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POKHARA FOOD TOUR

 

With all its scenic beauty, Pokhara is one of the most enchanting valleys in Nepal. The green hills, lakes, forests, rivers, waterfalls, terraced fields etc are like a balm for the weary soul. Popularly known as “City of Tourism”, it city is quite free from any kind of pollution. Tourists flock here to enjoy its natural beauty and also to take part in adventure sports that this place is famous for too. So during our Nepal Food Tour, we were here to explore the culinary side of this postcard perfect place. And in this exploration we were joined by our host Kamal Bhatta who has explored this place well. Our gastronomic journey started with a pleasant stroll around the cobbled and beatified pathways around the Phewa lake. Here you will find quite a few hawkers selling fresh food items mostly breads , pastries etc in wicker baskets. We bought a cinnamon roll and croissant from an old lady and a young man respectively. They were quite decent in taste and fresh as well.

From there we went to visit the Gupteswar Mahadev Temple and Davi’s Fall. This famous cave has many shrines, the most important of which is the temple of Lord shiva. Within 2-3 km of Davi’s Fall there are many eateries, few of which are very popular. So we went to Mt. Kailash Tibetan Restaurant for some yummy and authentic Tibetan style momo and shabaley. Everything that we tried at this small eatery was quite impressive. Next we went to another Tibetan restaurant run by a Nepali lady who has lived in Punjab. There we ordered some Bhaklep(Tibetan bread), curry and Po Cha(salty butter tea). The naan like, griddle baked flat bread along with a simple curry made of potatoes, ridge gourd and chicken was quite a hearty combination.

 

We then went to the Lakeside part of Phewa lake that is known for swanky restaurants and hangout spots. The Duna Tapari restaurant here specializes in an awesome fish based menu. Fish lovers from far and near come here for traditional fish based delicacies made from the fresh catch sourced from the lake. We ordered Bitte tareko, Hans Choila, Paphar ko roti, polecko machha, machha jhol, machha surawa and few other things. Fresh ingredients and right use of condiments and masalas everything tasted brilliant. After some recreational activities nearby, as evening approached we got hungry and went to have the Traditional Thenkthuk from Sherpa Kitchen. This pretty restaurant is run by a Sherpa family. We saw how the simple yet comforting soup was prepared using common ingredients. But it was the seasoning of the very versatile local pepper called Timmur that enhanced its flavours.

 

Our last stop for the day was a popular restaurant named Fewa Thakali Bhanchha. As the name suggests it was all about Thakali cuisine. We ordered the Cheli set. The term refers to aunt so it is a platter dedicated to the lovely ladies in our life. There were nearly 12 things in the platter including starter, main course and beverage. The most impressive components of this set were steamed Jetha Budho rice, Mustang simi beans dal, Aloo tareko, Aloo dhameko, Fish fry, Mutton fry and chutneys. It was indeed a super gratifying meal. Everything was balanced and flavourful especially the Jetha Budo rice which is like the Basmati Rice of Nepal.

We are grateful to Kamal for this interesting food tour set amidst the natural grandeur of this place. Till next time keep walking and keep exploring. And for all the food related details check the video linked above.

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NEWARI AND OTHER ETHNIC CUISINE IN NEPAL

Taking ahead our food escapades in Nepal, in this episode we are exploring some authentic ethnic recipes from the cities of Kirtipur and Lalitpur. Along with our gracious and genial host Sanam Chitrakar, we visited two very special eateries that specialises in traditional food from different parts of Nepal. This gastronomic journey includes a scrumptious experience from Newa Lahana in Kirtipur and Raithaane in Lalitpur(Patan). Kirtipur is an ancient city teeming with history, heritage, rich culture and hospitality, stunning landscape views and several monuments. We started with Kirtipur. Situated at the distance of 5km south-west from the Kathmandu, it is a center of Newar culture.

 

 

Here, Newa Lahana is a community run restaurant and open museum working towards the promotion and conservation of the Newar culture. With fully traditional setting, arrangements and menu, it is a flag bearer in presenting authentic Newari cuisine to the world. As we entered the kitchen, we were greeted by a jolly, dexterous and busy team of local womenfolk dressed in their traditional Haku Patasi. The menu here was quite extensive. We ordered Chatamari (rice pancakes with meat and egg), Samay Bhaji(Snacks Platter), Wo(lentil pancake), Chusya Mushya(grain based snacks platter), Shyapu Mhicha(bone marrow stuffed buffalo tripe) , Yomari(steamed rice cakes with jaggery filling) along with some native rice based liquor. The home style food was fresh and super flavourful.

