A week of incessant downpour and the drop in temperatures had us craving for warm, fulfilling food and what better than soup and stew to beat the chill. With gyakok on our minds, we landed in Boudha which boasts of all sorts of eateries that promise 'authentic' Tibetan cuisine. But we had been told that if we wanted a MSG-free wholesome bowl of Tibetan hot pot, Shangri-La Kitchen (part of Hotel Tibet International) was the place to go. And what a treat it was.
Gyakok is a complex dish that the chef needs two hours to prepare, so calling (01-4488188) the restaurant ahead of time is highly recommended. As we waited for the highlight of our evening, we tried sokrul (Rs 280) and chicken chili with olive oil (Rs 250) as starters.
Sokrul, shredded beef fried in tempura batter, was soft and tender but a little dry. A dash of lemon could have worked wonders. The chicken chili too was not quite up to the mark. The sauce in which the chicken was marinated had not completely soaked in, so the layers of flavour were missing and by the time our tongues journeyed into the centre of the chicken, it was quite bland.
Our second round of orders – mushroom fried with white and red sauce (Rs 350), sweet and sour pork (Rs 380), and a bowl of rice (Rs 150) – made a better impression. The mushroom was very well-done: the sauce had the right thickness, and the combination of white and red wines was exquisite and easy on the palate. The juicy cubes of pork (fat-in) lathered in thick, tangy honey and lemon sauce with diced pineapple, capsicum, and onion were ideal for sweeping up what remained of our rice.
Just as we were savouring the last pieces of pork fat, our much-awaited fare arrived. The chicken broth was bought to us in a copper pot with a chimney-like opening on top, and a burner at the bottom through which a constant flame brought the soup to a boil. We had a large selection of ingredients to dunk into the soup: cellophane noodles, tofu, bok choy, chopped cauliflower, potato, carrots, beans, black mushrooms, prawns, fish balls, and boiled eggs. Cooked and consumed over a long time, the gyakok allows a relaxed dinner with long conversations. We put in the ingredients and refilled our bowls throughout the evening as the soup continued to simmer silently on its own.
Now I can't really say what real hot pot cooked in a Tibetan household tastes like, but having had gyakok at a few other restaurants, I can vouch that Shangri-La Kitchen's was by far the best. With no MSG or readymade generic masalas, the soup is strained twice which makes it very light and extremely healthy.
Spending Rs 4,000 on gyakok and Rs 150 for a bowl of rice seems like a draining experience for foodies on a tight budget. But in its defense, I have been charged more at some of the nondescript eateries in Jhamsikhel. Besides, the gyakok is meant for four people (or five if your friends have a small appetite) so it comes down to a thousand bucks per person, and on a regular night, an order of gyakok should fill even the emptiest tummies.
Shangri-La Kitchen is an oasis in the otherwise cacophonous Boudha and my only complaint is its slow service. Other than that, the servers are extremely friendly, and the head chef Laxman Bhandari will even sit down to have a chat.
How to get there: From Chabahil chowk, take the road that goes to Boudhanath stupa. You will see Hotel Tibet International on the right-hand side just a few blocks before the main gate of the stupa.
1. I'm Appalled
@ Ms Rana – Nice to know that "Sokrul, shredded beef fried in tempura batter, was soft and tender but a little dry." I must admit that you really do know how to describe the taste of beef (aka cow meat) even though majority of us, the Nepalese people, have a tongue that only knows nothing beyond the taste of Dal, Bhat, and Tarkari. For that, I give you props! However, as I was going through your wonderful piece, I couldn't help asking myself rather naively, "What happened to our beloved Sacred Bulls that once roamed freely on the lands surrounding Bouddha and Pashipatinath areas?" Then, I wondered once again, "Seriously, where have they disappeared?" Am I wrong in speculating where they would have gone? Well, I wouldn't be surprised if the bulls have turned into Sokrul, the delicious plate you eloquently talked about. But, I'm hoping and praying I'm wrong for thinking that way.
21 SEPT 2012 | 12:04 AM NST
2. beef eater
Hahaha at the comment above. It's funny how eating beef in this country still infuriates so many ppl. We are now a secular republic which means we can follow any religion we want or be non believers and eat and practice however we want as long as we dont harm others. Or have we become so intolerant that we should issue a 'fatwa' on all food reviewers who eat beef and dare to write about their experiences? And for all we know Miss rana could be a muslim, christian or a non believer. Or even if she is a hindoo, who cares?
Also the stray bulls and cows that you talk about, have you seen the horrible condition in which they roam the streets of the valley eating from garbage dumps and being knocked over by trucks and buses? How hypocritical of our Hindu brethens (including myself) that we consider cows to be gods but when we are done sucking them dry of their milk and labor we leave them on the streets to die. I think it's much more humane to eat beef and put the cows out of their misery than to leave them on the cruel streets. Think about it.
22 SEPT 2012 | 10:56 AM NST
3. I'm Appalled
@Beef Eater - Your comment is disgusting. I don't care what you eat: beef, chicken, pork... and I'm OK as long as you don't eat your own children! I'm a vegetarian and a devout Hindu, who strongly believes cow is a sacred animal. But it doesn't mean you have to believe in my religion. You are free to choose any religion or no religion; it's your prerogative.
Equally, you're entitled to do whatever makes you feel good as long as you don't disrespect my religion. In my comment above, I was expressing my concern about those bulls in Pashupatinath because they represented my cultural values and beliefs. My point was, in last two decades, the bulls of Pashupatinath have been disappearing at an alarming rate, and you hardly see them anymore.
I always wondered what happened to them and even suspected whether they quietly became the meal of some "Mlechha" people like you. Well, you confirmed my doubt. I tell you one thing: don't steal and slaughter our bulls. They were offered to Pashupatinath. Eat your own bulls, you thug!
