West Bengal: 2.7 km away, the scare of the coronavirus keeps food lovers in Chinatown

CALCUTTA: The largest in India, in the eastern district of Kolkata in Tangra, ended up being an involuntary victim of what has already claimed more than 1,300 lives in mainland China.

Tangra, the origin of Chinese Tangra-type food that now has a presence in India, has not had a single coronavirus infection so far (like the rest of Calcutta and Bengal). But the district, home to almost 40 large and small restaurants, has experienced a significant fall in the footprint despite being 2,700 km from the epicenter of the disease in Wuhan, in China, and a large portion of foodies have suddenly lost The appetite for Chinese food.

Tangra has about 2,500 Chinese Indians and the other (and oldest) neighborhood in Kolkata, Tiretta Bazar, has about 2,000. But not a single family can have any direct link with the continent, since the majority of the younger generation has emigrated to countries such as Canada, Australia, the United States and Sweden. However, that does not seem to have prevented food lovers from establishing any link between the disease in China and Chinese cuisine in Calcutta.

The result: an almost deserted Tangra last weekend (from February 7 to 9), with several restaurants reporting a 50% to 60% drop in the usual weekend tread.

China imposed a blockade in Wuhan on January 23, curbing people entering or leaving the city from where the virus spread. A fortnight later, just as China plans to ease some restrictions to get the workforce back on its feet, an irrational phobia seems to have taken away gourmets from Cantonese, Manchurian, Hungarian and Schezwan dishes that can attract up to 10,000 visitors in A busy Saturday.

Mathew Chen, owner of Shun Li, a small family restaurant located opposite the Chinese Kali Mandir in Tangra, said the number of customers had dropped from 81 on the first Saturday of the month (February 1) to 43 this Saturday (February 8) , which resulted in a loss of Rs-17,000 for a single day. For larger restaurants, such as Big Boss and Kim Ling, which are closer to the Chinatown entrance and receive more than 1,000 customers on Saturday, the loss exceeded Rs 4 lakh.

“Our business remains stable throughout the year, with sales that increase during the holiday seasons and on weekends, particularly between October and February, when the weather is pleasant. I can't remember a single fall from weekend to weekend in recent years like the one that occurred between February 1 and 8, ”Chen said.

Customers arriving in Big Boss after 2 p.m. for lunch or after 8 p.m. For dinner on weekends you usually have to wait for a table. But, on February 8, the restaurant was almost empty with only a few tables occupied during peak hours. Manager S Chang said he had read the signs when regular customers started calling to ask if they would get the flu if they came to dinner.

“Guests have become curious about what sauces and ingredients are used and where they come from. I assured them that everything was of local origin, but many decided to stay away, ”said Chang.

The owners of Beijing and Golden Joy, two high-capacity restaurants, acknowledged that the tread had decreased but said they were not as affected as others. “It's a little up and down. Kolkata has no connection with this flu. No single case has been confirmed in the city. So what is this scare about? ”Asked Mónica Lieu, owner of the Beijing and Kim Ling restaurants in Tangra. In any case, we don't get anything from China, said Robert Liao of Golden Joy.

The president of the Association of Chinese Indians, Bean Ching Law, said several of his friends, all well educated, had asked about the threat of contracting the virus if they visited Chinatown.

“The Chinese Indians in Tangra have no family ties to mainland China for at least a couple of generations. Only a handful have reestablished business ties. Chinese Indians come to Tangra during the Chinese New Year from Canada, the United States, Australia and Sweden. Fear, therefore, is completely irrational, ”said Lieu.

The medical opinion supports this opinion. No virus would survive Tangra Chinese food cooked at high temperatures in a burning flame, said virologist Amitabha Nandy. There can be no justification for not going to Chinatown because there are Chinese Indians living there or because Chinese food is served, he said.