the moveable feast : A Nepali chulo goes international

Dubby Bhagat

Kathmandu:

The Nepali Chulo is lodged in a Rana Palace complete with stucco pillars and arches and a menu that has to offer delicacies from all over the country, Newari exotica from the valley and hospitality straight from the heart.

Several oceans away, Henry Ford once remarked, “I believe in luck. The harder I work the luckier I get.” The saying applies to Ricku Pradhan, executive director of Nepali Chulo, who is all over the huge restaurant attending to his guests. There were at least five foreign groups and four tables of Nepali visitors. They all had the red tikka you get when you enter the Nepali Chulo. Ricku looked after them all while seeing that the food lived to its six-month-old reputation of excellence.

I shared my share of rakshi poured by Manoj Budhathoki who said it was good for the digestion and left to bring a staggering amount of food. Every household in Nepal has its version of Aloo Tareko, The Chulo coats diced potatoes in a heady mixture of spices and quickly deep fries them. As we ate, Sadhana Kala Kendra performed dances through out the evening and they weren’t the normal dance troupe that we are used to. The Dayakala is a mutton dish stewed in a richness of herbs and spices and Nepali Chulo is the first restaurant I have sampled it in. The meat is tender, the gravy rich and the tartness could be a touch of chilly or timur. Ricku comes from a Newari home in Kathmandu and I wonder if the Dayakala was a family recipe.

The French have their cheeses, the Americans have their bakes and the Nepalis have achars, and the achars at the Chulo are particularly delicious. There is a radish relish with fenugreek with some kind of an oil dressing that ensures neither the radish nor the fenugreek lose their flavour. The tomato pickle, so common in Nepal, is absolutely delicious. It combines a sort of sweet and sharp flavour that bursts to life in your mouth. I suspect that Nepali Chulo could produce an excellent and tasty dish out of vegetable left overs and empty promises, their cooking is that good. But exceptional and another first for all of us was a sweet and sour dish made from seasonal fruits in yogurt and spices served with heated mustard oil with mixed herbs. The Bukhara Restaurant is making a fortune exporting its daal, Nepali Chulo should do something similar with this Phal Phul Sandhera Janeko.

Out of the world, too, is a rice faintly fried in butter flavoured with herbs and spices it beats the pulaos of India, and should be declared a national dish. The Khasi ko Bhutuwa is marinated and delicately herbed and should be eaten with the lightly buttered corn bread. And the Khasi ko Kabab is a subtle dish that has nothing to do with the Kabab’s of India, but is kavaf which means soft. It is a special festive dish. My friend Bharat says that in his home it is marinated for hours and then fried.

Kalyan Mahat, executive manager of Nepali Chulo, recommended Mismas vegetable dish which traditionally has “zwano” and lots of coriander and ginger. Bir Lama who had done marathons to serve us insisted that we try Shikarni which in Nepali Chulo is thin yoghurt mixed with cinnamon, black pepper made sweet with ripe fruit. As we left the foreign groups and Nepali diners were dancing to “Paan Ko Pat” a song which says, “I think of you day and night”. It was good to see tourists having a good time and from now on in I think we’re going to see a lot of tourists and good times aplenty.

For Chulo insights call Ricku, Kalyan or Bir at 4220475 or 2004190.