Notwithstanding current political frigidity, India and China have long been partners in trade. Way back in 1780, a Chinese gentleman called Yang Daijang (called Atchew by the British) was allotted a plot of land in Kolkata by then Governer General Warren Hastings. He built a factory making refined sugar (hence the name 'chini'). Nor was he the only one. The Chinese population in Kolkata and Mumbai, especially, slowly swelled, bringing with it a slew of Chinese hair stylists and beauty parlours, dentists, and shoe shops. Plus, of course, Chinese restaurants. It is hard to pin down the precise beginning of Indo-Chinese food. Many claim that Kolkata's Chinatown, Tangra, was the pioneer, bringing Hakka Chowmien and Mixed Fried Rice, to us. Today, even though the community (mostly Hakka and Cantonese) has shrunk massively, you can still find whispers of a flourishing Chinatown; recently, a spate of articles about Chinese breakfasts in Tangra have also flooded newspapers and magazines. Whenever I travel to Kolkata, I eat my way through Tangra and Tiretta Bazaar, but I also never forget to eat at an old favourite - Eau Chew, famous for its chimney soup and Josephine noodles. That latter dish is an invention of the restaurant, nothing you will find in China.The Chinese community in Mumbai has shrunk even more, but it has left us tangible fragments in the form of Flora, Kamling and Ling's Pavilion, all Chinese owned. It is in these restaurants that we first got our taste of Hakka Noodles and Sweet Corn Chicken Soup.
Meher Mirza is an independent writer and editor, with a focus on food and travel. Formerly with BBC Good Food India, she loves anime, animals and artsy things but also comics, technology and death metal.
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