Muddy, damp, wet, rainy days are here again and what better way to celebrate the monsoon than to track down southeast Asian food in the Valley.
Gastronomists have long debated why Thai, Vietnamese and Malay food is so popular around the world. Part of the reason is their distinctive taste. Spicy, saucy and hot with a fiery mix of salty, sour, sweet and bitter.
Whenever you say 'Asian' food, many think of Indian and Chinese cuisine. But nothing compares to the varieties offered by the Singaporeans, Thai and especially Malaysians. "You would have to spend a whole lifetime tasting all the Malay food," says Josephine Lee from the Singaporean and Malaysian restaurant, Sing-Ma, in Jawalakhel.
And there is a nuanced taste difference: Malay food is rich in sauces and spices, Thai food is hot and spicy with abundant use of coriander and lemon grass, Singaporean Chinese food retains the noodles and styles of the mother country. Whether it is satay, seafood curries, aromatic soups or Chinese food from the south seas they are all in Kathmandu.
Located at heart of the city in Darbar Marg, just above Kasthamandap Departmental store, this restaurant offers hot and spicy authentic Thai cuisine. Thai food is usually considered the spiciest and oil free, making it healthier, nutritious and almost medicinal. Paste is used instead of oil in most varieties and all the spices are natural and herbal. Among the most popular are Tom Yam soup, Pla Nung Manac, Pad Thai, satay kai and papay salad. Thai cuisine can be broken into five different categories: gaeng, yam, dip or sauce, pad or fry and ar-harn jarn or miscellaneous food. 2066152
Ying Yang restaurant is in the heart of Thamel. A Thai restaurant with a Chinese name that serves Nepali and continental food, it is housed in a restored Ranaesque building. It has a Swiss owner, Martin Kromer and Thai cook, Daeng. "We got the name from the Ying Yang in Basantapur during the hippie era which was a very popular restaurant," says Martin. Though tourism business has been down since 2000, the locals keep the place busy. Daeng is not only willing to cook for you but also recommend dishes according to your tastes. The phrase that comes to ones mind as one samples the dishes is " assault of the senses" as the spices of Thailand tingle your palate. 4267381,4425510
Krua Thai has been around for seven years now and is known as one of the finer Thai restaurants. Manager Nirajan Shrestha says the test that it is genuine is the number of Thais who dine here. Chef Wichai, is from Phuket and has worked for the past 13 years in Thai restaurants in Kathmandu. His Kang Kien Wan Koong green curry and Tom Yang Koong or Thai clear soup are very popular. But he is renowned for his Som Tam Thai or papaya salad. The restaurant is changing ownership and is going to be called Krua Thai Nepal but they assure that us the food won't be any less Thai. 4414291
One year old, Royal Lotus in Kopundole imports all its products directly from Thailand when the shareholder and chef, Tana Korn Saythont, makes regular trips. "We had to make four trips this year just to be well-stocked," says Saythont who has worked in five star hotels in Thailand. His Pat Po Tak or spicy seafood is the most popular with regular guests and the specialty of the house is Kao Tant Na Tant which is based on the chef's nickname 'Tant': rice cakes which are deep fried with a special meat sauce on top and though not on the menu the chef will happily create this special dish for you and any other dishes that may not be on the menu. 5521231
Ever since Jalan Jalan opened six months ago, it has been known for it's fine and varied Malaysian cuisine. Proprietor Sailesh Bhatta says, "Most of our customers come back again and again." More dishes have been recently added with the Penang special, Panggan, which is a lunch set that is a treat for the taste buds. The Nasi Ayam on the other hand is a simple dish in which the taste of chicken comes through without any distracting spices. Jalan Jalan now also offers cuttlefish dishes and is introducing a western menu section for those who can't handle spices. 4410438