Secular or not, since the dawn of civilization, my country, Nepal, has always been a Hindu nation, and will remain so forever. You have problem with that? If you do, then why don't you pack your bag and go where you feel most welcomed.
22 SEPT 2012 | 10:12 PM NST
4. beef eater
miss or mr appalled it seems futile to convince you that Nepal needs to adopt its secular tag not just in name but also in practice.
forget that part of my argument and at least tell me a thing or two about the bulls and cows around pashupatinath that you reminisce about so nostalgically. i am sure you have seen the terrible conditions they live in around the surrounding areas? roaming the streets in search of food, foraging garbage dumps? what do you have to say about your pious hindu brothers and sisters who use cows for milk and bulls in the farm but when cattle get old, they just leave the poor animals on the streets to fend for themselves. is that how we should be treating animals we consider god? isn't it our responsibility to take care of cows and bulls even if they are no longer useful to us? and if we are okay with discarding them once their utility is over, why are we up in arms if someone else wants to eat the cows and bulls. the way i see it, killing them for meat is more humane than leaving them on the streets to die of old age or food poisoning or road accident.
23 SEPT 2012 | 10:12 AM NST
5. I'm Appalled
Ms Beef Eater – I see no point of arguing with you any further. Evidently, you are selfish and self-centered, and no surprise there that you advocate killing cows to put them out of misery. Only monsters have that kind of mentality. You are the kind who believes all living and non-living beings are there to serve your purpose. You foolishly believe you have the power to decide what stays and what goes because you think you are on top of the food chain. But I have news for you. Stop believing you can decide the fate of others. You are one of the living beings that call this planet home, and you are not above, you're (maybe) equal. Obviously, it makes no sense to convince you because you and I don't share the same values and beliefs. I'm a Hindu, and you... I have no idea what the heck you are. Your idea that only way to control strayed animals (cows), is by eating them is very repulsive. You are a pathetic person. Listen moron, you don't kill living beings just because they are suffering. Will you kill your sick, weak, old parents because they're suffering? I think you're a mindless person. You could very well be a product of Maoist Commies, those who introduced violence and killing an acceptable norm in our once peace loving country. Think differently, you Commie! Killing is not considered humane, it's a cruelty. Cruelty to people or animals has no place in civilized society. If there is a problem of strayed animals on the streets of Kathmandu, then appropriate action must be taken to find and punish their owners. You don't kill those animals, you help finding them find shelters! Why don't you tell your Commie government to set aside some grazing land for these animals so they stop wandering on the streets looking for food? Does it ring your bell? Huh? Have you ever wondered, like people, animals also get hungry. When there is no food, they also revolt. Just a common sense! Going back to my original point: Stop stealing bulls offered to Pashupatinath. Stop slaughtering them at night just because you love their flesh! Nepal is our sacred land and cows one of its rightful inhabitants. Don't ever forget that! May Lord Pashupatinath bless our land, always!
23 SEPT 2012 | 12:21 AM NST
6. Flexible 1
Excellent. Nepal in a nutshell. An article about a restaurant, intolerant attitudes towards each other, basically a load of bull!
Welcome to Nepal!
24 SEPT 2012 | 9:06 PM NST
People getting arrested for slaughtering cows is still a news in secular Nepal. What the heck???? Nepal claims to be a Hindu nation but at what cost?? It has never recognized nor respected people of other religious sect but instead forcefully fed the citizens its Hindu this and that.
And for a person like "I'm appalled", I think you need to chill a bit, open up your narrow mind and borrow a heart from somewhere (because you lack one) and start learning the ABCs of respect and humility. And yes work toward building New Nepal!!
25 SEPT 2012 | 11:29 AM NST
@ Beefeater, I'm appalled.
It's quite pathetic how an article which has the sole purpose to review the various foods available to the residents and non residents of Kathmandu turns into a fist fight about religion and selfishness and everything that is bad about the world (of course the world in this case is Nepal). Can we not politicize food? we've already done that to just about everything else. The one good thing about food is regardless of who the cook is, good food will taste good. Let food be food.
@ the MODERATOR
Isn't it your job to moderate comments so that they stay relevant to the article in question instead of letting them blow into personal attacks between commentators ???
26 SEPT 2012 | 10:29 AM NST
9. who cares 8. Reader,
respect free speech
26 SEPT 2012 | 6:19 PM NST
10. i love food
while we were all busy fighting we all forgot to comment on the actual review/food. i am curious and want to go try out gyakok at Shangri-La. good review and keep up the beef eating (or not, haha)
26 SEPT 2012 | 9:34 PM NST
Here I come Shangri-La, just booked a table for four, "Sokrul, shredded beef fried in tempura batter" is definitely on my list of choices. It is a rare delicacy, isn't it? I'm Appalled!be my guest, since you're a vegan Gyakul's on me.... btw, let loose some healthy bulls will you? That's what devout hindu's used to do in the past!
26 SEPT 2012 | 2:49 AM NST
12. Flexible 1
This is brilliant, I love it. Lessons obviously learned from those freedom of speech gurus Nepali politicians. Talk about anything you like except the focus topic.
By the way, is anybody following the T20 in Sri Lanka? What did everyone think of the olympics?
Going "off topic" is de rigeur!
27 SEPT 2012 | 7:54 PM NST
13. Stone Soup
"Am I wrong in speculating where they would have gone? Well, I wouldn't be surprised if the bulls have turned into Sokrul, the delicious plate you eloquently talked about. "
Are you insinuating that restaurants around Boudha are killing/did kill the bulls? I'm appalled by the communal hatred (Racism!) inherent in your "speculations."