 

The variety flavours and textures was simply impressive. There is so much dynamism in the cuisine that leaves you gratified. Our ultimate favourite of the lot was the toothsome Yomari. The jaggery oozing out into mouth from the steamed rice cakes transports you to a blissful zone where its just you and this popular (revered) dessert. But the liquor made from fermented rice was strong and sharp for our palette.

From there we went to Lalitpur(Patan) to another special restaurant named Raithaane. Founded by three passionate young men, it intends to introduce the world to the traditional ingredients and components of the ethnic Nepalese cuisines through its super fascinating menu. It is like the amalgamation of the under appreciated and under rated aspects- be it ingredients or cooking techniques-of Nepal’s food traditions. Here we were joined by Prasantha Khanal, a co founder of the place who briefed us about the lesser known dishes and ingredients from different parts of Nepal. On his recommendation, we tried some very unusual dishes. So there were Rikikur(savoury potato pancakes), Kanchemba(buckwheat fries) and Chamre Fakse( aromatic rice with pork and wild lichen dish). Prasantha patiently familiarized us with the details of the dishes. The taste and flavours were very unique and unprecedented. Our favourite was the kanchambe with Timmur Chop(dried spice mix made with a local chilli). The experience at Raithaane was gratifying and insightful. We are grateful to Sanam for taking us around to such amazing places, to the amazing team at Newa Lahana and Raithaane for such amazing food and great hospitality and to Prasantha for all the insights. Till next time keep walking and Keep exploring.

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NEPAL BHAKTAPUR FOOD TOUR

 

As a part of our ongoing Nepal Food Series, we are at Bhaktapur or the City of Devotees to explore its unique food traditions. It is named so as it has three major squares full of towering pagoda style temples that boasts of some of the finest religious architecture in the country. The remarkable structures- with exquisite wood carvings and metal craft- pervading the cityscape, transported us to ancient times. Moreover the car free city centre here is a happening spot teeming with tourists and locals. As you stroll down the lanes, you discover how art and craft occupies a significant place in the culture of Bhaktapur. The alleyways with varied shops and workshops are a testimony to its vibrant cultural heritage that is still very dynamic. Once you reach here you will find yourselves amidst friendly natives.

In our gastronomic exploration at this sleepy city we are joined by our foodie host Kamal Bhatta who is keenly familiar with the traditions of this place. The menu out here, on the streets is mostly Newari food. Come let’s see what all did we tried in this tour.

Sel Roti, Jerry, Swaari and Malpua

Before starting for Bhaktapur at morning, we relished some popular street side breakfast items at the main marketplace in Kathmandu. For this we first bought some Gwaramari(round, fried all purpose flour based sweet bread), Malpua, Sel Roti(ring-shaped, sweet rice bread), Jerry(similar to Jalebi) and Swaari(thin, soft puri) from different places and then settled down to have it with a glass of milky tea, just how the locals do. The most notable snack among these was the Sel Roti that was a ring shaped, deep fried sweet bread made with rice flour. Again Swaari and Jerry together made an interesting combination. The most delightful thing about the eating experience was witnessing them being prepared fresh. The dishes were simple, familiar but yummy and filling.

On reaching Bhaktapur, we embarked on a pleasant stroll down the alleys of this heritage city in search some quintessential food. Our first stop was a local sweet shop where we tried the Balbara and Gudpak. The first one is a sweet, crisp, deep fried, sugar glazed flatbread while the second one is a traditional fudge like sweet made with khoya, gond, ghee, nuts, etc. Its rich and dense texture reminded us of our very own Dodha Burfi.

Choila

Next we arrived at another sleepy lane where locals-kids, young and old-were relaxing or socialising on the raised verandah of the native buildings. We were here to have fresh and hot aloo chop or potato fritters. We loved the mildly spiced fritters served with a spicy chutney. From there we went to the simple looking Choila Specialist at Kamalvinayak, whose Choila, Thon and Aloo Tama are quite popular with the locals. The Choila here, which is a meat based appetizer was lip smacking and hence the name of the place stands quite justifiable. It is just small pieces of tender, perfectly grilled meat that is mixed with raw ginger garlic paste, chilli paste, salt, green garlic and dressed with heated mustard oil. The flavourful Choila effortlessly complimented the traditional rice based alcoholic drink Thon or Chyang. Another traditional Newari dish the Aloo Tama, a delicious curry made with potatoes, bamboo shoots, black eyed peas etc. was delicious too.

 

After those robust tastes we went to try the iconic Juju Dhau or ‘King Curd’ that is one of the must try delicacy in the region. We were bowled over by the thick, luscious, velvety and creamy texture of this buffalo milk based curd. Do notice the hint of earthiness that comes from the earthenware used to set it.

