As the year is drawing to a close, the tired mind itching to take a break from work and unwind. And catching up with friends over food is one of the best ways to go about it.
Anirban Acharya comes to hometown Kolkata every winter from London where he works. He’s ‘fishy’ like me, with an undying Bengali love for all things fish. We met virtually, in a Facebook food group (Easy guess!). For Bengalis, if food comes, can cinema be far behind? After all that's one of the hot topics in a Bengali adda and my namesake can be considered part of discerning audience. So our virtual friendship soon extended to my Facebook cinema group We the Audience. The group likes to share quality content on cinema, post audience reviews of current and past movies (Bengali, Hindi and English) and engage in discussions. If you are interested, you are welcome to join here.
Coming back to food, our virtual friendship had the first physical meeting in January this year, near the end of his last winter vacation. I took my fishy friend to a pice hotel Sidheshwari Ashram (If you wish to know what the term means, read this post on this blog) followed by a visit to the iconic Coffee House. And we knew we would meet again. Our next food destination options kept getting ticked over Facebook interactions.
Anirban, just after arriving at Kolkata, created a WhatsApp group to coordinate our first meet-up. A dinner meet in Tung Nam- one of the best yet lesser known Chinese restaurants in the city, located in old Chinatown (in Tiretta Bazar, which happens to be India's oldest Chinatown). Our common friend, food blogger Indrajit Lahiri was part of the Tung Nam plan from day zero. Another common friend, food blogger Abhimanyu Chakaraborty, who blogs in Bengali, joined in. Tung Nam is run by a Chinese family from the same locality and is popular in the city pork lover circuit.
When we met in the restaurant in the evening, I found that not much has changed from years back when I came last. They still blissfully ignore what is called ‘ambience’. In fact, they don’t even call it a restaurant but an eating house. Got the drift? Only the walls of which the paint was old and coming off are now tiled. The colour of the table tops is wearing off and a scooter is parked right inside. An unpretentious set-up like this suits me perfectly fine and if you care for good food and little else, should suit you too. What makes it a more homely experience is, the owner may come to you, take your order, serve you, give you the bill and collect cash. Thus you shall get the best guide for what to order as per your palate. That's what happened in our case- a short, fair, middle aged lady came to collect our order. She didn’t allow me to take her picture, but you can spot her in the next photo.
We went off the mark with Steamed Pork Wonton and Pork Wonton Soup followed by Chilli Garlic Pepper Pork, Roast Chilli Pork and Mushroom Baby Corn Pork. The wontons were moist, had the right amount of fat and tasted finger-licking good, as usual! As Abhimanyu pointed out, even the skin of the wonton was yummy! The soup was basically a clear soup but distinctly flavourful, the kind one can call the perfect comfort food. The use of ham choy in the wonton and the soup, typical of this eatery, gives a fine tweak of flavour to these dishes.
|Steamed Pork Wonton
|Pork Wonton Soup
The Chilli Garlic Pepper Pork had a scary red colour, yet spicy and tasteful. The Chilli Pork was dry and good in taste but I found it to be rather oily. Also it had a lot of fat which spoilt the pleasure to an extent.
|Chilli Garlic Pepper Pork
|Roast Chilli Pork
I was bowled over by the delicately flavoured Mushroom Baby Corn Pork. It was a pleasant break from the sharp Chinese flavours. I love mushroom and it added to the taste. It can especially be good for those who like light flavours, like children. It easily earned a place on my list of favourites from Tung Nam. I liked the meat-to-fat ratio of the dishes which is an important parameter of eating pork. Here it seemed to be within 70:30 except the Roast Chilli Pork. After polishing off two plates each of the wonton and the soup and one plate of the other three, Indrajit and Abhimanyu, two Tung Nam loyals, thought of what to order in main course. We were relishing every bit of our piggy indulgence.
|Mushroom Baby Corn Pork
The mains arrived- Rice with Pork Ham Choy, Pork with Hamei Sauce and Pork Chou Sui (One portion each). The first dish was spicy and pungent, small chunks of pork on a generous bed of steamed rice. Abhimanyu shared that it used to be sticky rice but has possibly been changed to align to the average customer’s palate. The Chou Sui had rice wine sauce in it. Indrajit shared that as far as his knowledge of Hamei Sauce was concerned, a paste of shrimp and chilli was used to make it. I found a hit of red chilli flakes in all the three dishes. Pork with Hamei Sauce and Pork Chou Sui scored better on taste.
|Rice with Pork Ham Choy
|Pork Chou Sui
We felt full and decided to call it a day. Our bill, surprisingly, was just Rs 1900 including four bottles of 300 ml cold drink. It’s a pointer to how affordable good food is in Kolkata.