Overlooked, guarded, backdropped by the Himalayas, Nepal has got it going on when it comes to cuisine. Much like London, it’s booming with influences from all over the shop and nowhere is this more apparent than in London’s rich and varied Nepalese restaurants. First off, from the people who live around the Himalayas in the north to the folk who live in the southern lowlands, the people of Nepal are diverse in terms of ethnicity, culture and the weather they have to put up with. Second, up until as recent as the 1950s, the Nepalese borders were pretty much completely closed off to outsiders. The combined result of both these things means that Nepalese cuisine has traditionally been built around home-grown produce, and the Nepalese people, with all their diversity, had to get very creative indeed in terms of creating dishes. As such, Nepal’s culinary identity today is strong and the Nepalese restaurants of London do a damn fine job of representing it.
Since the 1950s and the opening of those big old borders, Nepalese cuisine and thus any Nepalese restaurant in London has happily absorbed some culinary crafts from other countries, with India, China and Tibet being the main ones. So much so, in fact, that all too often diners these days are prone to lumping in Nepalese cuisine with Indian cuisine and glossing over it as though it didn’t feature foods that are a joy in their own right. But fear not, once you’ve filled your boots at London’s Nepalese restaurants you’ll soon see what all the fuss is about – food that’s damn tasty and, to be frank, far healthier than many of its Asian counterparts.
Unlike Indian restaurants, Nepalese restaurants in London like to focus on authentic, un-anglicised Nepalese food. So, expect less of a reliance on fats and oils and more of a reliance on chunky vegetables, lean meats, plenty of pickles and light salads. Regardless of th region, popular Nepalese ingredients commonly found in London’s restaurants include lentils, potatoes and tomatoes, spiced up nicely with cumin, chilli, coriander, peppers, garlic and mustard seeds. Also a big hitter and loved for its adaptability, yoghurt features in many Nepalese dishes. London’s restaurants will serve it as a dip, a drink or a dessert, meaning you’ve always got a tongue-cooler on hand when the spice begins to hit...
Don’t worry, not everything is spicy and we’re quite sure there’ll be a national Nepalese dish to take anyone’s fancy at the Nepalese restaurants peppered around London. In case you do sway for the spice, the most common curries are certainly saags, dals, gundrucks and curried goat, otherwise there are many other delicacies the ones not prone to pepper can look forward to. Momos, for example, are Nepalese dumplings that involve paneer and potato, while thukpa is a noodle soup – a little like a Vietnamese pho – that’s very popular, particularly in Kathmandu, Nepal’s great capital.
It goes without saying that you’ll find Nepalese restaurants in many London districts and boroughs, thus, advising where to head isn’t the most straightforward of tasks. That said, west London – where Nepalese restaurants like Sherpa Kitchen and The Gurkhas Inn can be found – is probably a little more concentrated than east London. Either way, they’re all popular, so be absolutely sure to reserve a table with Quandoo before you go, enjoy the food, then post a review. Bob’s your uncle, fanny’s your aunt.