Sharmi on the Trot

Travelling, Exploring, Eating…

Archive for the tag “cheap eats”

Food in Calcutta: Tiretti Bazaar’s Chinese Breakfast

 

Homemade Chinese delicacies

Homemade Chinese delicacies

The steaming bowl of broth and fish balls beckoned invitingly. The woman who had set up her stall by the roadside looked at her container on the fire that kept the soup warm for customers. She had just ladled out a serving along with handmade fish balls in a red bowl keeping up with the Christmas week celebrations. I bent down to smell the contents. All it needed was the customary decking with soy and it was ready. The table next to her is always kept ready with seasonings and cutlery. Break the generous fish ball and take a bite. Wash it down with the hot broth and that’s when you realise why you made that early morning journey to Tiretti Bazaar in Central Calcutta (Kolkata). (Do pardon me but I’m used to calling the city I grew up in Calcutta and not Kolkata).

The steaming soup container

The steaming soup container

Recently a lot has been written and discussed about the unique Chinese Breakfast in Calcutta. Many have called it a recent discovery while some have ventured out to try the food because of the visibility on social media. But for the old timers, it’s a matter of habit. I was introduced to Poddar Court about 10 years ago on a chilly winter morning by a dear friend. Having picked me up from home in the wee hours, we drove through the empty roads to reach the central part of the city.

Fish ball soup and Pork Bun

This time round when I visited home for Christmas and impromptu brekkie plans were made, I realised I was going there with the same friend. We were older but not wiser, yet our appetite for Chinese food remained the same!

Get them buns steaming hot. You get a choice between chicken and pork

Get them buns steaming hot. You get a choice between chicken and pork

You can shop for wallets as you devour pork spring rolls!

You can shop for wallets as you devour pork spring rolls!

Years ago, Chinese immigrants made Calcutta their home. They brought their food and culture to the expanding city and today, they form a unique part of Calcutta’s cultural heritage. As Chinese restaurants blossom, a visit to Tiretti Bazar will give you a taste into delicious homemade Chinese delicacies. From dumplings filled with minced meat to steaming buns with homemade fillings, sausages to prawn crackers, delicate broths to deep fried meat balls.

As you enter the road, you’re greeted with the view of a market. Fresh roses the flower seller sets up are gorgeous and red. Walk further down and you encounter fresh vegetables and greens – from bok choy to Chinese cabbage. Then you have the meat and fish sellers showcasing their wares and finally, the smell of steaming dumplings tell you you’ve reached your destination. The number of sellers has dwindled over the years but that does not stop a handful of enthusiasts from selling their homemade delicacies every single day no matter the weather. “Even if it’s raining, you will find one of us at least selling food so that no one goes back empty handed,” said the man who sells crumbed spring rolls along with wallets. The stalls are set up early in the morning, about 5ish and they wrap by when their stocks run out, which is pretty early if I can add. If you decide to come here at your leisure, you’ll be disappointed. The earlier you arrive, the more food you will get!

Steamed dumplings

Steamed dumplings

You want more? There's plenty!

You want more? There’s plenty!

Work never ends. Preps for the buns start in the evening while for items like dumplings and rolls, early morning plays a crucial role. As I dug into fish ball soup, prawn spring rolls, pork and fish dumplings and steaming pork baos, I craved roasted pork. If you want to try it, make sure you go there on the weekends because that’s the only time you’ll get it. If you’re in Calcutta and want to do something local, eating Chinese breakfast at Tiretti Bazaar must be on your to-do list!

Get some sausages to cook at home!

Get some sausages to cook at home!

Buy what goes into the sausage so you can attempt making them yourself!

Buy what goes into the sausage so you can attempt making them yourself!

After breakfast, why don't you complete your veggie shopping too?

After breakfast, why don’t you complete your veggie shopping too?

The roses that greet you when you enter and leave the breakfast road!

The roses that greet you when you enter and leave the breakfast road!

PS: Pocket pinch for 2 hungry eaters: Rs 300 approx
How to reach: Nearest metro station is Central. The food place is walking distance with the help of strangers whom you’ll have to ask for directions. If driving, then park in front of Poddar Court, near Lal Bazar

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Living it up in Paris: For the budget conscious traveller

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Every romantic in the world wishes to visit Paris at least once in their lifetime. The city of love, the city of lights… well, the city is breathtakingly beautiful. The only problem is that the French capital is one of the most expensive cities in the world. While you can probably travel to other areas of France on a cheaper budget, Paris makes sure to drain you of your last euro. But, if you plan ahead instead of deciding in a rush, you don’t have to rob a bank to fall in love with the enchanting city. Here’s my take to discover Paris but on a budget!

