THE MOVEABLE FEAST: Thasang’s unique Thakali interpretations
Said the beautiful Bina Tulachan, who owns Thasang, which is in a cozy basement opposite Alina’s Bakery Café in Jawalakhel, “Thasang is near Mustang, and we Thakalis come from there.”
In a brochure, Bina says the Thakalis are famous for hospitality and really good Nepali cooking. Thakalis are the traditional inn-keepers along the Western route to Tibet, and foodies search for good Thakali inns — Bina’s Thasang is one.
Even the momos are special. The fillings are single minced and the accent is on green onions, chhyapi or a sort of chive, and condiments that bring out the flavour of the meat through the wrap. “We have been open for about 17 months and we are doing well,” said Bina.
Her basement restaurant, that can seat 40, had a fair number of diners.
Achut Sapkota served the Sukuti sandeko, which had a garlicky-chilly taste reminding us that the Thakalis, as high mountain dwellers, like garlic — it’s good for altitude. The Sukuti or dried meat contains all the 10 ingredients for a perfect marinated delicacy including the cooking in good mustard oil.
“We keep a little Newari food for the Newars but they all like our Thakali cuisine,” said Bina.
The Bandel sandeko cuts across ethnic borders and is particularly delicious on a winter evening when the extra fat in the pork — Bandel — keeps you warm. According to writers Rabindra Dhonju, Sunil Das and Ram Chandra Khania in their Saral Cook Guide, sandeko refers to a kind of marination which includes timur, which is typically Nepali and accents the rest of the marinade which has ginger, garlic, chilly and lemon. The taste lingers.
Sapkota was one of two servers working the restaurant, and both of them got their orders right every time — something bigger establishments should learn.
I’m not sure where the Dhoktok comes from, but picture small round flour dumplings with a thumb print in them, coated in a spiced tomato ketchup, which my grand daughter Heyshe eats in quantities. It has a sort of sweet, chilly taste and I suspect Dhoktok’s evolved from some traditional dish, and with the tomato ketchup they are still in the process of going into the 21st century.
The meat set or thali came with a small katori or vessel full of clarified butter or ghee, and the black dal which also had the ghee and just a hint of spices and was thin and flooded the fluffy pile of rice. According to food writer Dipti Rana, the ideal black dal contains a specifically Nepali spice jimbu and a little asafetida or hing. Interpretations vary, and Bina has one secret — the ghee.
Thasang’s meat curry is based on the subtler of two classic traditional meat curries. This contains very few spices, includes timur for mild sharpness and ginger, garlic and cumin, and a lot of care.
Nettle place mats and earthen tiles show Thasang’s attention to details. Like the achar, accompanying the momo, with timur in it was so delicious I had it with rice and (forgive me waist line) ghee.
And there was detail in Thasang’s spinach, which had whole dried red chillies. Says Indra Majupuria in his Joys of Nepalese Cooking, “For this dish various leafy vegetables are fried in ghiu or oil in their own juice. The heat is raised at the end of cooking to impregnate the aroma and taste of various spices.”
But the interpretation is Thasang’s and is as unique as Bina’s other dishes. Call 5523614.