5 classic Nepali dishes and where to find them in the Columbus area
Greater Columbus is one of the best places in the U.S. to find Nepali food, with at least 14 restaurants currently in business.
Many of the restaurants listed below serve Indian food — Nepali cuisine's better-known cousin — but also offer classic Nepali options, sometimes lower in their menus. These are favorites among Columbus' Bhutanese Nepalis, who number about 30,000, according to the nonprofit Bhutanese Community of Central Ohio.
Bhutanese Nepali refugees were evicted from Bhutan in the early 1990s because of their different cultural identity, and their cuisine is largely Nepali, though with Bhutanese influences, such as a predilection for hot peppers. Still, plenty of mild dishes are available.
Click (or tap) on the map pins below to view details about each of the 14 restaurants, including menu items and contact information.
Read on for a guide to five classic dishes.
A thali (the Nepali word for “plate”) comes with a variety of dishes. Most Nepali restaurants offer vegetarian and meat thalis, which are a great alternative to ordering a la carte.
The centerpiece of any thali is rice, served with daal (a soup of yellow or black lentils) and vegetables and/or meat dishes. Vegetables commonly include potatoes, cauliflower, mustard greens and eggplant, whereas typical meats are chicken, pork and goat. Because of Hindu dietary restrictions, many Nepali restaurants do not serve beef.
Thalis often come with homemade pickles, called “achaar,” made from radishes, tomatoes, mango or other foods. Some restaurants include a small dessert, such as kheer (rice pudding) or yogurt.
Probably Nepal’s best-known dish, momos are dumplings stuffed with meat or vegetables. They are actually a cultural import brought to Nepal by trans-Himalayan traders from Tibet and further popularized by the Tibetan refugee population in Kathmandu.
Momos typically are steamed and served with a spicy tomato sauce, sometimes made with ground sesame. Other variations include jhol momos, which come in a soup, and C momos, which are fried in a tomatoey sauce.
Momo Ghar in North Market is probably Columbus’ best-known momo restaurant and has received accolades from celebrity chef Guy Fieri. But most other Nepali restaurants offer their own versions of the delicious dumplings.
Gundruk is a uniquely Nepali side dish made from fermented and dried mustard greens or other leafy vegetables. They are either reconstituted as a soup or fried with onions, tomatoes and spices. Fermentation imbues a tangy flavor.
Traditionally, Gundruk was made during times of abundance to save for times of scarcity as a survival food, according to Nepali food writer Prashanta Khanal.
Gundruk can be found at Everest Cuisine in Worthington, Durbar Cuisine and Himali Heritage Cuisine in Reynoldsburg and Jhapali Kitchen in Pickerington.
Choila is barbecued meat spiced with Szechuan pepper (which makes the mouth tingle), chilis, garlic chives and roasted mustard oil. A common festival food among Nepal’s Newar ethnic group, it most commonly is made from water buffalo meat, but in Ohio, common variations include goat, chicken and pork.
Choila often is ordered as a shareable side dish or served as a set — sometimes with black-eyed peas, potatoes, and beaten rice. It is available at most Nepali restaurants.
A “deep cut” from Nepali cuisine, bhootan (sometimes spelled vutan or bhutan – not to be confused with the country) is goat offal. Kidney, heart and other organs are fried with a heavy spice mixture that includes cumin and chili pepper. In Nepal, bhootan often is eaten as a snack with hard alcohol.
Bhootan is offered at Jhapali Kitchen in Pickerington, Yak N Yeti Restaurant in Blacklick and at Durbar Cuisine, Sargam Restaurant and Bar and Brothers Sports Bar and Restaurant in Reynoldsburg.
Peter Gill covers immigration and new American communities for The Dispatch in partnership with Report for America. You can support work like his with a tax-deductible donation to Report for America here: bit.ly/3fNsGaZ.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: 5 classic Nepali dishes and 14 Columbus restaurants that serve them