No Nepali food in Delhi?

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Chirag Delhi, a congested neighborhood in South Delhi, is where many Nepali Momowallahs live. They make the momo, half cook and take to different parts of the city to sell.

Two days ago a woman identifying herself as a reporter with Time Out Delhi called me at my apartment number. It was not unusual though. Many Indian reporters call me to satisfy their queries: What are the Maoists doing in Kathmandu? Who is this General Gurung? Dinesh, do you know where the [visiting] President is staying in Delhi? What is Nepal’s expectation from India? This woman didn’t talk about politics. She wasn’t interested in Maoists or the Army. She asked me if I knew any Nepali restaurant in Delhi that served Nepali cuisine. Not entirely an unexpected question from a reporter of TOD but I didn’t have a quick and short answer. There is no Nepali restaurant in Delhi that serves Nepali food. At least I don’t know of any. Today I called up a Nepali national who has been living in Delhi for the last 12 years and works at an electronic equipment company to ask if he knew any. He didn’t know of a Nepali restaurant in Delhi either. The ‘fact’ could be astonishing given some other figures like these: Delhi is a city of 15 million people where, according to one estimate, 5,00,000 Nepalis live. So, the question is, do Nepalis go hungry in Delhi?

Of course, not. The answer is Nepali and Indian foods are so similar that perhaps Nepalis in India do not feel any need to have a separate eatery in Delhi. That’s not the only and the most important reason. Overwhelming majority of Nepalis living in Delhi come from the poorest parts of Nepal and do some of the least paid works in the Indian capital. There are around 20,000 Nepalis who work as chowkidars alone, according to one research. For them going to a restaurant to spend Rs. 50 is a luxury.

“So what do Nepalis do when they really feel like eating Nepali food?” the reporter asked. “What do they do if they miss the Nepali taste?” What does a person have to do with the taste when he is struggling just to eat. Eat anything. Bhok meetho ki bhojan? There’s a saying. Bhok anytime. They eat to survive, really, not to take any taste (of course, meetho nameetho bhanne ta huncha nai).

Did I mention that we have similar foods in Nepal and India (north India, that is)? What we call bhat is known as chawal in India. [In Nepal, uncooked chawal is called chamal.] That is eaten along with dal and sabji (popularly known as tarkari in hilly Nepal). Heard the slogan dal bhat tarkari, mero jeevan sarkari? Our achar is theirs chatni.

But, this is a big BUT, there are some significant differences between our foods. The taste. “Dal, chamal is same but the taste that our food has is very different (from the Indian),” said the man. He added: In Nepal,  home cooked food is not very different from food made in restaurants. Here, food cooked in dhabas are too spicy and oily. They create digestion-related problems to new Nepalis coming to Delhi.”

I think I replied the same to the TOD reporter in terms of spice and oil. I also asked the man about his food habit in Delhi. “Dal bhat khana payena bhane dinvari khana nakhayeko jasto huncha. दाल भात खान पाएन भने दिन भरी खान नपाएको जस्तो हुन्छ । So we take dal bhat tarkari achar- cooked in Nepali style- in the evenings. For breakfast and lunch, we take roti-sabji.”

For some reasons not known to me I am not a big fan of roti-sabji but the man spoke my stomach when he highlighted the importance of dal bhat tarkari! Ek thaal tanna nakhai hudai nahune! [Can't do without a full plate of DBT.] As the man put it, that has become a kind of habit.

There may not be a Nepali restaurant in Delhi but you will notice many many many Nepalis all over the streets of Delhi selling a popular food from Nepal and the Himalayas. Mo Mo. म: म: The momo sellers of Delhi are either Nepali nationals from various parts of Nepal or Nepali-speaking Indians from Darjeeling and the hills. If there’s any sector in India that is completely in the hands of Nepali ‘entrepreneurs’ that must be the business of selling momos. No Indians from Bihar or UP can compete with them. Though  Nepali momo wallahs say they have been receiving the heat.

Nepali cooks are everywhere in India. In a restaurant in Anjuna beach, Goa in July last year, Nepali boys served us food that was cooked by a fellow Nepali. I met a boy in Jammu in September 2009 who worked as a cook in the eatery where I had accidentally entered into. Last week I was dining in the Chinese restaurant of the Taj Mahal Hotel and one of the chefs was from Nepal. He helped us order food by explaining the menu in Nepali. There’s a chef in Taj Mahal Mumbai too. If you missed recent news about Pune blast, the German Bakery was run by a Nepali (along with many other Nepali workers) in collaboration with an Indian.

But that is not same as having a Nepali restaurant serving Nepali cuisine like Gundruk, dhido, sakhulle khukura ko masu, aalu-taama, anda bara, chhoila AND chyura set. I know the TOD reporter didn’t get from me what she had wanted. Perhaps that is why she didn’t email me even though she had said she would: for further information!

nepali momo sellor

A Nepali boy sells momo in Delhi

PS (update):

1. The TOD reporter called back. She said she’s doing a story on the issue and will be sending a photographer to click my photo.
2. Another Nepali who runs bus service from Delhi to Pokhara told me yesterday that he has heard about an eatery in Paharganj where Nepali food is served.

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15 thoughts on “No Nepali food in Delhi?

  1. There are Nepali restaurants in major cities all over the world. There are plenty in American and in Europe too. It is surprising that there are none in Delhi. More so as Delhi is geographically near from Nepal and there are so many Nepalis living in there. Among those five hundred thousands I am sure there are enough people for a restaurant to do normal business.

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  2. Frankly Speaking, the average Nepali who lives in Delhi will never go out and eat in a restaurant.
    Most of those 5 Lakh who live there are there to earn money and they will rather spend there money back home then spend it a restaurant in Delhi.

