This is a very interesting place which houses intricately carved weapons, embroideries, wall and roof wood- carvings and images and statues of Chinese Gods and Goddesses. Downstairs is a Chinese club with elaborately carved chairs, where one can find copies of the calligraphic local Chinese Newspaper. Apart from Sea Ip there are five additional churches in the area if you are so inclined to explore.

Back on Sun Yat Sen St is the very interesting Hap Hing Company, a Chinese Provision and Medicine Store run by Stella Chen, who still uses the abacus instead of a calculator, with wooden shelves stacked with green tea, pickled plums, rice noodles, orange peels, sun dried mushrooms, prawn wafers and Chinese medicine from the common Tiger Balm to medicated oils.

Breakfast at Territy Bazaar is certainly not a fine dining experience as food is served and eaten on the pavements and on makeshift tables and stools, out of cheap plastic crockery and cutlery with street animals nibbling at the leftovers. This is certainly not a place for the hygienically fastidious!