Delicious, Crunchy Kanchamba

Features Issue 183 Feb, 2017
Text by Evangeline Neve

Kanchamba is a food that you should not judge by its outward appearance, because it tastes so much more spectacular than it looks. Sometimes called ‘Thakali finger chips,’ this buckwheat treat is crunchy on the outside and tender and giving on the inside. It’s perfect for dipping in ketchup or spicy achar and enjoying with a refreshing drink of your choice. 

While I already knew from experience how tasty it was, I also wanted to know more about the history of this interesting dish, as well as how it is made, so I did a little exploring. 

I was lucky to meet Mana Sherchan, the gracious, talented chef at Tukche Thakali Kitchen, who explained a bit to me about the history of this dish, as well as how it’s prepared.

First, buckwheat flour, ghee, and salt are mixed into boiling water, forming a thick dough that must be stirred vigorously with a special wooden mixer; she showed me the one currently in use at the restaurant, worn from years of good use. Then it is kneaded by hand, until it is just the right consistency—knowledge that can’t be found in a recipe book, but which comes from years of experience and practice. If it’s not stirred properly, or for long enough, the texture of the end product will not be correct, and the kanchamba will crack when it’s fried. After the cook determines that the dough has reached the perfect texture, it’s rolled into little cylinders, a bit pointed at either end, and deep fried. This is where you can tell if everything has been done right, as a perfect kanchamba will remain smooth in appearance, and the texture when cooked will have a perfect crunch while remaining soft inside.

As with everything, the quality of the ingredients used is most important: Tukche only uses high quality buckwheat specially selected for their kitchen, and Chef Mana told me that she can easily tell the difference in taste between what they use and the inferior product often found elsewhere in the city. 

It’s great to see a local delicacy like this being reproduced in restaurants here in Kathmandu, there’s so much uniqueness in Nepali food from all around the country, but often it can be hard to find. But thanks to those who are dedicated to preserving good Thakali cooking, it seems that a new generation of people here in the valley are discovering this tasty treat. 

If it’s new for you, I recommend ordering a plate along with your mo:mo or chicken chili when you’re enjoying a few drinks before your meal. It’s perfect as a snack—you won’t be disappointed. 

Following are some places where you can enjoy authentic kanchamba:

  • Tukche Thakali Kitchen, Tangal
  • Kupondole Thakali Kitchen, upstairs at Kupondole Chowk, Patan
  • Thakali Bhanchha, upstairs, at the corner of Z Street, Thamel (It’s spelled canchampa on the menu here)