01 May 2013

A South Indian Feast in Kathmandu

Nobody pani(c) - I have this pani puri under control.

When I feel like eating a meal that consists of that otherworldly combination of greasy, sweet, salty, spicy and tangy, I head to Anmol Sweets in Bhat Bhateni and stuff my face with delicious, cheap Southern Indian food.

Indian fast food restaurants are often referred to as "sweet shops" even when they have entire menus of savoury items alongside their dazzling display cases of barfi, gulab jamun and laddu. Anmol Sweets is no exception to this rule, with dosas, idlis, vadas and fantastic samosas all on hand for lunch and dinner.

Can I just have this liquified and put in an IV, please? K, thanks.

Last week I met some friends there for lunch, and my dear Cass and I decided to order a feast. We started with a plate of samosa. These are not your greasy Canadian gas station monstrosities - they were light and flaky pastries jammed with spicy potatoes and peas and dipped in a sweet, sugary tamarind honey water. After downing my portion, I gurgled "I think I'm full!" Cass raised her eyebrows.

"Vi, that.... well, that's just isn't an option. " I sighed. She was right - it was mind over matter and I would persevere.

 Pani Puri - salty, briny, crunchy, mushy goodness oh my god yum.

Pani Puri is a beloved Indian street food snack also popular in Nepal, but it is known for making foreigners very sick due to the usage of tap water in the brine - even some local Nepalis stay away from what is sold outdoors! Pani means water, and puri refers to the hollow crunchy cracker balls - the wallah (seller) jabs his oft-filthy thumb into the cylinder, stuffs the inside with a potato curry paste and dips the whole thing into spicy, salty brine. They present them to you as fast as you can stuff them in your mouth, and each delicious ball is less than 10 cents.

While I often take a BIG gamble and indulge in the streetside offering, ordering a DIY Pani Puri plate at a reputable sweet shop is a better bet and is way less likely to leave you clinging to the toilet and cursing your intrepid, food-loving ways (I don't know this from experience, or anything). These were delicious, but I must say, I missed the dirty thumbs of a street-seller.

 Dosa, one of the world's perfect foods. (If you are a drunk.) (Which I am.)

Within minutes my main course arrived - a "small" paneer masala dosa. This is a thin lentil pancake stuffed with a rich and creamy Indian cottage cheese curry. You tear small pieces of the dosa with your hands and dip them in the coconut chutney and the spicy tomato sambars. I am always amazed that dosas have never replaced the kebab or the poutine as the ideal late night drunk food, because they would be a lovely latenight guilty pleasure perfect for sopping up booze.

Last lunch with Cass and Nafisa :(
We took a breather at this point - I was positively stuffed with delicious food, but I knew that I couldn't come to a restaurant with "Sweets" in the name and not indulge, at least a little bit, in something sinfully sugary. We ordered some fresh plates of jalebis. 
Nothing is more wonderful than fresh, hot jalebi. Nothing.
Ignore the clock behind her - time has clearly stopped. Cass is in heaven.

Jalebis are hollow swirls of wheat dough deepfried and then soaked in sugar water. When they're fresh they are crunchy and sticky and they leave fluorescent orange syrup all over your face and a smile on your lips. I don't think there is a person alive that can resist the childlike pleasure of a jalebi - even the Disney gang loves them. I found myself making a quiet "mmmmmmmm" sound as I devoured the sweet little treat - the perfect end to our feast.

Though it was sad to realize that this was my final lunch with Cass, I am glad we chose to stuff our faces at a sweet shop. The best part (other than the jalebi)? The bill for 6 people was 1136 rupees - about 14 Canadian dollars.  I'll be back - solo - and let's be honest. I'mma order just as much food.

$2.33 each. Sold.


Pat said...

You scared me at first. You eat such crazy food at times that I thought those orange thingys were worms. Ewww.

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