Thursday, August 12, 2010
The first word I learned in Nepali was namaste— the second was momo.
You know I love to eat, but what you probably aren't aware of is my passion for potstickers, my devotion to dumplings. I came to the conclusion in art school, during a severe bout of insomnia that I battled by gluing myself to a pottery wheel, desperately trying to centre an infuriating ball of clay— that the dumpling was food perfected. Neat little packages of goodness served in an endless variety of ways, and every cuisine I could think of featured some type of dumpling. I remember running to the Stop & Shop at three a.m. with clay spatter all over me, to gather ingredients for my first attempt at fried mushroom dumplings. Sleep deprivation can do some strange things to you.
The Nepali momo is made with a flour and water dough that's filled with a mixture of veggies, buffalo meat, yak meat or chicken, and is either steamed or fried. Since I was warned to avoid meat during the monsoon season when the chance of contracting something unwanted is higher than normal, I went vegetarian during my time in Nepal, and I really didn't miss meat at all—not that I'm a big carnivore. Veggie momos became my staple, along with the most delicious school lunches of dal bhat, lentils and rice.
Strolling around Kathmandu's touristy and busy Thamel, I ducked into Pilgrim's Bookstore to escape the sudden rain, and delightfully discovered a café hidden in the back of the store. Unsure of when my next opportunity in life to taste one would be, I decided to try a Tibetan noodle soup called thukpa, despite the summer heat. All of my favourites were featured in that soup— garlic, ginger, chillies and cilantro. I imagine it must be amazing in winter, with woollen socks and a cold nose... And speaking of garlic, ginger, chilli and cilantro—
The Dumplings to End All Dumplings: Garden Kitchen's chilli momos.
A word of caution: these babies are so hot you'll cry— seriously, they are not for the heat-intolerant. A spiced, lightly fried veggie momo tossed in a sweet chilli sauce with onions, garlic and peppers. Does it get any better than that?
Garden Kitchen is hands-down my favourite place to eat in Kathmandu—the staff is the friendliest around, the food is delicious and affordable, and it's clean. Food in Nepal can be quite dodgy with poor the sanitation, the creepy crawlies and er, whatnot. Travellers to Nepal often fall ill to nasty gastro-intestinal bugs, and while I have a pretty tough stomach and immune system, I decided not to put either to the test and follow the boil, cook or peel it rule. I also ate at places recommended by the school and Lonely Planet, and thus averted spending what little time I had in Nepal on the toilet or in bed. A month is incredibly short.
Next to Thrangu Monastery / Boudha / KATHMANDU
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