The first tip is to decide what you want to splurge on and where you want to stay frugal. Giving an example, I’m a history buff so visiting the Louvre was on my wish list. I require a clean bed to sleep on at night so it doesn’t matter whether I’m in a five-star or a hostel dorm. If shopping or eating delectable deserts is your wish, go right ahead but decide where you can cut  your expenses down.

The second important tip is to book tickets in advance of the attractions on your wishlist just to save time and not stand in the long queue. With internet available everywhere, it really shouldn’t be difficult as Visa and MasterCard is accepted everywhere.

Getting there
You can either fly into Paris or make your way there from other European cities. If you decide to travel by bus (Eurolines), you’ll find tickets that cost less than 10 euros for an overnight journey. The catch: You have to book at least three months in advance. (I got a ticket for 8 euros when travelling overnight from Amsterdam to Paris this summer). If flying in, look for roundtrip deals or promotions which every travel website offers.

Accommodation
It’s lovely to be waking up to the magnificent Eiffel Tower everyday but let’s face it, it’s kinda steep. It’s easy and pocket friendly to be living in the suburbs. The cardinal rule to staying in Paris is book in advance. While hostels and BnB’s are popular, one can get a deal for less than 15 euros a night if booked in advance. I suggest you scour websites like crazy to find a good deal. Important tip is to read the reviews of fellow travellers before booking. If two or more reviews talk about bed bugs, it’s better you give that particular hostel a miss.
The second option is couchsurfing. It’s a fantastic way to get to know the locals and understand their city. I lived in the suburbs of Paris, in Le Pre Saint Jervais, for five days thanks to my kind host Camille. Not only did I make a new friend but also tried to understand the city from the point of view of a local Parisian.

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At Camille’s snugville, just 200m away from Paris!

Travelling within the city
If you’re on a budget forget about the city cards. While the Paris Pass or Museum Pass or any travel pass may give you a list of free museums, sights et al, they are of no use. It’s physically impossible to cover so much in say two days. Decide on the attractions which require payment and then buy a carnet (set of 10 tickets) for the metro. Priced at approx. 14 euros, they are individual tickets which don’t limit you to a respective zone. Once you reach the metro station, get up and walk. It’s a gorgeous city you’ll uncover so many things which you never thought existed.
It’s important to remember that if you’re 26 and under and holder of the international student/youth card, discounts are plenty. Secondly, most attractions offer free/discounted entry for the press. If you’re in the media, make full use of it. DO NOT forget your press card.

When you’re hungry…
Paris is cheap if you know where to look. Coffee and croissant for breakfast, baguette, meat and wine for lunch, then a delectable macaroon for desert after a hearty pasta dinner, the city has cheap eats for under-10 euros if you search. If you’re budget is really tight, I suggest you visit a supermarket to buy cheese, meat, olives, wine and anything else under the sun. Make a sandwich with fresh bread and your lunch-on-the-go is done under 4 euros. Warning: do not miss the nutella crepes for about 2-3 euros near Rue de Montparnasse!

The freebies
We all love free things. And Paris offers so many which will leave your head reeling:
Notre Dame Cathedral
One of the finest examples of gothic architecture, it’s one of the biggest cathedrals in the world. However, there is a charge to go up the towers and the treasury.

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Point Zero
Located outside the cathedral, it’s the official centre of Paris. Gives you a Robert Langdon feeling!

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Cimetiere Pere-Lachaise
Visit the graves of Jim Morrison, Edith Paif and so many others in one of Paris’ most famous cemeteries.

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There’s no charge for taking pictures!

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ImageWalk along Champs Elysees
From the obelisk to the arc, this is one of the best streets Paris has to offer. And if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of Brad Pitt!

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Jardin des Tuileries
The historic park with manicured lawns and blooming flowers between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde will bring a smile to your face.

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My favourite is the one with locks near Louvre.

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Picnic on the banks of Siene
Pick up crepes, baguettes, beverages or whatever you fancy. Sit on one of the banks and see the world pass by.

Important: Many museums are free all year round. Eg Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris and Musée Carnavalet. However, on the first Sunday of every month, major museums have free entry.

Time to splurge
Louvre
The entrance free is approx 12 euros but it’s a must visit destination. Remember to wear walking shoes and spare a whole day to see the masters.

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The royal medieval gothic chapel’s entrance fee is cheaper so do visit if you get the chance.

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You need extra tickets for the RER to reach the palace. Give yourself a whole day to surround yourself amidst beauty.

Catacombs
For the bravehearts, do not miss the seven million skulls and bones beneath the city.

Eiffel Tower
Many say its unnecessary to spend 14.50 euros to go right to the top but you must. The trick is to go up just before dusk and take the last elevator down. The way the city transforms right before your eyes is breath taking. If you weren’t in love with the city before, you will be once you do this!

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