It was difficult to locate the place. We were supposed to a photoshoot of Josephine Huang. Nestled above an abandoned petrol pump turned garage on G C Avenue, one needs to be extra attentive to find the building and the only landmark is a tiny hoarding at the second floor level of an old building. Once you have made your way through the defunct cars parked around and climbed up one of the trademark staircases of an old Central Kolkata building (the signage will point an arrow upstairs), you head straight towards Eau Chew. The address isn12, G C Avenue, Kolkata.
Eau Chew is more than 90 years old, although there is a doubt about the exact year when this started but as per the Indian Chinese Association, Eau Chew restaurant is the oldest running family owned Chinese restaurant in India.
Once you enter, the door chime will announce your presence but it is not a restaurant feel that will engulf you. It is as if you have entered the dining room of a family member and an elderly matron figure is either supervising and keeping a close watch over the happenings or at times cooking herself. When we first met Josephine Huang, the name and the hands behind the famous Josephine’s noodles, she was reading a John Grisham novel. Gazing at the gold fishes in the aquarium by her side from time to time, she had a very calming presence. It was couple of days before Holi and she smiled away her pain and shared with us that all the helping hands had gone for holiday. So while the daughter in Law was managing the cash and attending guests – Joel, the son and an excellent cook himself and Josephine were managing the kitchen. Three people managing a 65 cover restaurant may sound impossible but then again, here things are personal, slow, quiet with loads of love and care.
Eau Chew in Mandarin means ‘European’ and was opened up as a small tiffin house for Chinese immigrants in Kolkata by Achumpa Huang. In the initial days, other than the Chinese dishes, it also had pork chops and cutlets for the European clientele.
Eau Chew restaurant menu –
We have visited the restaurant several times after the first visit and unlike the first time, we have never asked for the menu card. Rather, we have gone upto Josephine M’am or Joel her son, for suggestions. There are whole lot of dishes available in the menu but ask for suggestions and trust Joel and Josephine blindly. If I can stick my neck out, I can suggest the following –
The legendary Josephine’s noodles
#2017 #41 Now I can proudly say that I have had the famous Josephine's noodles made by her. A very blink and miss restaurant situated on top of a defunct petrol pump filled with run down vehicles, this place is one of the legendary Chinese eateries of Kolkata. There is a fair amount of history involved with this place which is more than 90 years old and the recipes are still closely guarded family secret as no outsider is allowed at the wok. More on the blog which is coming up. In spite of all pressures, she did not allow the menu and the food to get Indianised and it's only Cantonese and partial hakka that they do here. Light and flavourful, this dish leaves you craving for more . It is packed with vegetables and proteins and balanced light sauce. We kept on having it for the dinner and lunch, the next day. #cantonese #Chinese #chinesefood #legendary #foodhistory #foodpost #foodpic #foodhistory #foodphoto #eeeeeats #lunchstories #lunch #eauchewkolkata #kolkatarestaurants #instafood #instacantonese #instalike #monday #foodpics #instachinese #instamonday #instalunch #nomnomnom #foodstagram #foodiefacts #foodiegram
#2017 #56 we asked Josephine what would you recommend as a starter? Not many have the right to enter her kitchen but for some reason Josephine liked us and we were given a preview to her spotless kitchen. She recommended spring chicken, then effortlessly she started working on her wok. She completed it, we stood there as spellbound spectators and once she ended just like an aunt at home, she said – go and take a seat otherwise the food will get cold. Crispy golden pieces of chicken in a very light corn flour batter. It was perfectly seasoned and the chicken was beautifully soft with a crunch from the batter. Thank you Josephine for being an integral part of kolkata's food history. We come back everytime to have a date with your food but we also come to meet you and get a share of your warmth and happiness rubbed on to us. We had a beautiful company in @hashdiaries as she got enough material for her blog. #chicken #cantonese #Chinese #chinesefood#legendary #foodhistory #foodpost#foodpic #foodhistory #foodphoto#eeeeeats #lunchstories #lunch#eauchewkolkata #kolkatarestaurants #instafood #instacantonese #instalike #foodpics #instachinese#instamonday #instalunch#nomnomnom #foodstagram#foodiefacts #foodiegram #nomnomnom #instachinese
and definitely chimney soup – perhaps one of the last few places in Kolkata which sells Chimney Soups. The roast chilly pork is equally delicious- tossed in chilies and onions with very little sauce unlike most places.
This is a no frill restaurant. You won’t get a parking in a busy office para (locality as we call in Bengali), no one to open the door, no high end decor, no gimmicks – plain absolute good food. This is one of the last standing glory of Kolkata when it comes to food and let’s give it to the Huang family for running this restaurant. Undoubtedly Tangra Chinese eateries are losing its sheen and even though they are mostly always over crowded, I would attribute it to cheaper and reasonable pricing than good food.
Read – Five famous chinese restaurants in Tangra and a little history about them which I wrote in Eazydiner
Mainland China these days, gets mixed reviews on price and quality of food, who comes next? Chowman is opening up a lot of branches across the city and although started with promise, off late the food quality has been going downhill. Old ones like Chung wah (the one which still has cabins) which is more than 120 years old, D Ley (famous for its pork dishes), Chin Wah are almost all struggling and will carry the novelty of good food and and will continue till the time it is possible.
It’s very tough not to over romanticize while writing about this place but I have tried to restrain myself. Just curious, legendary Chinese restaurateur Nelson Wang, whose China Garden is one of the most successful stand alone Chinese restaurants in India (started with Mumbai and has 9 branches in Mumbai and few in Delhi) and who has invented Chicken Manchurian (believe it or not) has ever visited Eau Chew?
From Golden Dragon in Mumbai, the first Chinese rstaurant of India to Mings House in Delhi, Chinese food and food business is worth a detailed in depth study but at any time, Eau Chew will feature in that for sure.