The moveable feast : Rare Rana food revisited

Dubby Bhagat


I like to think this is an atmospheric bar and terrace where AWON ladies grab a happy coffee in the morning. The afternoons are sunny and you can see the beauty of Rana architecture while you snack on Rana rarities washed down with chilled beer. And the evenings are peaceful and you can watch sun set over a long drink and, perhaps, a mini-meal…,” said Bhawana Rana who looks after the now famous Baber Mahal Revisited and runs K2, a bar and terrace. It’s perched over the beautiful Mulchowk, the main courtyard of the complex that has entered The Unesco Asia-Pacific Heritage Award Project. Rajendra served Kaacho Bari which is chicken that is pounded until it became soft and fully malleable. It is made into balls, fried, crosscut at the top and refried till it opens like a flower. The taste is of delicate spices with the tang of preserved pickle. “Old retainers in Baber Mahal taught me traditional Rana cooking. The recipes are not recorded anywhere, they are passed down generations,” said Bhawana.

The Chicken Sekuwa were large coins that were tender and melted in one’s mouth, releasing flavours of capsicum and timur that had a lingering afterglow. Rana’s don’t chew. I had Jackie Kennedy’s bestselling biographer, Ed Klein eat at K2. He especially liked the Mass Dal Ko Bara which has became one of my favourites. They are doughnuts where the dough is pounded, mixed lentils, fried instantly so you go from crisp to soft in one bite with a gentle herb touch lingering on your tastebuds. “I studied Rana food in the Baber Mahal household and had to work at it until the old ladies who worked in the kitchen passed me,” said Gyan Bhata who is the chef. It was he who told me the secret of another exceptional dish, the Khasi Ko Bhutuwa which is a mutton curry highlighted with a pickle as the main ingredient. The K2 momos have the minced meat mixed with two types of fresh onions, a subtlety of fresh spices served with a sweet hot mint chutney, a word that was coined in 1800 by the British in India who took the word from chatni meaning strong spices. They were talking of the whole range of chutneys but the mint remained a favourite. K2’s Kathi Rolls are more recent and came up from Calcutta where the journey had the recipe transform the meat to mince. It was infused with fresh spices including cumin and coriander paste. It made the egg fried roll taste miraculously like the original.

They lit diyas in Mulchowk, below the terrace. And in the flickering light one could imagine the peal of Maharani Putali’s laughter as the first Rana Prime Minister Jung Bahadur complimented his great love on the Mughal influenced food she was creating that was to become Rana cuisine. Mulchowk was built to reflect the original Baber Mahal which had a garden dedicated to the Maharani. K2 serves the only Rana smorgasbord the only difference being that the smorgasbord which was created in 1709 in Sweden had different households contributing a dish each on a long table. At K2 the dishes come from just one home - The House Of Baber Shumshere whose table was considered amongst the best for Rana cuisine.

For Rana delights ring Rajendra at 4267346.