    Moreover, a Nepali can never miss his home food in Delhi cause the Indian food is quiet similar to it whereas the reason why there are so many Nepali restaurant in USA and other countries is because the food in those places are highly different from what we eat in sub-continent.

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    • Yes, Tajim, in fact I also haven’t missed Nepali food per se though I must admit my recurring desire to eat some chyura set and things like that in Khichhapokhari galli or Kamaladi ganeshsthan. It has to do with location as much as the food itself

      Okay, I also remember attending JNU Food festival last year where some Newari (Nepali) dishes were kept at the Nepali stall.

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  3. Here in the US, I always find it difficult to explain people the differences between Indian food and our food. Your post gave some ideas. Also it was interesting but sad to know that there are no Nepali restaurants in Delhi.

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  4. No nepali food in Delhi??? Now i never thought about it. Come to think of it, there are just plenty of Indian food stalls here in Ktm city. And of course, we love all those chats n dosas. But no nepali food-stalls or eateries in Delhi is a little sad. We have plenty of great foods, like everyone’s favourite momo n gundruk n taas n chhoyla n the list goes on. And even mentioning these items alone is mouth-watering. And I am right here in Ktm and I can just devour these items anytime I want. Nonetheless, I can imagine what it’s like to be in a foreign land and not taste your native foods for a long time. May be all we need is some business entrepreneur or a Nepali restaurateur who loves nepali foods as much as we do.

    l so hope that one day I will visit Delhi and have momos and gundruk n baras n everything in Delhi-style……

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    • May be all we need is some business entrepreneur or a Nepali restaurateur who loves nepali foods as much as we do.

      >> agreed barsha :) heard that there is one in pahargang area but not sure how that’s run or what kind of food is served in there. hoping to visit there soon.

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  5. Some countries are good at marketing though i never saw so many indjun restaurants in Europe.

    I have mostly been surprised at italian marketing, the popularity and rise of pizza, armani, meatball spaghetti and the likes.
    Until we are all made in China. The best secret foods are served at home, anyone knows this and nepalese just know it better. I have seen nepalese waiters in Lhasa, Tibet. Something good about a nation which is service minding.

    But the nationalist thing is big: do never ever order a tibetan momo in our cybercafes in Ktm they serve a formless tastless thing.
    It is all a projection of the mind according to my not private buddhism. I think when you love your country that lovely taste goes into ur thugkpa….

    the chinese restaurants used to be so cheap ( in Europe) then thai took over in popularity more delicious similar food.

    The latest thing i feel is excellent vegetarian catering, which goes fine with our hinduistic non violent mainstream used to be culture and is acceptable to Unesco peace projects. Gundruk light to carry and makes any soup de li ci ous!@

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  6. Have you ever been to “The Rai Restaurant” at 1959 Outram Line, Kings way camp. Just in front of Blind Hostle?
    Try once to visit there or contact at +919810722524 you will find your answer.

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  7. there is a nepali food reastaurant at paharganj and i can also provide you photo of that…..

    nepali food are one of the marvellous food and if you say momos itself everyone knows about it…..

    Nepali culture and nepali food are very unique and if you say that its very similiar to indian food then it would be more or less as the different tribes of nepalese genus have different food and NEWa people have innumerable food menu which can almost make anyone go crazy over it…

    Dear Mr. wagle you are a prolific writer and there is no doubt,you have been bringing in forth the valour of the nepalese.

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  8. I am R. P. Rai one of patriotic personal from Nepal. Years back when I reached here in Delhi whenever I felt to have indigenous Nepali foods never be able to find a place for, I thought maybe I’m a layman here around to found such kinda restaurants in Delhi.

    Days passed away, I got olden here never could find such a place where I could have my own typed dishes except Chinese looking noodles and dumplings in Indian flavors somewhere around, I prefer to call them Indo-Chinese Flavors.

    So I thought to have my own restaurant providing Nepali typical foods such as Kodoko Dhindo, momo cha(Newari), Chatamari(Newari) , Sukuti, Sel Roti, Bhat ra Tihun, Gundruk Ko Jhol, Filinge ra Tama ko achaar etc.. and typical Chinese flavors in Delhi, I started to work on this project & started a restaurant in Outram Lines, Delhi, I tried to find out some chefs not belonging to India and its flavors, I got a very good Chinese cook but still have not found a good Nepali chef (Still have been trying, and will be trying till cannot find good one. LOL!), Somehow our Chinese chef (of Nepal) trying to serve Nepali foods some time in special offers By Nepali guests (As a restaurant owner am not satisfied though. hahaha).

    I expect all Nepali food lovers in Delhi to be in touch with us, so we can provide our progress reports to all of you out there.

    For all details regarding present services and contact with me visit: http://therai.page4.me/

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  9. U need not go to USA or Australia to miss nepali food, there is soO much difference right across the border itself. Having stayed in delhi for five months now, I most certainly miss nepali food !!! Delhi’s daal and roti is in no way similar to our more liquid and less salty daal (and who has roti with daaal anyway ?????). Then they do not have many saag, but can u imagine any nepali household that doesn’t make saag for a meal? The chicken pieces are waaaaaaaaaaaay bigger in delhi, you don’t get pork or buff but you do get beef. I go to a tibetian resturants in a place called majnu-ka-tila every time I crave for nepali food, that’s the closest it gets to my ktm taste buds. All in all, just because ur in delhi does not mean u don’t need nepali food, we need a place that serves masu bhat, nepali style and not punjabbi style.

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  10. there’s a new tibetan and nepali restaurant in delhi…its been getting great reviews!!!!anyone in delhi craving home-food should def go check it out!!!

    YETI,The Himalayan Kitchen
    50A,IInd floor
    Hauzkhas Village
    New Delhi-110016

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