…through the streets of Katmandu.
Almost racing to keep up, we’re following our Nepali friend cum tour/foody guide. We navigate through New Road (a Pettah-like) marketplace– weaving through dense crowds of people, squeezing through narrow alleys, leaping out of the way of crazy motorcyclists and chickens, dipping through hobbit-sized entrances that lead into (what seems like) houses and courtyards to end up at another street that looks completely different. A few rounds of this, then zipping past a saviar kade, and cutting through a small temple, we end up at a little shop hidden behind it.
Starving, we order chai and a platter of dry flattened rice and curries—which I wasn’t too crazy about. But that wasn’t a sign of things to come!
Having found a vendor selling momos a la carte, we get a bowl of buff momos in gravy. I didn’t try the buff momos because they weren’t halal but my friends who did said the meat was tougher than beef but tasted amazing. They managed to wolf down three leafy bowls full of buff momos.
I had to settle for naans. I’ll never know if it was because I was absolutely famished, but those naans are unparalleled. In a good way.
Of course I didn’t miss out on the momo experience.
The night before, while I was wandering around Thamel (a more touristy marketplace) some friends and I decided to get dinner at a local restaurant. Once again– hidden in a narrow alley, between some shops, was a Tibetan restaurant. I ordered a plate of vegetable ‘kothe momos’.
They were seasoned vegetables in a thin doughy wrapper which is steamed, and then pan fried on one side. It’s a lovely crispy momo! And while I’m more of a carnivore, I must say the veggie mix was so delicious I polished off the plate of 10 kothe momos! I was quite surprised myself.
Perfect Pani Puris
Why was I determined to try all the Nepali street food I possibly could on my last day in Nepal? Well, I believe hotels will never provide you with authentic local cuisine (the food at the lodge was mostly bland anyway). The only way you can get a ‘taste’ of the country is to try the street food.
And nothing is more popular than pani puris on the streets of Nepal. Yes, pani puri is actually very Indian, but that’s Nepali food for you. It’s a collision of Indian and Tibetan influences. And with over a 100 different ethnic groups scattered along the Himalayas; each community has their own traditional food varying from exceedingly spicy to surprisingly tame.
But I digress! A little earlier in the day we had a pani puri feast. Eating them went something like this- ‘one pani puri, two pani puris… and I’ve lost count’. I was standing by the wayside of a busy street in New Road, popping the crispiest and tastiest pani puris I’ve had to date. I told myself that’d be the last one but the puri vendor was already, expertly—or more accurately— mechanically reaching for a puri in his gigantic plastic sack of puris.
He cracks the crispy ball on the top with his thumb, stuffs it with a spicy potato mix, dips it in a watery (pani) sauce of mint and other herbs, all in what seems like one smooth movement, and places it on my little steel plate.
My newly acquired puri addiction overpowering my last though, I pop the pani puri into my mouth and crunch down on it. Flavoursome pani mixture pouring out into my mouth, and I gleefully munch on the crispy shell and potato mix.
I’ve got a lot more street food to try out before I hop aboard my flight to Sri Lanka, so I finish off my pani puri feast, with a flat puri sprinkled with an exceptionally spicy chilli mix on top.
Puris tucked in, I needed something sweet to appease my tongue wildly protesting against the last spicy puri. Just around the corner of the pavement are fruit sellers with trays of guava and custard apples. We pick a few fruits and proceed through the dusty, noisy streets in search of momos.
Street Food for the Sweet Tooth
During my stay at the hotel, I was surprised to be served jelabi for breakfast. Apparently, a glass of hot fresh milk and jelabi (like cookies and milk) is a popular breakfast treat among the upper caste. Apart from Jelabi they’ve got quite a few Indian influences such as rasgullas and gulab jamun.
But for something a little more Nepali, you can try this lovely sweet that’s of an interesting consistency. I can’t recall the name of it… but I will ask my Nepali friend what it’s called and post it here in due time.
It’s not too sweet, tastes a bit milky and it’s got more of a grainy texture. It’s the same texture as semolina pudding but a bit stiffer in consistency. I love it! Stop at any wayside sweet shop and you’ll find a tray of the sweet laid beside packets of candied lapsi (pronounced lopsy), and titaura which is chewy dried fruit (such as mango) that is sweet, sour or spicy, and almost always salty.
Well, that’s as much as I could stuff myself with in one day. I’m quite happy with having tried so many different types of food; I honestly wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help of Sunita, my awesome, super sweet, very crazy Nepali friend who went out of her way to give us the best experience, I could possibly ask for, of Nepal.