Chinese Breakfast in the Old streets of Calcutta

The Chinese has been around in Calcutta since the late 1800s. Mostly Cantonese and Hakka migrants. There was  a large Chinese Community of more than 500,000 (according to a local Chinese that I talked to)   until 1962, the Sino-India War which led to the imprisonment of many Indian Born Chinese to Gulag camps in Rajasthan.  Not many Indians know about this tragic past and ill-treatment of the Indian born Chinese which the Indian government tries to suppress til present day.

The Chinese left for other countries after, and what remains of the Chinese Community (about less than 200) comes alive on Sunday at Old Calcutta where mostly the Chinese from the Guandong province resides.

The Chinese Breakfast or YumCha is quite unique to Calcutta, it has been around for more than 100 years. Back then was pretty popular with the British and the Chinese Community. This little street call Sun Yen Sen, next to Poddar Court, Esplanade Area was a little difficult to find, comes alive around 530-6am when the little stalls start their business.

Only a few stalls are left, selling Pork, Chicken Buns and uniquely Bengali Chinese, huge chunks of Prawn paste and Fishpaste ‘Siew mai’ . Sunday is the most crowded and where most of the Chinese left in Calcutta comes to eat and mingle. Nowdays the stalls cater to mostly Bengali crowd and their taste buds. The dimsum here is a little rough and less refine than what I am use to, but it was tasty and fresh, typically bengali chinese.

How to get there :  I took a cab from South Calcutta where I was at, the place is close to Esplanade, Central Police Station. The Chinese Breakfast aka YumCha is at Poddar court , along a small lane call Sun Yat Sen Street. The main road is Tiretta Bazaar.

Time : it starts early around 5.30am. I was there around 5.10am when they were just setting up the stalls. It comes alive around 6.30am where trinkle of the local chinese community comes to buy tofu, mocha (rice cake) and dimsum.  Breakfast ends around 9am, although, it is best to come before 7am when the stalls sells out.

Sun Yen Sen Street selling Chinese Breakfast

  • Sun Yen Sen Street selling Chinese BreakfastA typical stall selling mostly the same dimsum
  • Setting up the  breakfast stall at 5am

    Setting up the breakfast stall at 5am

    Setting up the  breakfast stall at 5am

    Had a great conversation with them, they being born in Calcutta. The Cantonese here are mostly skilled craftsmen, specialising in woodwork. Mr Yen told me how it was quite tough during the 1960s where the Indian Government decided to imprison any Chinese speaking their native language, sending them to Gulag camps in Rajasthan. Made it tough for the Chinese who were born here for many generations to survive. Most left leaving only less than 200 chinese in this dying community

    Setting up the  breakfast stall at 5am

    DimSum huge pieces of Siew Mai made from either Prawn paste or Fish paste

    Setting up the  breakfast stall at 5am

    DimSum : Huge Pork or Chicken Bun Baos

    Setting up the  breakfast stall at 5am

    Bengali Chinese version of Fish ball soup

    Setting up the  breakfast stall at 5am

    The nearest item is call Mocha, Rice cake fried with flavored batter. Quite yummy when dipped with sweet soya sauce
    Setting up the  breakfast stall at 5am

    Chinese sausage as sold by an Indian man!

    Setting up the  breakfast stall at 5am

    Strange stall that sells Fried Dimsum and Leather purses, the fried chicken was pretty tasty despite my apprehension

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    2 responses to “Chinese Breakfast in the Old streets of Calcutta

    1. thank you so much for your entry.
      my dad was an indian chinese from calcutta!!
      ur photos and words let me know how my family was during their time there, as my grandma was a vendor selling chinese food too!

      really thanks!!

    2. very nice details

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