We arrived in to Dharan Bazar just after dark, found somewhere to stay, then set out on foot to explore the local town square and fill our grumbling stomachs.
Being quite hungry we were quickly drawn to the south-eastern corner where there were a few food stalls. One stall in particular seemed busy, so I tried what can only be described as an omelette-wrap-thingy-ma-bob, which was lovely, but only filled a corner. Still looking for food we stumbled upon a small open fronted unit, counter pushed out on to the pavement, the owner clearly cooking something we hadn’t tried yet, Momos, which are the dim sum of Nepal. These stuffed dumplings looked delicious and the friendly smile of the owner enticed us in to his dark and narrow takeaway turned restaurant.
Along one wall was a long bench which two young lads straddled. With massive cleavers, one lad was pealing a huge bowl of potatoes, the other a huge bowl of onions. We smiled as we passed, trying not to show concern that we were now in the dark recesses towards the back of the shipping container sized eatery, our only exit blocked by two kids brandishing cleavers. They smiled as we were shown to the first of only two tables, exchanged words in Nepalese and continued to deftly peal the skin off the onions and potatoes. Had I attempted to peal a potato with a scythe sized cleaver I would most certainly have relieved myself of a finger, if not my entire hand. Still smiling, nervously, we sat facing each other.
It only took one look into Julie’s eyes to know that she was thinking exactly the same. We both looked back over to the lads, they must have been eight or nine, certainly no more than ten, and they had clearly mastered their knife skills. The owner brought us some glasses and a bottle of tap water, which we eyed with equal distrust.
It was around this point that the single bulb that lit the room went out, plunging the entire place into darkness. The owner said something we couldn’t understand, but we picked up on his exasperated tone. Fearing the worst, our eyes darted around the room, trying to get a fix on anything that moved. It felt like an age, on edge, but they eventually adjusted to the moonlight drifting in and made out the lads, still sitting on the bench, cleavers and root veg in hand.
Then the owner struck a match and the warm glow of a candle filled the room. Placing it on the table along with our momos and a couple of bottles of fizzy juice, we had a meal we will never forget. Long candle-lit shadows danced around the room as we ate the delicately steamed dumplings, the smell of onions, garlic and spices was almost intoxicating. All our senses were being teased and tantalised in a way that Heston Blumenthal could only dream of.
Looking back, it was a good thing that the lights went out when they did, for that was the perfect opportunity for the worst to happen, and it didn’t. Together we quietly let out a sigh of relief, grinned at each other, then thoroughly enjoyed our momos, which were excellent. I can’t comment on the quality of the bottled water though.
Since that day I have eaten my fair share of momos, and I can honestly say that none have come anywhere close to those we ate in Dharan Bazar. Though I am in no doubt that the situation and atmosphere added to the amazing flavours of dinner that night.
Less can be said about our hotel though.
All our senses were being teased and tantalised in a way that Heston Blumenthal could only dream of.