As more and more Nepalis settle within our city, Somerville is quickly becoming the “new Nepal” and local Nepali culture is thriving. If you want proof of this, come to the Somerville Arts Council’s Melaa! event this Saturday in Union Square. The event will feature music (including Nepali hip hop and traditional tabla), dance, film—and food!
This is your chance to nosh on goat curry, chana masala (a chickpea curry) and momo’s (typical meat or vegetable dumplings), sold by area restaurants Himalyana Bistro (West Roxbury) and Chutney’s (Arlington). In addition, a food demo will allow attendees to watch Nepali cooks make jeri (deep-fried wheat flour served with a sweet syrup). You will discover that jeri are beautiful to behold (see photo below) and delicious to devour.
Apart from the festival, there are many places in Somerville to sample Nepali food. There’s Yak and Yeti in Ball Square and Masala in Teele Square. Both serve a variety of national dishes: soups like Kwatti (beans cooked with Himalayan herbs); Aloo Taama (potato and bamboo shoot); momos; vegetarian dishes such as Pharsiko Tarkari (pumpkin cooked with ginger, garlic and herbs) and meat dishes (we suggest goat curry).
Or perhaps you’d like to trying cooking some Nepali food at home? In which case, head directly to New Bombay Market in Union Square to find spices, lentils and pickles. To hear New Bombay Market owner Hari Prasad Lamichhane talk more about Nepali food and his products, check out the video at the bottom of this post! Bombay Market is where Bimala Thapa (in the photo below with her daughter Sabrina), a Katmandu native now living in the Square, can still find Nepali ingredients like timur (Szechan pepper) and sweet lapsi (dried hog plum).
“We make certain dishes for important cultural festivals,” says Bimala. “Like for Dishain [a 10-day festival in the fall honoring the goddess Durga], when we have goat meat, beaten rice and cucumber pickle. You need to know how to cook these dishes, so we pass these recipes on from one generation to the next.”Bimala’s daughter Sabrina says that if you’re Nepalese and female, learning how to cook comes automatically. “You don’t have a choice,” she says with a smile. “It’s just part of growing up.”
The achar (or tomato pickle) recipe here features timur, an exotic spice that has a fragrant, citric aroma and numbs the tongue slightly—especially if eaten on its own. The achar can be served as an appetizer with chapati bread or as an accompaniment to a meal. It makes a lovely, piquant complement to kidney bean curry and pulao.
“My daughter makes tomato pickle with timur very well,” says Bimala. “I like to tease her that she is an achar specialist. Pulao, a flavorful rice, is usually made for special occasions in Nepal—it’s always served at weddings, for example. Yet it also goes nicely with these two dishes.”“You can’t have a meal without rice,” Sabrina chimes in. “All Nepalis are addicted to rice.”
For more Nepali recipes, buy our new Nibble book, which celebrates food, art and culture in Union Square. You can buy them at the Melaa festival; or at stores around town; go the SAC site for where books are sold.
For a complete primer on Nepali food, we suggest you trek over to Taste of Nepal.