I am all that I have experienced. In early November, I visited my family in Nepal and being there awoke something in me that I haven’t felt in a long time: wholeness. Going home was a rediscovery of what made me who I am today.
It was in Nepal where I enhanced my skills and gained more appreciation for cooking. I grew up with my mother’s cooking, which is an inspiration for me and everything I worked for. During mytime in Nepal, I visited relatives and sampled my favorite foods like Bhutaan (goat tripe), Goat Roganjosh, Karkalo(taro leaves), collard greens and many other dishes made with fresh ingredients and lovingly prepared by my mother and relatives. Dishes like these, shared with family and friends, factored what I had envisioned to do at the cheel.
Beyond eating, cooking also became a large part of my life. Nepali cooking is highly flavor-oriented; my family grew our own spices and herbs in our garden like mint, cilantro, basil and others. I loved it when my mother would ask me to get her spices she needed because it meant running out to the garden and picking those spices while they were fresh. Oh how I miss doing that here in Wisconsin, especially in winter. Whatever we didn’t grow, we bought from the local market. I continue this tradition in my own home, where I live with my husband, Jesse. But unlike my home, Nepali cuisine isn’t made in ovens or with other modern kitchen appliances. Instead, all food is cooked on the stove top. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were prepared from scratch every day and mixed with spices and herbs of the region. The local flavor of spice is made distinct by the soil it’s grown in, as well as the weather and altitude of the Himalayan Mountains.
It’s these experiences that I wish to bring to my customers, but as hard as I try, I can’t completely replicate the flavor of the food I grew up with. You can imagine me exasperating as a Chef. Even though, I get most of my spices from Nepal, the ingredients are different here in Wisconsin and in North America, where the soil holds different qualities and the weather reacts to a different climate, let alone there being the low altitude. For efficiency and quantity we need to produce at the restaurant,we have no choice but to use an oven and other modern appliances in order to cook the food we serve. All in all, I find it frustrating. I know it’s the holidays, but I want more time to grow my spices! Even at the start of winter, I can find time to grow more spices when I lived in Nepal! But that’s when my team and I get creative. Many on my team have gone through culinary school or are still in school, and they all have many great ideas to adapt the food from my childhood in incredibly creative ways.
There’s so much I can tell you about my life and my experiences. There are relatives I visited on both sides of my family, where I picked up recipes like Lakhamari, a sweet fried bread, Lahpet Thoke, a Burmese fermented tea leaf salad and Shapaley, a Tibetan meat and/or vegetable pie. There are memories of helping my mother cook and being taught by her. There are also breath-taking vistas and amazing views from my home in Nepal. I can tell you where I’m from and more as I write this, but it would better to invite you to the cheel in order to experience the flavors of my home and to listen to my stories because all that I am resides in the kitchen and the dishes I serve.
I am share my experiences and memories through my food. So this holiday season, don’t just give gifts, but memories. We are selling gift certificates for the cheel so you can share this experience with the people you love. Because what better gift is there than good memories?