Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tibetan Food

I wasn't planning on posting again until I was back in New York, but we had an interesting dining experience in Germany last week that I felt warranted a quick mention here, especially because it featured a cuisine that I have the feeling most people (or at least most Westerners) aren't too familiar with. That cuisine is Tibetan/Himalayan.

I’m a fan of Asian food; however, most of my experience with food from this part of the world has come from American restaurants, and so most of what I have been exposed to is the usual fare that most Westerners know about - Thai, Indian, sushi, etc. While in Europe I have been able to broaden my horizons a little bit as far as regional cuisines go, first with Indonesian food in Amsterdam, and now with Tibetan food on Bonn.

Our first night in Bonn, on the way to our hotel from the train station, Todd and I walked past a little restaurant called Himalayak, specializing in food from the Himalayas and Tibet. Intrigued, we stopped in for dinner a little while later. We liked it so much we went back a few nights later with Todd’s parents. It seems like a pretty new place, possibly family-run and definitely family-owned. Everyone working there is Tibetan, including the man making dumplings and noodles by hand in the front room, where we sat both times.

The menu is only in German, but the waitstaff was very friendly and willing to translate to the best of their ability (and they make a mean White Russian at the bar, as Todd will testify). Each table gets started with a loaf of bread called balep korkun, a circular flatbread cooked in a skillet instead of in an oven, giving it a taste similar to something fried (Todd and I both compared the flavor to Navajo fry bread), but it is chewy rather than crispy and with no hint of grease. 

This came with two dipping sauces, one yogurt-based with scallions and one tomato-based with a hint of chili after-burn.

The menu is relatively concise, focusing mainly on hand-pulled noodles and dumplings, or momos, with some dishes that will be familiar to anyone who enjoys Indian food, like the potato samosas with mango chutney we shared as an appetizer. Both times we went I got soup with momos, stuffed the first time with ground beef and the second time with spinach and cheese. 

Todd and his mother got a plate of steamed vegetable momos (they can also be ordered fried), while his father got a bowl of hand-pulled noodle soup with vegetables and strips of beef. 

Everything was delicious, especially the momos – they are similar to Chinese dumplings, but with thicker casings, made of the same dough as the somewhat spaetzle-like noodles (and sometimes with cute little tails on them).

For dessert we tried some Tibetan cookies called khabse:

The treats were pretty plain on their own, but went great with the vanilla ice cream and honey they were served with. All in all an interesting and unique experience, one that makes me wish there were more Tibetan restaurants around. Who knows, maybe eventually the cuisine will catch on in the States.

Note: I didn't bring my camera to the restaurant - these pictures are all from the internet, but are accurate representations of what we ate.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds really fun! There's a place in Estes Park, CO we always go to when we visit; it's called Nepali Cafe. If you're ever in EP, give it a shot - with all the climbers coming in, you'll feel like you're in a cafe in the Himalayas :)