“Bravest of the brave, most generous of generous, never had a country more faithful friends than you.” – Sir Ralph Turner, quoted on the Gurkha Memorial in London.
I am pleased that The Ultimate Nepalese Cook Book is a creditable and attractive volume. I always endeavour to give honest and positive reviews and I very much want to support this book and the Gurkha Welfare Trust. A donation will be made for every copy of this delightful book sold. You, however, will buy this book for the recipes – it honestly is a gem of a little cookbook.
My family has had a close relationship with India for several generations and a personal one with the Gurkhas. As a child I would listen with wonder as my Dad would tell stories of serving alongside Gurkhas in Burma. It wasn’t a pleasant place to be during the Second World War but if you were unfortunate enough to land in that theatre of conflict then you were glad those brave and charming men were near. They would sing, they would dance, and they would share what they had – and nobody had much. Gurkhas fought everywhere during the Second World War. They distinguished themselves, earning 2,734 bravery awards and suffering around 32,000 casualties.
The British association with the Gurkhas goes back a couple of hundred years. They started as enemies and won respect even in that role. Noble in battle they had a monument erected by the British in honour of them.
During World War I, more than 200,000 Gurkhas served in the British Army. They suffered 10% casualties, and received almost 2,000 gallantry awards. That is an amazing proportion of men decorated. It’s said that a man who says he isn’t afraid of dying is either a liar or a Gurkha.
Pamba Lama is a chef and a Gurkha. You might be expecting dishes of reconstituted army rations but Gurkhas have a tradition of “messing” – cooking and enjoying good food with a taste of home wherever they are in the world. Pamba has devised recipes representing food that people eat in Nepal, with all its influences from neighbouring countries. The Ultimate Nepalese Cook Book is his masterwork.
China and India have both contributed to Nepalese cuisine and returning Gurkha soldiers have added new ingredients. They have come back to their land-locked home with new tastes for seafood! There are dishes here that are recognisably Chinese like sweet and sour pork, and there are dahls that will be familiar to Indian food lovers. Lots of “Gurkha” dishes, and even a “Sherpa” recipe here as well!
Gurkha Curry Sauce is a good basic but delicious start. Use this to make a comforting Egg Curry. This recipe works for both fried and hard-boiled eggs. Another egg-and-sauce recipe is that for Gurkha Omelette Curry, a great spicy egg dish finished in a couple of minutes.
Curried Dahl Chann is simple to make and a winter warmer that won’t break the bank. Lentils, onion, garlic and ginger along with some spices that you probably already have, combine to give an aromatic dahl with the interesting addition of coconut. Indian bread goes well with this.
That unmistakable Chinese note
Momos are typical of dishes from this part of the Himalayas. They are becoming more common all over India, as people have long embraced Chinese food or dishes with Chinese influence. They are steamed and filled pasta a bit like ravioli or steamed Chinese wontons. The fillings here are minced pork or beef with spices, onion and spring onion, and a little soy sauce for that unmistakable Chinese note.
Chef Nicci Gurr has been invited to present a chapter on puddings for The Ultimate Nepalese Cook Book and they are tempting and striking. She has devised some sweet Momos with a filling of chocolate and chilli. That is a marriage made in heaven. The dough is flour, water and cocoa powder, with a filling of rice, chocolate and a couple of chillies that add a little heat and a lot of flavour. They differ from the savoury version in that these are poached rather than steamed.
The Ultimate Nepalese Cook Book a charming book of easy recipes that will work for family meals and celebrations. If you enjoy Chinese food you will appreciate some of the same flavours. If you are an Indian food aficionado then you will savour those same vibrant spices. Some dishes you will have come across before but there is much that’s original.
The Ultimate Nepalese Cook Book
Author: Pemba Lama
Published by: Grierson Publications
Asian cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018