Local Eats

Features Issue 141 Aug, 2013

Most people think the culture of eating out is about food. They’re partially right. Great food does not guarantee a good time (some places featured here come close to it though). Food is merely the theme; it’s what you do around your meal that’s actually important. And that is precisely why a developed culture of eating out is crucial for a society’s wellbeing. Because it exposes people to new cuisines and new tastes, and consequently to new perspectives. It throws you in situations, new and old, so that you never slip into a comfort zone. It’s why every great city has a great eating out culture and also why we’ve stopped to take note and celebrate some great choices available in Kathmandu today.

Local Sips

Text:Kritish Rajbhandari,

Tea is not just a beverage, it’s a national habit. Where to get your fix in Kathmandu? Read on.

Soon after the sun slips into the thick monsoon clouds that don’t remotely threaten to turn into a drizzle, the south-west end of Kathmandu’s Basantapur Square fills up with people who are out for a breather along with a fine cup of tea. Anytime is tea-time here in the beating heart of old Kathmandu – the meeting place for friends, acquaintances, dates and strangers. Where local tea shops lined up along the edge of the square serve tea from early in the morning till late into the evenings.

The area around the peepal bot, the lone green tree standing in the square is a popular hangout for people from all walks of life. Here college students just out from classes gather for gossip, complaints and laughter, wage laborers and rickshaw-drivers find a breather from their work, and vendors selling laughing Buddhas and pocket khukuris in the square take a break away from their stalls. The lives of local shopkeepers, men in ironed shirts, traffic police officers in between duties, old men in daura surwals and wandering youths from near and far all converge here. Some come to share their joys, others their frustrations. Some come to talk about the recent turn in politics, others just find a moment of solitude among a babel of voices. One thing that holds them together and literally keeps them in the vicinity is the tea, the sweet and cozy aroma of which stays there all day while people come and go.

Drinking tea is a daily ritual for most in Nepal, an integral part of life. The day doesn’t start without a cup of it in the morning, and sometimes it doesn’t seem to move on without another during the day. Regardless of the time of the day, tea is the first thing offered to visitors and guests at home or at any place. Tea stalls and small bakeries are ubiquitous on Kathmandu’s streets.

In most roadside tea shops as in the ones in Basantapur Square, milk tea is commonly made by bringing the ingredients (tea leaves and sugar in water) to a boil and adding some milk. Getting the correct light brown tint is crucial as it is indicative of the taste and texture. Regular tea drinkers tend to be quite fussy about it. Variations are the black tea, which is tea without milk, and lemon tea which is black tea with lemon drops. Masala tea as the name suggests is milk tea spiked with a mix of spices that gives a subtle edge to the tea as you take a sip.

Although Nepali tea is an all-weather drink in Nepal, since it is taken warm, people usually wait for the mercury to drop a little before heading for their favorite tea shops. Some conversations end with one cup of tea while others need more. So when the clouds break into a wail and the rain starts battering the brick pavements at Basantapur, people relocate into the tiny teashops and continue their conversations while asking the sauni for one more round of tea.

Specialty tea
While most local tea shops serve milk tea and masala tea which are local favorites, there are also certain teashops in town that offer specialty tea like green tea, oolong tea and jasmine tea. One such tea shop is the ‘Swotha Kiosk’ located in the quiet premises of Patan’s Swotha Square, behind a three-tiered Radha Krishna pagoda temple. Here tea is served in a porcelain tea pot and cups. You can either sit inside or grab a mudha outside. Much quieter than Basantapur, take in the sights of a historic city in transition as you sip some specialty tea.

 Foodie Alert: Low Key, High Delight

Text & Photos: Kashish D Shrestha

Sometimes low key is high delight. The world over, the “hole-in-the-wall” food culture persists for a reason. Two locations in Thamel live up to that spirit, serving gastronomical delights from China and Japan in the heart of Kathmandu. 

At Thamel Mall, the ambience is one of a distinctly tourist town with souvenir shops, music drifting in and out from multiple restaurants inside, and an open food court (roofed) and courtyard filled with locals and tourists alike. While the menu in several restaurants here is no different from elsewhere in the city, Kazuna stands out for a very good reason. Opened and operated by husband-wife duo Ashok and Pragati Gurung for seven months now, this no-frills restaurant offers one of the best Japanese foods in town for an unbelievably reasonable price. The most expensive item? Suta Don (stir fried pork with raw egg over rice bowl) at Rs. 250. Even in Japan, Satu is mostly available only in Tokyo. Their Donburi menu also includes Katsu (pork) and Tendon (vegetable tempura) for Rs.160 and Oyakodon (chicken) for Rs.130. 

