Oriental tastes for the Nepali palate

Kathmandu:

The Oriental Kitchen, near Bhat Bhateni, is up a flight of stairs and is simply decorated, but has swift service and thrives on growing take-away and home delivery clientele.

“All our food is for Nepali tastes,” says Owner Ganesh Sunuwar, the owner of The Oriental Kitchen. “Our guests are from this area and we seldom get foreigners. Business is good.”

Sunuwar began his career in the Yak and Yeti under Boris, married a girl from The Sheraton in the early eighties, and then worked in The Regent in Abu Dubai for 10 years honing his

skills. He returned to Nepal and worked for a couple of years in Pokhara at The Begnas Resort owned by Prem and Purnima Rana (Purnima and Ganesh’s wife and I worked in The Sheraton together), after which he came to Kathmandu and opened The Oriental Kitchen. It became popular.

I heard of it because one friend recommended the Kashmiri Keema Nan and another said that the Chinese food was unusual and worth sampling.

The menu is definitely schizophrenic, divided into a Chinese section and an Indian one. My friend Ashu, who lives within walking distance of The Oriental Kitchen, joined me for the Chinese menu.

There is a page full of snacks. “We Nepalis like to eat a little when we drink,” said Ganesh, and we ordered the Chilly Chicken which is crisp on the outside and soft within. The sharpness of the chilly hits you after an instant sweet and sour taste. It was the most unusual Chilly Chicken and according to Tirtha, who served us, was a favourite.

The Chicken Szechwan Satay was an Oriental Kitchen creation, which was still moist with a cooked marinade that had a robust spicy flavour certain to encourage a second or third drink. I am almost certain there was a sesame underpinning. I ate another just to make sure.

The noodles in The Oriental Kitchen are made there and are delicious. The Chopsuey is a Sino-American dish and I revelled in having it in a Sino-Nepali restaurant. The slightly crisp noodles were generously mixed with chicken, an omelet and held lightly together with a thickened butter sauce that had a little of soy sauce. It is an original that is a light fantasy.

The Pakchoi with oyster sauce was delicate, despite the slight saltiness and the vegetable was suitably crisp.

The hot Szechuan Chicken goes well with the gentle flavour of the Shanghai Fried Rice, while you might like to mix the zesty Szechuan Rice with the Beijing Chicken which is another Kitchen creation — strong on a soy sauce marinade and memorably spiced.

We are talking about a food form that is evolving at The Oriental Kitchen, a cuisine that is distinctly fusion because it changes the Chinese eating experience into a uniquely Nepali one.

One must see what The Oriental Kitchen has done to North-Indian food. Sunuwar assured us it’s not as greasy as the original, so the spices are highlighted. Another culinary experiment that is already popular becomes positively famous with the “chilo” reduced and the taste honed to delight Nepali palates.