A Taste of Nepal

If you are in the RTP area and want a taste of some home cooked Nepali food, then you don’t have to go far.  We have one located in what is deemed as the mini India of the Triangle area – Chatham Square.  The place I am talking about here is Himalayan Nepali Cuisine, which has now been open for a year and going strong.  I heard of this place from a good friend (who also happens to be a foodie) last year over dinner.  She had high praises and the small hole in the wall appeal to it makes it even more authentic.  I was told to go there soon before it is discovered by others and gets busy; or the menu changes and food becomes mediocre.  We have seen that happen with many restaurants, they start off with such deliciousness and then end up just like any other cream based, heavy unappetizing dishes.  As most of us are familiar Nepalese Cuisine refers to the food that originates and is eaten in Nepal.  The country is truly beautiful and is influenced by so many cultures given its geographical location; the region poses high quality soil, abundance of ingredients and is known as the land of Gods and spirituality. Nepal is located in the south-central Asia, protected by the snow-covered mountains of the Great Himalayas.  I am sure you can find much geographical and ecological information on the internet.  Let’s talk about their food, rice is the staple food, but you will find jute, tobacco, sugarcane and lots of water buffaloes in the area.  Goat, lamb, chicken and other birds are served along with millets, corn, potatoes.  The flavor profile is very similar to that of North Indian food, but just different enough to hold its own.

I first visited this place last year the place was rather empty and quiet as we walked in, not usual for lunch time.  We looked at the menu and couldn’t believe how affordable the food was, the emptiness of the restaurant and the price made me a little skeptical but I kept an open mind and palette.  I ordered chicken momos and chicken kebab, figured why not we were out from work and it was paid for.  I am not a big meat eater and usually tikkas and kebabs seem to feel heavy and dry at most restaurants.  Let’s start with the momo’s, there is not much to the actual dumpling the main thing of this dish is the chutney.  It is not that difficult but it does take practice to perfect just the right creaminess from sesame seeds, tartness from the tomatoes and spiciness from the Sichuan peppers. Overall the dish was delicious and built our anticipation of what was coming next.  The food here does take a little while to be delivered and that is for a very good reason. We will get to the reason in a second that is after we have devoured the chicken kebab.  My second dish with this visit was the kebabs and I am not exaggerating when I say that I wiped the skillet clean, they were soft, with the right amount of spices, a little sweetness to balance off the acidity and just the right serving.

I have had several visits after my first and the food has been consistently delicious.  Sadly for me but great for them that they now tend to say super busy and the wait times are longer than usual.  This place is family owned, when I emailed Prativa to come have a chat with the owner and the chef she was more than willing to invite me to the restaurant to have a glimpse of the kitchen.  They take the term family owned rather serious, apart from a couple of workers rest of the people there are family.  The chef and the owner are no different, the place is owned by husband and wife, wife is the chef and husband takes care of the front.  There is only cook in this kitchen and that is Sangeetha, yes she is the one stirring the pot chopping the veggies and seasoning up the dishes we love so much.  Such an innocent and humble soul, she has no clue the joy she brings to our taste buds.  I asked her how she started to cook and what got her in to cooking; the answer was the usual and simple.  She started to cook about 15 years ago, not for the love of it but as a duty to feed her family and take care of the household duties.  They say some people are just born with a magical touch in their hand that they don’t need any practice or training to get it right.  She talked about how she remembers cooking over a gas flame made from muds and twigs.  She hails from Surkhet, located west of the national capital Kathmandu.  I asked about her family and if everybody was safe back home, she said that God has been gracious on her family as the house next to theirs had come down.  Fortunately all in her family are well and alive.  I asked about her favorite dish, and it happens to be goat curry.  She devours the at least four servings of the dish throughout the day.  Her husband (Amar Karki) however prefers chicken and vegetables over goat.  I was hoping they were planning on opening another restaurant but at the moment this one keeps them very busy.  Given Sangeetha is the only cook in the kitchen, unless they decide to clone her second restaurant would not be possible at this time.  It is still shocking for me to believe that the authenticity of this place is kept to this level, and it truly feels like food that is cooked by your mum.  The restaurant is open seven days a week, so if Sangeetha does manage to get some free time, she loves to watch Bollywood movies.  Amar talked a little more about their farm back home and the availability of fresh ingredients there that lacks here.  How he enjoys the kheer (rice pudding) his wife makes, who he lovingly refers to as his girlfriend.  As far as Prativa taking over the restaurant in the near future is not on the cards, she is well on her way studying to be a nurse and then law.  The bond that this family shares amongst themselves and with their country is what you taste on the plate.  If you haven’t visited this restaurant this is one place that should be on your list to visit.  It is well worth the wait.



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