Photos: A living portrait of Kolkata’s two Chinatowns

Originally, the Chinese in Kolkata, now with two Chinatowns –– the first in Tiretta Bazaar that has existed since the 1800s and the second, in Tangra since 1910, were mainly from coastal China. All had different skills and traditions, which they innovated, in order to survive. A portrait of the community today and how all of them came to India to work back in the day. None of them came here to cook.

Updated On Mar 11, 2018 10:31 AM IST 10 Photos
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A typical night scene in Tangra, Kolkata’s second Chinatown. About a dozen Chinese restaurants, a small cemetery and shrines paint a unique portrait of a tiny community here. (Samir Jana / HT PHOTO)

A typical night scene in Tangra, Kolkata’s second Chinatown. About a dozen Chinese restaurants, a small cemetery and shrines paint a unique portrait of a tiny community here. (Samir Jana / HT PHOTO)

Updated on Mar 11, 2018 10:31 AM IST
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Living in a city stuck in its charming past, Kolkata’s Chinese restauranteurs in Tangra had no problem trouble selling Indian-Chinese to create a space for selling their food. (Samir Jana / HT PHOTO)

Living in a city stuck in its charming past, Kolkata’s Chinese restauranteurs in Tangra had no problem trouble selling Indian-Chinese to create a space for selling their food. (Samir Jana / HT PHOTO)

Updated on Mar 11, 2018 10:31 AM IST
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An old Chinese man looks out to the street from Tiretta Bazaar in Kolkata. Central Kolkata was a Cantonese stronghold back in the day. When a new throughfare split the area, the Hakkas, the other sizeable Chinese immigrant group, relocated to Tangra from Tiretta Bazaar. (Samir Jana / HT PHOTO)

An old Chinese man looks out to the street from Tiretta Bazaar in Kolkata. Central Kolkata was a Cantonese stronghold back in the day. When a new throughfare split the area, the Hakkas, the other sizeable Chinese immigrant group, relocated to Tangra from Tiretta Bazaar. (Samir Jana / HT PHOTO)

Updated on Mar 11, 2018 10:31 AM IST
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(L-R): Chang TC, a dentist and chef Chang Chen Fa play Mahjong at an Indian-Chinese club at Poddar Court, Tiretta Bazaar in Kolkata. The Chinese who came to Kolkata were mainly from coastal China. Many landed in between the two world wars too. All had different skills and traditions, which they innovated, in order to survive. (Samir Jana / HT PHOTO)

(L-R): Chang TC, a dentist and chef Chang Chen Fa play Mahjong at an Indian-Chinese club at Poddar Court, Tiretta Bazaar in Kolkata. The Chinese who came to Kolkata were mainly from coastal China. Many landed in between the two world wars too. All had different skills and traditions, which they innovated, in order to survive. (Samir Jana / HT PHOTO)

Updated on Mar 11, 2018 10:31 AM IST
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Mechanical engineer Thomas Chen with his son, Travis, at his home in Bow Bazaar, central Kolkata. ‘I am almost Bangali,’ he says. Chen has done a cameo in a Salman Khan film and also sings in Bengali, Hindi and Mandarin. (Samir Jana / HT PHOTO)

Mechanical engineer Thomas Chen with his son, Travis, at his home in Bow Bazaar, central Kolkata. ‘I am almost Bangali,’ he says. Chen has done a cameo in a Salman Khan film and also sings in Bengali, Hindi and Mandarin. (Samir Jana / HT PHOTO)

Updated on Mar 11, 2018 10:31 AM IST
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Monica Liu, a Hakka woman who has become Chinatown’s most well-known businesswoman over the past 10 years shows that the restaurant business can become an area where race or ethnicity may find accommodation, and success –– if it does not challenge established tastes too much. (Samir Jana / HT PHOTO)

Monica Liu, a Hakka woman who has become Chinatown’s most well-known businesswoman over the past 10 years shows that the restaurant business can become an area where race or ethnicity may find accommodation, and success –– if it does not challenge established tastes too much. (Samir Jana / HT PHOTO)

Updated on Mar 11, 2018 10:31 AM IST
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Liu opened Kimling, her first restaurant, in 1991. “In my restaurants, I always keep a chilli-garlic gravy, popular with customers, ready. Sometimes they want their chicken dry or with gravy. But this is not to say my food is Indian-Chinese. It is Chinese,” says Liu. (Samir Jana / HT PHOTO)

Liu opened Kimling, her first restaurant, in 1991. “In my restaurants, I always keep a chilli-garlic gravy, popular with customers, ready. Sometimes they want their chicken dry or with gravy. But this is not to say my food is Indian-Chinese. It is Chinese,” says Liu. (Samir Jana / HT PHOTO)

Updated on Mar 11, 2018 10:31 AM IST
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The small eating houses in Tiretta Bazaar, central Kolkata, were originally meant to feed the local Chinese working men before the outbreak of the Indo-China war of ’62. Today, there are several small breakfast eateries by the street, popular with the locals. (Samir Jana / HT PHOTO)

The small eating houses in Tiretta Bazaar, central Kolkata, were originally meant to feed the local Chinese working men before the outbreak of the Indo-China war of ’62. Today, there are several small breakfast eateries by the street, popular with the locals. (Samir Jana / HT PHOTO)

Updated on Mar 11, 2018 10:31 AM IST
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Dominic Lee, a Hakka, who owns Pou Chong, one of the most well-known brands of sauce and noodles made by the community near Tiretta Bazaar, is perceived as Mr Lee, the sauce-maker, not the Indian-Chinese sauce-maker. His professional identity, he says, has never felt eclipsed by his racial identity. (Samir Jana / HT PHOTO)

Dominic Lee, a Hakka, who owns Pou Chong, one of the most well-known brands of sauce and noodles made by the community near Tiretta Bazaar, is perceived as Mr Lee, the sauce-maker, not the Indian-Chinese sauce-maker. His professional identity, he says, has never felt eclipsed by his racial identity. (Samir Jana / HT PHOTO)

Updated on Mar 11, 2018 10:31 AM IST
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Two people on a scooter in Tangra by night. In the late 18th century, Kolkata was the terminus, the port and the transit point to pretty much everywhere . Among the Chinese who came to Kolkata, the Cantonese were ship-fitters; by the ’50s they had moved into carpentry. The Hakkas were shoe-smiths and leather manufacturers. All of them came to India to work, and not to cook. (Samir Jana / HT PHOTO)

Two people on a scooter in Tangra by night. In the late 18th century, Kolkata was the terminus, the port and the transit point to pretty much everywhere . Among the Chinese who came to Kolkata, the Cantonese were ship-fitters; by the ’50s they had moved into carpentry. The Hakkas were shoe-smiths and leather manufacturers. All of them came to India to work, and not to cook. (Samir Jana / HT PHOTO)

Updated on Mar 11, 2018 10:31 AM IST
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