How Vada Pav Travelled from Ulhasnagar to China
More Indians travel to little Yiwu than to Beijing and Shanghai. And clearly the traders from Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan outnumber those from other states because Yiwu’s restaurants serve all the food you cannot find in China’s boomtowns. From 8 am to 3 am. Their counterparts in Beijing shut shop at 11 pm and some take an afternoon break as well.
[...] I discovered what could be the best Indian food in China, as I scanned the 300 dishes at Swad-e-Hindustan. The two-storey establishment is owned by a low-profile father and son duo — Ghansham and Girish Haryani — who hail from Ulhasnagar on Mumbai’s fringe. In 2003, they were the first to see the business opportunity for an Indian eatery in Yiwu while its international market was still being built and modernised. Actually, the Chinese have not stopped expanding the market. It is still being built.
When Girish, 29, reaches his restaurant, he enters after saying a long prayer on the street. Then he prays again by the Ganesha on his office desk. (Girish’s Ganesha is not Made-in-China). If an elderly Indian customer walks in, he bends to touch his feet. He knows almost everyone by name.
Inside this restaurant, surrounded by walls lined with Indian art painted by Chinese artisans from Shanghai, I ate dosa and idli with two chutneys while the 1990s Hindi serial Vikram Aur Vetal played on the television set. I forgot I was in China.