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Having a lot on plate!

FARE TO REMEMBER: Thakali thaali

FARE TO REMEMBER: Thakali thaali  

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A visit to Kathmandu is incomplete without trying the wholesome Thakali thaali

If you are in San Francisco, you must put flowers in your hair. When in Rome, please do as the Romans do. To these two travel advisories, let me add my own two bits. When in Nepal, don’t forget to have some Thakali food.

I first had Thakali food several years ago at a beautiful little spot near Pokhra in Nepal. Some days ago, in Kathmandu, I had another great Thakali thaali. I am still drooling at the memory of the big platter that was placed before me, each docket a colourful little splash. There was the beautiful green of some sautéed leaves, the dark brown of a light dal, gold of fried potatoes, the white of the rice at the centre, and sundry other drool-worthy colours.

We – a large and unruly group of friends, in the age group of 4-65 – landed up at Jimbu Thakali by Capital Grill in Pokhari Marg in the heart of Kathmandu one sunny afternoon. The pleasant young couple who run the place told us about the components of the thaali, and took our orders – some wanted vegetarian, some with chicken, and quite a few with lamb.

I had the lamb thaali, and it was simply out of this world. The meat curry – lightly cooked, but delicious – came in a separate bowl, while the thaali had the rice at the centre, surrounded by dal, lai saag, bitter gourd, potatoes, radish chutney,papad and sweet curd.

Thakali food is the food of the Thakali people, many of whom were traditionally in trade. So the cuisine is varied, though its essence lies in dal-bhaat-tarkari.

Indigenous food

You do get to eat a lot of buckwheat rotis in Thakali homes, as well as buffalo meat.

The lamb curry was simply delicious. It wasn’t thick with spices, but redolent with light and just the right flavours. I poured a generous dollop of ghee into my rice and had that with the greens – which together made a great meal in itself. The potatoes were tangy and the karelas were crunchy. The radish chutney complemented the light dal, and I ended the meal with a crisp papad, and then with the bowl of sweet dahi (good, but, alas, not like the delightful dahi that we had eaten in Bhaktapur on an earlier trip).

The owner said he had picked up the nuances of Thakali food from his mother, known far and wide for the way she wielded a ladle. Some of the flavours in the dishes came from the local herb, jimbu, a variation of which you will also find in Uttarakhand food.

I think what makes the food so special is the light touch with which it’s cooked. The saag, for instance, was just sautéed, which brought out the sharp flavours of the green, as well protected its striking colour. And what helped – for some among us are growing people (growing from the middle, that is) and enjoy quantity as much as quality – was that the thaali came with unlimited servings (barring for the meat, of course).

These days, Nepali food is also available in Delhi. You can get Thakali food in a place called Ama Thakali in Majnu ka Tilla, and in Yeti in south Delhi.

The highlight of my Nepal visit was the food. And among all the kinds of cuisine that we ate, the Thakali thaali was memorable. I think I now need to pay a visit to Ama Thakali. More of that later.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 8:57:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/having-a-lot-on-plate/article22449158.ece

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