Nepalese cuisine involves many variations depending upon the climate and ethnicity. Though there are many regional culinary styles, the most significant variations are: Newari, Khas, Terai and Himalayan.
The food is influenced by many territorial styles from the Indian subcontinent and parts of Tibet. Some of the well-known dishes include dal (lentils), bhat (rice), tarkari (vegetable curry), momo (steamed or fried dumpling), masu (meat) and machha (fish). Another significant part of the Nepalese cuisine is the wide variety of pickles and relishes.
Despite influences from other cuisines, Nepali food has distinct flavours owing to the use of local herbs and condiments and different styles of cooking. Thanks to Melbourne's great food culture, we have a host of Nepalese restaurants to sample this fabulous cuisine.
Here's a random list of the top five Nepalese restaurants in town:
Himalayan Sherpa This is an excellent place for authentic Nepalese flavours. The decor is simple and the service is attentive yet unobtrusive. Do try momos (steamed dumpling served with tomato relish), prawn chilli (with capsicum, onion and garlic in hot sauce) and sekuwa (marinated pieces of chicken or goat, cooked to taste). The dishes are available in mild, medium or hot flavours; and when they say 'hot', they mean business. Outdoor seating is also available. Tucked in a corner is a small souvenir shop displaying veritable Nepali pieces like jewellery, bric-a-brac, prayer wheels and other religious keepsakes.
Where: 340 Bridge Rd, Richmond 3121 VIC When: Tuesday to Sunday from 5.30pm-10.30pm
Contact: (03) 9428 1240
Kathmandu Kitchen Regarded as the first traditional Nepali restaurant in Melbourne, Kathmandu Kitchen is a good place for authentic Himalayan flavours. The menu includes many popular local dishes like noodles (or chow chow) that come in four variations. For non-vegetarians, bhenda ko masu (marinated lamb cooked in tomato and onion-based curry) is a good option, while vegetarians must not miss masuarako tarkari (curried sun-dried lentil balls, vegetables and potatoes). Finish off the meal with a serving of Kathmandu delight (traditional Nepali kulfi with pistachio and cardamom). The decor is unpretentious and the service is good.
Where: 1294 Malvern Rd, Malvern 3144 VIC When: Tuesday to Sunday from 5.30pm-10:00pm
Contact: (03) 9822 0990
Mandala Drawing inspiration from Himalayan cuisine, Mandala produces a vibrant blend of Nepalese and Asian flavours. The menu is a combination of authentic, inspired and a variety of fusion dishes. The food is good - fresh and balanced flavours - and the presentation is impressive. The decor of the place is elegant and inviting. There's even a cosy courtyard dotted with a variety of green potted plants. The service is helpful without being pushy. Try Mandala meatballs (beef meatballs in red curry), lamb choilla (double marinated cutlets with organic soba noodles) and momos (fried pork dumplings with sesame tomato dip). The menu keeps changing depending upon the seasonal produce. If available, also sample okra fritters (basted okra cubes with apple tamarind chutney).
Where: 133 Commercial Road, South Yarra 3141 VIC When: (Lunch) Group bookings only (min. 6 people); (Dinner) 7 days from 5:00pm to 10:00pm.
Contact: (03) 9827 9297
Gurkhas Brasserie Gurkhas is a successful chain of Nepali restaurants in Melbourne. They have six eateries in all - Gurkhas Brasserie, Gurkhas Carlton, Gurkhas Brunswick, Gurkhas Express, Gurkhas Kitchen and Gurkhas Cafe. One of my favourite restaurants among these is Gurkhas Brasserie - also the oldest among the chain. You'll be spoilt with choice here and they even have a decent kid's menu. Do try bhutwa ma chuira (wok tossed chicken liver with crispy rice), aloo rayo (Nepalese spinach and potatoes with garlic and chillies) and khasiko masu (house special dish of goat's meat prepared in a traditional style). Another crowd pleaser is : sekuwa (marinated chicken breast served with salad and rice). In the traditional Nepalese etiquette of eating, they have a floor seating arrangement with comfy cushions.
Where: 190 Chapel Street, Prahran VIC 3183 When: Monday to Sunday from 5:00pm-11:00pm
Contact: (03) 9510 3325
The Kathmandu Cottage The restaurant specialises in authentic Nepali and North Indian cuisine. The decor is simple and the service is good. There's also a decent list of wines available. For starters, try Kathmandu tandoori sizzler (assortment of tandoori dishes) and calamari crisp (deep-fried marinated calamari rings). Grilled fish, lamb shanks, stir fried veggies and seafood noodles are other good options on the menu. All dishes can be adjusted to mild, medium or hot flavours.
Where: 349 Victoria Street, West Melbourne 3003 When: (Lunch) Tuesday to Friday from 11:30am - 2:30pm; (Dinner) Tuesday to Sunday from 5.30pm till late.
Contact: (03) 9329 3960