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How hua it is!

RICH FLAVOURS Chimney soup at How hua

RICH FLAVOURS Chimney soup at How hua   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

A soup full of nostalgia awaits you at How Hua, a Chinese restaurant in Kolkata, which got a new lease of life recently

Once upon a time in Kolkata — when it was still called Calcutta — I spent several days at a stretch in the city. That was when I discovered a popular place called How hua. I would visit the eatery on Free School Street near Park Street whenever I could, and have their excellent chimney soup.

The times change. The city got a new name and came under a new rule, a host of restaurants offering everything from Mediterranean to Malaysian opened up, and somewhere down the line, little How hua shut down. But I continued to regale friends and family back home about the soup that had stayed on in my memory and heart.

But then, as I said, the times change. On a visit to the city some days ago, I discovered to my immense joy that How hua had reopened, though in another part of the city. Our foodie friends from Kolkata had already eaten there and had great things to say about the chimney soup, which was on the menu again. So, of course, for old times’ sake, I decided I had to try out the much-loved favourite once again.

Chimney soup, as you will know, is a huge serving of soup with various kinds of goodies in it. It’s called chimney because there is a little charcoal fire underneath it which keep it simmering. You can keep topping up your bowl with the soup, which usually contains chicken strips, fish balls, little shrimps, pieces of pork, veggies and so on.

The restaurant has been opened by the younger generation of the family that originally ran it. It is on Prince Anwar Shah Street (Ph No: 0-7595999413), a narrow little restaurant with a small open balcony.

We went in, took our table, and promptly ordered the soup (₹700) to begin with. Of course, we had to ask for their roast chilli pork (₹250), fried prawn dumplings (₹250) and meifoon rice noodles (₹215). Our friends had recommended their French pork chop (₹325) — but they had run out of it. So we asked for the light musui chicken (₹300) instead.

Roast chilli pork

Roast chilli pork   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The soup arrived — a big vessel of broth with chicken, prawn, fish, vegetables, meat balls, crab, tofu, vermicelli and fish balls floating in it. I could have made a meal out of it — primarily for two reasons: one, it was good; and two, it was warm nostalgia. What was disappointing, however, was that it came without the fire lit under it. The manager told us that they had done away with it because it led to too much smoke in the room, and some customers had a problem with that.

The dumplings were good, with some nice juicy prawns nestling inside the fried casing. You can’t go wrong with roast chilli pork, and How hua didn’t either. The meat was tender, the chilli was sharp, and the taste was drool worthy. The chicken was light, with crunchy vegetables, and the mixed rice noodles — with the works — gave us our carb shot.

The food is nice, and lighter than the Chinjabi fare that you get in Delhi. And the rates suit most pockets. I was happy to see youngsters there, all slurping up their chimney soup, quite like the way I did all those decades ago.

In these days when restaurants shut before you can say multi-cuisine, it’s good to find an old friend back, although several hundred kilometres away.

My knowledge of Chinese languages is a bit basic (read that as non-existent), but my Kolkata foodie friends tell me that how hua means splendid.

And how hua it is.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 12:43:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/how-hua-it-is/article19938259.ece

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