Tangra is a region in east Kolkata that traditionally housed a large number of tanneries owned by people of Hakka Chinese origin. “47 South Tangra Road”, may be the most confusing postal address, as it used to cover the whole of Chinatown Tangra with over 350 tanneries.
Most of the standing structures have been built, over many years, by the industrious Hakka Chinese, upon marshy and reclaimed low lying land. Over the past several decades, it has served as the location of Calcutta’s Chinatown. This is not a coincidence; the Hakka Chinese of Calcutta have gradually turned this part of the Kolkata into an important destination for sourcing finished and semi-finished leather.
The Hakka Chinese specialized in the manufacture of leather and turned it into one of the major industries of West Bengal, providing employment to tens of thousands of local inhabitants. In addition to the huge volume of exports to the developing and developed countries, finished leather is supplied to the major shoe and leather goods manufacturers all over the country. Many made-to-order shoe shops in Kolkata are also run by entrepreneurs from this community.
Food from Tangra is a distinct variety of traditional Hakka Chinese cuisine adapted to Indian ingredients and the Bengali palate. This has spread to the rest of India, along with the recipes earlier unique to Tangra. Tangra is now the most popular destination for Chinese food. Chinese food sold in Tangra restaurants are now known all over the world as ‘Hakka Style” Chinese food.
What began centuries ago, when the Chinese immigrants from the Hakka region settled down in Kolkata has today taken the shape of a cuisine in itself. Bringing this Indian adaptation of street Chinese food to Bengaluru, is JW Kitchen with its first ever food festival – The Tangra Food Festival. The ten day long food festival that began on October 31 aims to recreate a complete experience of Kolkata Chinatown and showcase the best of Kolkata Chinese.
I was invited to be a part of the JW Kitchen where Chef Surjan Singh Jolly along with his team presented to us the perfect mixture of the aromas, flavor and vibrancy of this region of Kolkata.
Chef Jolly walked us through the history of Tangra Cuisine following which we had a live cooking demo of the Food Festival.
Some of the dishes we had a live demo are below. The flavours of authentic Tangra Cuisine are mild and each flavour speaks for itself. They are not overpowering and have their own distinct identity.
Tangra Cripy Fried Chicken
The Crispy Fried Chicken had a hint of rice wine vinegar and hot green chillies. It was truly delicous. Haven’t tasted a Crispy Fried Chicken like this before.
Tangra Crispy Golden Prawn
A humble dish once again, very very simple flavours, very few ingredients and very tasty too.
Tangra Crispy Paneer
I was really impressed by the way this simple paneer dish was given a twist. A great starter dish at any party!!!
(Clockwise) Shandong Mary, Mango Spice Cocktail, Beijing Bellini
I was really impressed with the Mango Spice Cocktail. It had a hint of jalepenos and tasted superbly delicious. A great way to serve mango!!!
On the buffet menu were some dimsums (pork) which were heavenly, I am told. The reference came from my son who simply loved the juicy porks filled dimsums. The hakka noodles had simple and mild flavours. Overall, a very different cuisine, much to my surprise.
The food festival is on till November 9, 2014 and is priced at Rs. 1599+ taxes for the food buffet.
Drop in at the JW Kitchen and soak in an experience of everything that Kolkata Chinatown is all about!!!