पोखरा

After some more windy down intestinal tract looking roads, Andrea and I arrived in पोखरा (Pokhara), the city resting at the feet of the Annapurna conservation area.

By the way, I think my paranoia has been justified…

We checked into our hotel that afternoon of April 20th and went to check out the town. There is one nice strip called Lakeside that follows the lake front. This street is filled with foreigners and fancy shops and restaurants. I felt immediately overwhelmed. I couldn’t believe the impact that this reverse culture shock would have on me. There was so much hustle and bustle, but not at all the kind I was used to, and ostentatious storefronts appealing to western consumerism. We decided to head back to the hotel and call it an early night. On the walk back, as we walked past grandiose hotels, Andrea was rather aggressively bumped into by an unaware drunk tourist.

In the coming days I can happily say that I was far less overwhelmed, and become more accustomed to the western presence. Being out and about by day rather than night was certainly a helper.

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After a day or two of exploring Pokhara, we made our way into the mountains to do some trekking! Check out the post on Annapurna Base Camp trek here.

* * *

Upon returning we enjoyed another two days relaxing in Pokhara, giving our knees a rest and trying to catch back up on all those calories we used up. Andrea wrote up our return from trekking as well as some delicious Indian recipes. Check it out!

After a nine days trek to the ABC (Annapurna Base Camp), after have eaten Dal Baht for the majority of these days (with the exception of boring Chowmein), during the last hours before heading back to Pokhara, while our legs were about to abandon us, our lips dried out and our shoulders burned, our main drive to keep crawling up was the well-deserved dinner that was waiting for us! To distract the mind from the almost unbearable pain in the calves, our thoughts went to the elaboration of a detailed plan  for the evening. When we finally made it back, without passing from the shower (I know a bit disgusting, but we were hungry!) we went straight to our little Momo’s house run by a lovely Nepalese lady and her husband. In these authentic Nepalese places, the menu is set and there is not much variety to order besides Mo:mo or Dal Bhat. Our appetizer consisted of 10 delicious mini veggie Momos dipped in tomato chilly Chutney. The main course was consumed at an Indian restaurant suggested by two Israeli that we met during the descent. Side note, this says a lot about putting a hungry Italian, Tyler and Israelis in the mountains: they always talk about food! Going back to our dinner, we had Veg Malai Kofta –  cheese and potato balls in yellow gravy –  and Veg Kurma – veggie curry made with coconut, yogurt and masala- with chapatti and garlic bread. The mediocre dessert consisted of overly prized brownies and ice cream and lemon cake. Not entirely satisfied, we concluded the evening by sharing a frozen yogurt with toppings. Then we passed out with a full belly, sore muscles and a huge smile.

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Dinner with Robby Roti and friends!

The day after,  Tyler and I spent the whole afternoon annoying the kitchen of New Marwadi Indian Resturant to discover the secrets of their cuisine (certain secrets should be kept secret). The majority of Indian dishes comes down to three main gravies: onion, tomato and palak (spinach) base. The restaurant prepares them on a weekly base in colossal quantities, freeze them up and defrost in a small amount every evening. For example, our beloved Malai Kofta is made with the onion base and either potato, cheese or veggie balls, which are prepared on demand.

In the following section, I reported the recipe for each gravy and the main dishes you can cook with it. I made the proportion for five serving.

Yellow gravy – onion base

  • 1 kg Onion – 1 onion is around 50g – around 20 onions
  • 100 g Magaj (kharbooj-ke-beej) (dried melon seeds)
  • 100 g Cashew
  • Sunflower oil – healthier oil is better
  • masala

Masala – mix of spices

  • 50 g cumin
  • 50 g chili powder
  • 50 g tumeric
  • 50 g coriander
  • 50 g salt
  1. peel and boil the onions till they become soft, then blend them
  2. in the meantime, soak the cashews for 3 hours, then blend, together with the magaj seeds
  3. in a big pan – a wok is perfect – add masala spices to the oil and let it cook on a low flame for 5-10 min
  4. add the onions, cashew and magaj to the oil and spices and boil the base on a low flame for about 45’

Makhani Gravy – tomato base

  • 1 kg of tomatoes (not tomato sauce!)
  • masala (same as for onion base)
  • 100 g magaj (kharbooj-ke-beej) (melon seeds)
  • 150 g cashew
  • Sunflower oil – a healthier oil is better
  • masala
  1. boil the tomatoes, magaj, cashew together and then blend it all
  2. in the meantime, in a big pan or wok, add the masala spices to the oil and cook for 5-10 min
  3. add tomato cashew and magaj to the oil and spices and boil till is ready

Tip: If you mess up, the liquid and solids will separate instead of making the gravy. You don’t want that!

Main dishes you can cook using this gravy: chicken butter masala (murgh makhani), paneer butter masala, malai kofta, veg Makhan.

Palak gravy – spinach base

  • 1 kg Spinach
  • 50 g Garlic
  • 70 g Onion
  • 50 g Cumin seeds
  • 50 g Salt
  • Sunflower oil – a healthier oil is better 
  1. Boil the spinach and then blend them
  2. in the meantime, add the oil in a pan with cumin seed until they roast
  3. add minced garlic and onion, when ready add palak and salt

Main dishes you can cook using this base: palak paneer, dal palak, aloo palak, palak mashroom, palak khichdi.

These three gravies are the base for the majority of Indian dishes. Something I’ve learned is that there is not such a thing as “original recipe”. Every maji has her own way of cooking and her recipe will always taste better than the one of the neighbor.

A lot of bad oil and cream are used to thick the gravy and make it “tastier”. Honestly, I will use an alternative oil and only if necessary using fresh milk.

Try them out and let us know the results! Buon appetito!

Delicious food of Pokhara! Going clockwise from top left: masala dosa, spicy chickpeas, kaju set, dhido, veg momos.

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