Friday, April 17, 2015

Himalaya Nepali & Indian cuisine – YUM!

Here in our part of North Carolina, it’s a foodie’s paradise. Every day, a new ethnic restaurant seems to pop up – so many that we cannot keep up with them. Lately, we have been on a quest to find the best Indian food in the area. I say “Indian” food, knowing that there are many different regions in India, each with its own special dishes.

This week we discovered Himalaya Nepali Cuisine, a new restaurant in Cary, NC. They bill themselves as “a place to enjoy your favorite Nepali and Indian food.” It’s a relatively small space with little ambiance beyond some prayer flags and a picture or two but it was packed. Large families, maybe Indian, maybe Nepali, maybe from elsewhere, celebrating, laughing, having a great time. And the food was terrific.

Many of the dishes on the menu are standards on Indian menus but there were subtle differences and some not so subtle: the lamb saag was
made with fresh spinach as opposed to that green sludge you sometimes get. The naan was clearly house-made by hand. The blend of spices in the garam masala seemed especially fortuitous.

We started with momos stuffed with chicken and spices, a traditional Nepali snack food.

They were served with a freshly made yogurt, achaar, and a take-the-top-of-your-head off sauce. As is traditional, it was served with a “special Himalayan soup” made with chicken bones.

We also had samosa chaat (somosas and chickpeas, topped with yogurt, tamarind sauce and mint chutney). We’ve had this dish in other Indian restaurants but this one was the best so far. We finished with butter chicken and a lamb saag. We also had naan stuffed with raisins, nuts and coconut.

This wonderful food had two immediate results: first, I went straight home and ordered some Nepali cookbooks. I’ll report back once I’ve received them and tried out some of the recipes.

But, the meal also reminded me that months have gone by since I last cooked Indian food. My friend Kathleen (whose son married a beautiful and very smart Indian woman) and I devoted a weekend to making a feast – dish after dish after dish. We stuffed ourselves and then divided up the spoils, each of us taking possession of half to share with our families.

In addition to the recipes I’ve received from Kathleen and others, I have some pretty good cookbooks. I guess the oldest one on my shelves is INDIAN COOKERY by Dharamjit Singh, which I bought when I was first living in London back in 1964 and which was later published in the US in 1970. This taught me the basics.

Next came TRADITIONAL INDIAN COOKERY by Jack Santa Maria which is now very stained and dog-eared.

And, of course, Madhur Jaffrey’s AN INVITATION TO INDIAN COOKING, which has my favorite chicken recipe, murgh mussallam (which Jaffrey calls a “royal dish”) as well as an excellent chicken biryani.

Smita Chandra’s CUISINES OF INDIA: THE ART AND TRADITION OF REGIONAL INDIAN COOKING is divided into sections: Ancient India; South India; The Mogbuls (unusual spelling, what?); Decline of the Mogbul Empire: Flowering of Regional Cuisines; The Spice Traders: European Influences on Indian Cuisine; and Fusion Cuisine: East Meets West. While I have made many recipes from this book, my favorites are Udaipuri masala murgh (chicken cooked with yogurt, cashews, peas and spices) and murgh masale mein (chicken marinated with sautéed onions, spices, and thickened yogurt, sautéed with tomatoes and cardamom).

But, I’ve saved the best for last. My very favorite Indian cookbook is LORD KRISHNA’S CUISINE: THE ART OF INDIAN VEGETARIAN COOKING by Yamuna Devi. It was named Cookbook of the Year when it came out (IACP/Seagram Awards). At 799 pages, it covers just about everything you need to know. One of the things I like best is the fact that she has many, many recipes for garam masala which you can make in advance and then keep in a sealed jar – much better than any ready-made you could buy. We are particularly fond of her Gobhi Tamatar Sabhi (spicy cauliflower with braised tomato); Sak (buttery spinach); Neem Baigan (crispy diced eggplant with bitter neem leaves); and Phal Chatni (mixed fruit chutney).

It’s making me hungry to think about all these wonderful dishes which have given us such pleasure over the years. I have to stop writing now and head for the kitchen. I’ll be back about ten pounds later.

1 comment:

  1. All the dishes sound wonderful. The next time you cook I'd be glad to be a taster!