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Newa Lahana: Ode to Newari cuisine

Anisha Rauniyar May 10, 2020

Newa Lahana is Kirtipur’s community-run restaurant. It celebrates all of Newar’s things, so that means it’s all about buff. If there’s a horse, so does Newa Lahana. Eyes, different sections of the heart, the testicles, the spinal cord, the brain and the liver — the meal is a celebration of all things buff, and all things Newar. So would you like to have that piece of animal fried, boiled, steamed, curry or samay baji?

Newa Lahana is a restaurant whose name precedes itself, coming up in every one-upping conversation between offal lovers in Nepal. As the talk went on for a long time, I’d say, “I went to Honacha, the sapo micha was crazy, but decent. But Kwacha’s Kachila is much better.” “Cool. But were you in Newa Lahana?

The dialogue will usually concentrate on the concepts of offal, the Newar society, and, of course, the community-based paradigm that the restaurant operates on. But, it’s in Kirtipur, they would say. That’s when the discussion should have started. Kirtipur may as well be, for all intents and purposes, a thousand kilometres away for Kathmandu dwellers.

Finally, after a lot of warming up, I made my way to the restaurant. A few wrong turns, a couple of short interactions with residents, and we were always wandering. Eventually, we find the second edition of the restaurant down the alley.

Fanning out of the dim lane, the breezy shed-like area is fill with straw mats. While the autumn sun beams though the wide garage door frames, and with numerous trinkets decorating the doors, it’s really the multiple aromas that attract customers. Like a quick blow to the nose, the chhyang sticks to the nostrils and the roasting bhatmas fills them.

There’s a wide-eyed tourist sitting in front of his bara, in front of the doorway. Shoes off, we linger in and find that he, along with the line of women sitting next to him, is the only one who eats. A few locals follow shortly after we return. But other than them, it’s just us and the buff-cooking squad didis.

Quietly moaning as they languorously man the stoves, the ladies are uninterest and friendly in equal parts. It could be their home kitchen, because we’re being treat like their children — don’t ask, don’t get. On the other side of the house, in a sad section of the house with a little karai, the guilty individual behind the smell can be identified. A lady sits roasting black soya beans until they splinter to reveal their white constitution. Under the autumn heat, there’s an almost uninterested cat waiting.

That chicken curry, while not remarkable on its own, is a nice touchstone when you eat a rather macabre meal. Brains so far, huh? Take a spoonful of curry chicken. The curry itself is largely dominate by ginger, but underscore by the same salt-laden meat masalas that can be found everywhere. There’s a little seasoning in it, however, which is good for the chatamari, which sticks to the lubricating roof of the mouth. I would advise you to go for a meatier or an eggier variety. Currently, I should have recommended the same thing with the wo.

The wo — or bara, as many might know — is great. Easy, too, this one has a distinct sour sting of fermented lentils and a wet-but-not-wet cook. It’s warm so doughy, and it’s going to be perfect with some warm buff keema. An egg would have been nice, too, but not today. Space has to be reserve with all the buffalo blood.

Though there is a restaurant around Kathmandu offering Newar cuisine, Newa Lahana remains a spot for pilgrims. Its name precedes itself, but unlike so many places in the valley, it actually lives up to its reputation.

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