A First-Timer's Guide

to Nepalese Cuisine in Amsterdam

By QUYNH (STEPHANIE) BUI | April 5, 2020

Cover photo by Quynh (Stephanie) Bui / The Amsterdammer

As a local foodie, I have sufficiently acquainted myself with a variety of Amsterdam’s best East Asian eateries. However, I have yet to explore the abundance of South Asian cuisines which, sometimes forgotten, represent an integral part of Asian culture. Therefore, I have decided to visit the Nepalese restaurant Bhatti Pasal right here in Amsterdam and challenge my palette! 

Nepal is located between India, Tibet, and China, where its transnational ethnics and backgrounds are adapted by the local cuisine. Nepalese foods are, in a way, the love-children of diverse origins: Tibetan, Indian, Thai, and Chinese. Its cuisine is often associated with (or mistaken for) the culinary tradition of South Asian “big brother” India because of the use of similar spices such as cumin and coriander. However, Nepalese food balances meats, greens, and carbs, with less fat and oil than traditional Indian cooking and thus tends to be a bit lighter. Although Nepalese food can feel a bit bland, it is no less interesting. My encounter with this unique cuisine is best encapsulated by quoting this Nepalese restaurant owner: “It’s tasty food, and you feel good after eating it”.  

Although there are a few Nepalese restaurant options available in Amsterdam, my pick was Bhatti Pasal, a dainty restaurant tucked inside an alleyway near Amsterdam Centrum. Despite the impressive 4.7 out of 5 star review average on Google, I tried to maintain a healthy level of both excitement and skepticism. The interior of the restaurant reminded me of the typical, hole-in-the-wall Asian eateries – quaint, cozy and crowded – but in the best way possible. Keeping with the Nepalese tradition, this casual restaurant centers around the act of food sharing, something I dearly miss about home. 

To promptly combat the chilly Amsterdam weather, I ordered the hot “chiya”, a sweet and fragrant ginger milk tea. For our mains, we chose pan-fried pork “momos” (dumplings), served with sesame sauce. Known as the quintessential and proud representative of Nepalese street food, these dumplings draw their influence from Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, and select parts of India. The plump momos placed neatly on a thick, golden sesame sauce, were not only visually pleasing but tasted just as satisfying as they looked. It was the juiciest dumpling I have ever encountered, with the broth oozing out of the doughy wrapping. Nepalese momos perfectly combine the meaty Chinese dumplings with the light Japanese gyoza. Although the dish offered some heat and kick from the spices, it had a mild and subtle flavor.

Milk tea. Quynh (Stephanie) Bui / The Amsterdammer
Momo. Quynh (Stephanie) Bui / The Amsterdammer

Although Nepal is not directly connected to mainland China, noodle dishes are a popular choice among locals. We got to sample chowmein (stir-fried noodles) and chicken thukpa (shepherd noodle soup). The chowmein was the harmonization between its Chinese counterpart and Indian spices, which made my taste buds tingle. It was full of flavor but without the excess oil regularly found in Chinese food. The veggies, tofu, and noodles were the ultimate trio, where each element was well-seasoned, savory and appetizing. 

However, I was amazed by the chicken thukpa, a comforting winter delicacy common in the mountainous regions of Nepal. Although I can hardly compare the cold of Amsterdam to the freezing winter in the Himalaya, this noodle soup unequivocally warmed every corner of my body and soul. The aromatic, garlicky, and subtle broth combined with crispy fried chicken and vegetables came together in a surprisingly simple yet delicious creation. 

Chowmein. Quynh (Stephanie) Bui / The Amsterdammer
Thukpa Noodles Soup. Quynh (Stephanie) Bui / The Amsterdammer

Although this was my first encounter with Nepalese cuisine, it has deeply impressed me. I will be making more trips to fully explore all the different aspects of its culinary tradition and there is much I have yet to try like Dal Bhat, a rice dish served with various sides such as curry, meat/fish, and yogurt. Although foreign cuisines can be daunting at first, try to overcome your fear and broaden your horizon. You never know what flavours you are missing out on!

 

The Restaurant mentioned in this article:

Bhatti Pasal Amsterdam

Voetboogstraat 23

1012 XK Amsterdam

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