Kolkata: If you are looking for the best possible way to start a day with some outstanding, refreshing, freshly made and authentic homemade Chinese food then look no further. Tiretti Bazaar in north Kolkata is a foodie’s paradise and much more!
It open from 5 in the morning everyday save Mondays, the foodie extravaganza is located at Sunyet Sen Street in north Kolkata. Sunyet Sen Street is located near Poddar Court behind LalBazar Police Headquarters and near the Central Metro Station in Bowbazar, Kolkata. The best possible way to go to Tiretti is to either take a bus, get down in front of Central Metro Station and walk a few steps or if one drives, they can get parking in front of Poddar Court.
Reaching early, however, is of optimum importance as the fresh fare is only available till the Bazaar is not turned into a Parking lot for vehicles of the office-goers. The situation is easier on Sundays since offices are closed.
From fresh steaming dumplings and fish sui mais to fishball soups, breaded pork chops, coconut balls, rice and sesame seed sweet balls, sticky rice and even chicken pies, the place serves authentic Chinese fare that are not only lovingly made by home-cooks but are also amazingly sumptuous.
Having decided that we had to go taste the flavours of Tiretti, and having spent an entirely sleepless night in eager anticipation and the fear that we might miss the market if we doze off, my friend and I reached Tiretti sharp at 6 in the morning. We were confident; boastful even that we would be early but 6 am at Tiretti is a cacophony of sights, sounds, people and food!
Our first impression of Tiretti is the aroma! Wafting aroma encapsulates the tiny street as we see pockets of people crowding around at regular intervals. Intrigued, we venture closer to find that each pocket surrounds a very Chinese looking lady or gentleman selling their home cooked delicacies!
We were in foodie heaven, at a loss of words and emotions, we wanted to try anything and everything that was being sold at Tiretti.
But where to start?
The only shop that seemed to be a little less crowded at that point was a middle aged Chinese lady selling strange white and gold yellow shaped balls. Were they edible? What was it? We were intrigued! On closer inquiry she smiled and warmly said, “Lice Balls! Lice Balls! You want?” Lice Balls? What could they be? Was it an insect? I had already started dreading it. “Ah!” my friend suddenly exclaimed! It had to be Rice! Succulent, sweet rice balls fired with sesame seeds greeted our hungry mouths.
But what were the flaky white balls? “You want? You want?” the lady enquired excitedly, (it seemed even she knew a newbie when she saw one), well, why not! A bit rubbery, the flavours of what turned out to be coconut balls were amazing, sweet but not overtly so, they had a mellow taste. And now we understood why the stall was still sparsely crowded, we had started the wrong way down! While others, out there in the wee hours of the morning were still enjoying the savoury delicacies on display, we had started off at the dessert counter!
Once home to 20,000 ethnic Chinese Indian nationals; the population here has dropped noticeably since its inception. Having settled in Kolkata as early as the 1780s, the Chinese have historically played a major role in defining the city’s cuisine.
The Chinese cuisine in Kolkata is a mixture of several cuisines from their native land including Sichuan, Cantonese as well as Bengali flavours. While the glory of the Tiretti has long since faded, with most Chinese eateries having shifted to Tangra off the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass (the ‘new’ Chinatown on the eastern fringes of Kolkata), the morning bazaar still draws considerable crowd who want to taste authentic Chinese flavours.
Once we had sweetened our palate with the desserts, it was time for us to sweeten the deal with some savory dishes! Walk straight down the road and at the very end sits this lady selling aromatic soup which you can have with either chicken balls or fish. The steaming bowls of broth with fish balls seemed to entice our sense like nothing ever! On being asked which one was more popular, the fish or chicken variants, she gave a curt reply, “Depends upon the customers, both sell well. There are people who also love having the mushroom balls in broth.” We had a bowl of fish ball soup each having ladled it with the customary soy and it did not disappoint. One just has to break the generous fish ball and take a bite and before long the journey to Tiretti will seem worth every bit of early morning waking up pangs.
One of the more popular stall in the market belong to a couple, popularly called Uncle and Aunty. Always smiling and always very, very busy, the couple is known to bring some of the best baos and dumplings. On this particular day Aunty was nowhere to be found, but Uncle soon gave us a plate of a gigantic red meat bao stuffed with pork and spices. “You like” he said, more like a statement that a question, he knows what he is selling is good. No reaffirmation needed here! The place also sells momos which one can try.
All the while we are there, we saw people standing around randomly in the market, they were not buying, but rather seemed intent on waiting for someone to arrive. Our interests were piqued and soon we had an answer as well. Not long after, a rickshaw pulls up and on it sits this really old Chinese lady with a walking stick in her hand. The years seemed to have done their work on her and has left her shrivelled, wrinkled and obviously, popular. No sooner does she pull up and her grandson (in all probability) pulls up, everyone throngs to her makeshift stall. Soon enough we are elbowing in as well and we find out that she sells chicken and pork pies. One bite, and we can vouch this is one of the best things one must have tasted in the city.
Apart from pies, Tiretti also sees home-cooks selling breaded pork fillets, spring rolls, chops as well as Fish Sui Mais, Kachumba Pakoras and oddly enough a kachodi stall which seems to be very popular with the Chinese customers.
Tiretti is a foodie’s paradise. The food here is simple, complex in its originality, and affordable. A dimsum/sui mai would cost Rs 20 per piece while a bao would be Rs 40. The Pies are for Rs 25 each and so on.
A good meal would cost a person somewhere between Rs 60 to Rs 100. The Chinese have generously lent their influence to Kolkata’s cuisine with dishes like Indo-Chinese Hakka Noodles, Chilli Chicken inundating the market, in the process adding a magical dimension to it, but they have also managed to preserve a selection of original recipes that are innately reminiscent of their culture and heritage that are a mixture of complex aromas and tastes that epitomise the pedigree of their culinary heritage. One only has to come till Tiretti bazaar to experience this flavour explosion to their palates.