The Donburi menu is as good as, if not better than, Kathmandu’s more established Koto and Kotetsu. And if Koto has a monopoly on the starter Cold Chicken (which, in fact, I am told is actually a Chinese dish) that costs more than Rs. 575 after taxes, Kizuna’s Pimiento Nikudume (Rs.85, marinated ground pork cooked inside a capsicum) is a delicious and compelling replacement to make that Cold Chicken an occasional or even a rare indulgence. The Rs.40 Miso soup is a treat! If you like Japanese food, or have always wanted to try it, Kazuna is a must. There is a reason the place is constantly serving Japanese tourists. And for the first time, quality Japanese food for price points very low. 

New Chong Qing Wei Fast Food Restaurant
Jhotse is fast becoming Kathmandu’s Little China and the street is also home to New Chong Qing Wei Fast Food restaurant. The decoration might be minimalist but the food comes packed with flavor. Originally opened by a Chinese, the Nepali chef has since taken over and still personally works the kitchen. As you try to decide what to order (items on the menu are as extensive as they are delicious), expect to drool as the waitresses bring out food ordered by other guests. Go ahead and ask “What is that?” The chef is also happy to make recommendations if you give him hints. A recent “something with meat, spicy, for snacks” resulted in the chef asking “pork or chicken?” followed by being served the popular Stir Fried Chicken in Hot Chili (Rs.440) - a serious contender to our traditional chicken chili. The dish is large enough for a group of 2-3 to share generously. Either way, as tempting as it might be, I would not advise for one person to try and finish it all in one sitting. There are plenty of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Everything tastes good. The menu is primarily in Chinese. No prizes for guessing why. 

For your information
Suggestion: Sprinkle some chilli pepper if you want an extra kick of flavor. 
Portions: Generous. One order of Pimiento and Donburi each could be enough for two to share. Served with salad and green tea. 
Language: Japanese spoken
Open for every day from 8AM to 8PM, except Sundays, Has WiFi.
Location: Thamel Mall (less than a minute from Roadhouse, Thamel)

For your information
Suggestion: Try something new 
Secret Menu: Will make duck dishes if ordered a day in advance 
Portions: Very generous (1 meat dish, 1 veggie dish, and rice enough for 2 to 3 people)
Language: Chinese, Nepali and English
Open for breakfast to late dinner
Location: Opposite Hotel Utse, Jhotse

In pursuit of mind-blowing momos

Text By Himadri Palikhe, Photos By ECS Media

Have you ever laid awake thinking about momos? Your mouth watering and the little momos dancing on it; teasing, testing and tormenting you. I have and this is my story.

Whenever I am in a restaurant, four out of five times, after going through all the items in the menu, I end up ordering momos. It is the same with most of my friends and I bet with you too. This is an attempt to get you closer to the best momos available in the Valley.

For those with nostaligia for ten rupees per plate momochas, Everest momos at Baneshwor will fulfill your heart’s desire. Prepared right on the road on a loud gas stove, this no-fringe, no-nonsense eatery serves great buff momos with generous servings of tomato-sesame jhol. Satisfy your hungry bellies with juicy momos, not for ten rupees anymore of course, but still the best value for money (in taste).

Have a craving for Darjeeling style pork momos? Head over to New Road’s New Dish, next to the Pashupati Plaza. It’s perfect for a stop-over after some shopping in New Road. The modest setup is ever bustling and the prices hover around a hundred. The momos here come with a simple soup to which you add your own spices to prepare to taste. Reminded of the misty hills of Darjeeling? That’s the idea.

Want something different? Try the landmark Suimai restaurant’s open momos in Teku. Served with three different typs of sauce – sour, sweet and tomato – these momos are open at the top for you to fill up with the sauces. In the same area, try Tibetan kothey momos at The Bakery Café if you like them crisp. With its Momo Man mascot at the door, the Bakery Cafés around town are hard to miss.

Live Patan-side? There are some great momo places across the bridge too. To add some class to your local jhol-style momos, order a plate of momochas at Jhamsikhel’s Le Trio restaurant. With a refreshing glass of iced tea, it serves as the perfect lunch or even an early dinner. Le Trio is opposite the New Orleans Café and adjacent to Singma restaurant.

Nearby, Dragon momos serves its momos with soup and a spicy hot greasy sauce whose ingredients are a mystery. Why the name dragon? Your guess is as good as mine. One idea is the Chinese-inspired décor of the place but that’s hardly the point here. Deeper into Lalitpur, the chilly momo at Bhanimandal’s Drop in restaurant gives you a burning but pleasant after-taste. No complaints.

Alboe at Patan’s Krishnagalli, on the same lane as Bhatbhateni but before you reach it, provides a more relaxed environment where you can enjoy tasty and light momos – pork, chicken and vegetarian. They take their sweet time to prepare the momos so it’s a good thing they have a decent stack of books and magazines laid out for you to peruse. In a hurry? I’d say order in advance. (9841752785). Waiting for momos when hungry is torture.