“I’ve visited most of the restaurants in and around Patan, but I like this the best,” declared my companion, a young Chinese girl who was here for the first time. Actually, she slurred her words somewhat, a result of copious drinking of thwon (sweet rice liquor) that we had along with our baras (lentil-based patties), piro alu (spicy potato curry), and choila (grilled meat coated with spicy-hot marinade).
We were at Honacha, an eatery that is probably listed in international travel guidebooks as a must-visit when in Patan. It is not only the fantastic fare that it is so famous for, it is also the location, in the Patan Durbar Square, a world heritage site monument and the very stuff of a photographer’s dream. Honacha has taken utmost care (!) to maintain its age-old ambience, and so you’ll probably have to sit on a low stool with a small table in front of you if you are there in the evening, the time when it’s most crowded. Of course there will be many tourists, but the regular clientele will far outnumber them. In short, it’s hugely popular with the locals.
And what is it particularly popular for? The baras. You’ll find one lady or the other always in front of the stove, on which is a giant iron wok, on top of which always will be a couple of baras frying away to glory. The lady, you’ll find, has no time for small talk, for she will be too absorbed in making the baras, the orders for which are never-ending. Some order it with eggs on top, some with only minced meat, some with both, and some just plain old baras without any topping whatsoever.
These patty-like delicacies are made from a paste, with just the right density, of black lentil that has been soaked overnight. It’s nutritious, that goes without saying, and it’s downright tasty, no matter how you eat it. The minced meat and the egg, of course, endow it with tremendous flavor, not to mention, plenty more protein, vitamins, minerals, and so forth. In short, the bara bestows you with great energy.
While this is the most popular dish in the eatery, people also want to have a dig at the tongue-tingling choila and piro alu while there, which are best with a handful of chiura (beaten rice). And, because these are really hot stuff, what better than a glass or two, or even a jug, of sweet, cold thwon to balance everything and cool down your palate? Well, that’s what we had, me and my Chinese girlfriend, the whole lot, and after half-an- hour or so, we were two very happy people!