Chinese food, hands down, is the number one choice for people thriving in metropolitan cities of India like Mumbai, where it is possible to find on almost every street a Chinese restaurant or a Chinese food cart. Has this question ever come to your mind- why are there so many Chinese restaurants near me? Firstly there is no doubt that Indian Chinses or Indo Chinese as some people call it are lip-smacking delicious, easy to make and easily available, secondly it has some history to it.
History of Chinese immigrants in India
There has been a small but significant Chinese community thriving in India, the love affair between the Indians and the Chinese has given birth to what we call –the Indo Chinese Food –The cuisine that does not feel foreign anymore. Chinese food has not only influenced our very own dishes, but it has also impacted the way we eat; So much so that most eateries in India will feature a Chinese food section in their menu.
While Chinese travellers like Faxian and Xuanzang have been visiting India for millennia in search of Buddhist teachings, in modern history Yang Tai Chow was the first recorded Chinese to migrate to India for a better living. In 1778, he settled in the capital of British India, Calcutta; Today known as Kolkata. And it is this city where Chinese restaurants first began to mushroom; in fact Mumbai’s love affair with Chinese food wouldn’t have started without the Chinese community of Kolkata.
Over the years, many more followed in the footsteps of Yang Tai Chow, and by the 20th century we had a full-fledged China town with Chinese restaurants and Chinese businesses thriving in the heart of Kolkata. The early settlers were mainly divided into two communities, Hakka and Cantonese; both communities came with distinctive languages and culinary legacies.
In a short time, the Chinese immigrants started to contribute their services to the local population of Kolkata, thus putting forth their shares in the booming economy. They served with distinction as dentists, tannery owners, sauce manufacturers and beauticians, but it was as restaurateurs that the Chinese found their fame and glory in India.
And like many great things, the Sino-Indian cultural fusion began with a feast.
Unlike Kolkata, the China Town in Mumbai is non-existent today, and very few Indian-Chinese live in Mumbai. The fate of Mumbai’s China Town changed one morning in 1962 , it was the year when India and China went to war. Though there is an existing Chinese temple In Mazgaon, the once thriving China town in Agripada –that was not only full of Chinese owned shops and restaurants but it also had a school and a printing press –is now traceless.