Monday, May 24, 2010

Down Momo'ry Lane

Dear Rushina,

I have always taken Tibetan food for granted. Not surprising considering the fact that I grew up in Mussoorie, home to the famous Rice Bowl restaurant and other lesser known but equally fabulous Tibetan food joints. One that immediately comes to mind is Momo’s named after the owner whom we called, well, Momo. It was run by his wife who made the most divine mutton Momos EVER! It was on many a happy binge at Momos that I discovered the deep fried variety and experimented with my friends on how best (and quickly) to eat as many Momos as our monthly allowances would allow. I finally settled on cutting the sizzling hot Momo into half and letting the steam out for a bit. Then I would take each half and stuff it with a generous helping of red hot, slightly fermented chilli paste and anoint it with a drop of soy sauce before I popped it in my mouth. As the hot fatty meat mixed with the fiery chilli in my mouth, I would take a sip of hot bland Momo soup.

In a moment of exquisite pain and pleasure, I would savour the heat of the soup battling the burn of the chilli, feel fire in my mouth die and begin all over again when I took my next mouthful.
At the Rice Bowl, my regular order was their chicken Thukpa. I’ve often heard Thukpa being impatiently explained off as ‘soup chow’ and thought how this does not do it justice. Thukpa soup is thin and clear with a delicate flavour. It is the perfect medium for the noodles, vegetables, meat and egg as it allows each to retain its distinct flavour and texture. The experience of eating thukpa is one of cleansing. I always feel purged, invigorated, light (strange given the fact that thukpa is usually served generously in a big bowl) after a bowl of thukpa.
Contrary to what many people think, Momos or thukpa are not part of Naga cuisine. Tibetan food is as foreign to me as Italian cuisine. Thanks to a large Tibetan community in Kohima however, I have had the privilege of enjoying Tibetan food even when I came home for the holidays. Having been deprived of good Tibetan food in Mumbai (Sernyaa was a phenomenal disappointment but that’s another story), visiting a good Tibetan restaurant in Kohima was on top of my to-do list.

Tashi Delek is renowned in Kohima for serving good Tibetan fare. So off I went with my sisters to try my favourite Tibetan classics, Momos and Thukpa.

Though not the best I’ve had, starved as I was, my Mumbai returned palate joyously reacquainted itself with the steamed Momos (too much onion) and clear Momo soup.

The Thukpa however did not disappoint!

An impressive concoction of pork, fried eggs, fresh (still crunchy) vegetables, noodles and that deliciously flavoured soup, many a declaration to return just for the Thukpa was made between slurps and satiated silence.

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