 

Barra Wo

Next were the turn another Newari dish Barra and Wo which are essentially savoury black lentil pancakes. Just as we entered the place we were greeted by a smiling old lady sitting behind a busy griddle full of round Barras. These delicious lentil pancakes can be customised into different forms. So you can have the plain ones, ones with just meat or just eggs and then the ones with both meat and eggs. They serve it with a spicy and tangy channa curry or dry potato sabzi. The lentils lend it a nice, soft and fluffy body while the cooked minced meat and and eggs adds to the flavours. Interacting with Ama, the genial lady running the Barra counter with such an effortless ease was a memorable experience. More than the irresistible aromas suffusing the place, the warmth exuding from Ama gave us homely vibes.

 

Chitwan Ka Taas

 

 

Our last food destination was Bhetghat restaurant in Kathmandu which serves a very special meat dish from the Chitwan region called Taas. It is an amazing dish consisting of crisp and tender shallow fried meat pieces served with puffed rice and radish pickles. The flavoursome taste of meat, basic spices and most importantly mustard oil conjured up nostalgia of this dish that he had tried at his birthplace Muzzafarpur, Bihar. Do come and bond over a plate of Taas. With our tummy and heart both contended, we wrapped up the tour.

Heartfelt thanks to Kamal for taking us to such gem of places. Till next time keep walking and keep exploring.

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INCREDIBLE MOMO TRAIL IN NEPAL

 

When you think of the most ubiquitous street food in Nepal, there flashes the sight of piping hot momo that warms the cockles of your heart and makes you drool. If you take a stock of the culinary scene on the busy streets and alleys and you will get to fathom the phenomenal popularity of this dish. Such is the craze, especially among the young crowd that that momo have attained the status of unofficial national dish of the country. Hence we are on a momo trail to taste the incredible variety that is available locally. To guide us on this fascinating culinary trail featuring this quintessential Nepalese dish we are joined by Kamal who is a momo aficionado too.

 

Our first stop was Ghangri Cafe at Jhamshel, Kathmandu. This place is famous for what is known as open momo or Sui Mui momo. Available in chicken, pork and buff, they are loved for their unique flower-like shape and of course their unparalleled taste. One bite is enough to fall in love with these open momos. As the three different chutneys accompanying the delicacy reaches the stuffing inside the momo through the open ends it infuses them with a vibrant character and transforms them into tiny bombs of flavours. Apart from the taste what we loved about them was that the juiciness is very much intact in these momo.

The next stop was Mahabharat momo in Patan Dhoka. Before trying their popular Jhol momo, we first witnessed the making of the momo in the kitchen. This kind of momo originated from the Newari community. It was fascinating to watch a team of young workers efficiently doling out momo in lightning speed. We then tried a plateful of freshly steamed momo that is to be eaten with the creamy and spicy sesame, peanuts, soyabean and fresh coriander based broth. The momo and the broth are served separately and one has to dunk them in the broth and have them together to get the real feel of the combo.

Next was the turn of another batch of jhol momos at Narayan Dai Ko Mashangali. This variant was completely different from the previous Jhol Momos as the broth here was thin, spicy and tangy due to the use of a local sour fruit called Lapsi Nepali Hog Plum (Choerospondias axillaris). They serve you fresh chicken, mutton or buff momo in a bowl which you need to submerge with ladle full of this sour, runny broth from the huge clay vessels kept at the counter and enjoy. The taste was indeed very unique and irresistible. The momo were perfectly done and the broth just accentuate the whole flavour profile.

 

Our next destination was a Sinka restaurant which is famous for Chaat momo and the unique Sizzler momo. The first one is zesty, sweet and sour combination of fried chicken momos that is topped with beaten curd, chutneys, peanuts, onions and chaat masala. This chat was quite unique and flavoursome. Trying a Chaat with fried momo as the base was a novel experience for us. The second dish is a sizzler platter comprising of steamed chicken momos, stir fried noodles and stir fried veggies,. This one was flambeed with Khukri Rum and had very interesting Continental flavours that came from the various herbs used in the dish.

Our final destination in the trail was a quaint and cosy eatery named Noyoz. Here we met the very graceful food connoisseur and entrepreneur, Susan Karmacharya who was there to guide us more about the momo culture in Nepal. Here we tried a couple of their bestsellers like the smoked pork and aloo nimki along with two kinds of momo- the kothey momo and steamed chicken momo in white sauce. The smoked pork was succulent, fatty, flavoursome, smoky and hearty. Aloo nimki, a popular Nepalese snacks, with multitude flavours was a welcome change.

It was such a memorable momo journey where we relished some of the best momo from the city and met some really amazing people who are serving it to the masses. Heartfelt thanks to Kamal and Susan for their insights that resulted in such a gratifying trail. Till next time Keep walking and keep exploring.