Food across neighbours

Scoutmytrip.com’s Co-founder Deepak Ananth‘s trip to Nepal was such an appetizing journey. Deepak recounts his experiences with food for us. Be part of this exciting journey and feast on this droolworthy food photos!

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Deepak Ananth, Founder, Scoutmytrip.com
Plenty has been written and talked about Indian food and its immediate neighbor, the quintessential Chinese cuisine. During my travel, I was made aware of a cuisine that is stuck bang in the middle of these 2 culinary giants. Nepal.

Ask the Nepali gentleman what they eat , the answer is pat- Daal Bhat and tarkari. What is there to write about this. The common dal, rice and steamed vegetables! So when we went to Kathmandu on a 9 day road trip from Delhi, we decided to experience as much food as we could along the way- in Lucknow and other parts of UP and Delhi. We didn’t expect too much of Nepal. Am I glad to be proved wrong.

The simplicity on the Nepali plate shouldn’t be mistaken for its lack of taste. The typical meal consists of a heap of rice, dal ( black and yellow variety) – extremely watery and a portion of saag. Either the spinach or a mix of various vegetables stewed in its own broth. What can be simpler? What sets the food apart are the accompaniments. The pickles.

Thali at Nepal

I am a spice junkie. So when the spicy tangy pickles came out, I was more than happy to sample mine and eat up my neighbours share. Lime, mixed veg, bamboo, mango, carrot, chillies, basically anything that can be fermented , will be fermented. Amazing stuff.

Then we were introduced to Chow Mein.  A simple fried rice or noodles, cooked in Chinese sauces, and vegetables. The non vegetarian has the option of having shredded chicken and egg liberally mixed into the dish. Topped with coriander or parsley to give the freshness that you generally don’t expect with this dish, A touch of the ‘Indianness’ that seems to permeate in Nepal.  Again, the red chilly chutney that accompanies the rice ( and strangely not the noodles) is the hero. Spicy and tangy, similar to the schezwan chutney you get in most places in India, but different in treatment.

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When you are this close to Tibet, the influence of the hearty food of this region cannot be amiss.  The thukpa bowl is delicious here. Plenty of veggies, carrots to cauliflowers to potatoes and onions simmered in a broth that is spicy and burns your throat when you take that first sip. Non veggies have shredded boiled chicken added into the bowl.

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Nepal is also famous for its Buff momos. Momos stuffed with buffalo meat. There are chicken and vegetarian options also. But for me the taste just falls a bit short of the authentic Tibetian fare or the completely Indianised version.

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Buff momos
One thing to look for is the rice or mullet wine that is made in most houses here. Called Raksi, this clear liquid is surprisingly close in taste to the Japanese Sake. With the same burning sensation when drunk and the lovely after taste , sort of a buttery , velvety taste in your mouth. This is a must try, if not for any thing else, try to see the traditional way of serving the raksi for its entertainment value. It is usually drunk in a small mud container, shaped like a diya or lamp that we use at home. The drink is poured from a great height with pinpoint accuracy into this small receptacle from a jug with a small spout. The accuracy of pouring accentuates the taste-  me thinks!

 

One different and new learning for me in Nepal was the Jimbu or jamboo (wasn’t able to get the name exactly right). From the onion family, the jimbu doesn’t taste as pungent as the onion , but has the same flavor palate and the leaves are used to give a similar flavor to the broth and the thukpa. The Jimbu is generally dried and served as a condiment along with the meal. I loved its subtle taste.

We were also asked to try the Sekuwa – a kind of kabab, in Nepal. But weren’t able to find places to get this authentically prepared. Made from pork, mutton, chicken and many a times a mixture of all of them and liberally spiced with herbs, this skewer is then roasted over an open flame of charcoals to get a rich and aromatic flavor. Like I said, our loss!

The sweets and desserts of Nepal are very similar to its indian cousins. The jerry is similar to the south Indian Jhangri, chocolate burfi and rosogolla is served everywhere. The other sweet that is saw being served at every meal was the pedha. Again very similar to the Indian version.

All in all, the simplicity of the ingredients in a land that is not known for its agricultural or culinary prowess surprised me no end. I will love to go back and see how different provinces have twisted the recipes to make it their own. Hopefully , I will get a chance to do this again. Till then —ramrari khanu hola” – Bon appetit!

 

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Completely enjoyed reading this blogpost!!! ]

  2. subzeroricha says:

    That’s a complete post with all experiences so well documented. Nepal had so many flavors ! I had no clue, thank you Deepak and Janice for bringing this to us 🙂

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