THINK MANGALOREAN cuisine and you're almost certain to have images of seafood. In a land where traditional dishes such as fish curry made in coconut milk or the kadle manoli gukkha (a dry dish made of channa, gherkins, and coconut) have ruled the roost for years, the Tibet Kitchen with its authentic Tibetan and Chinese cuisines does stand out.
You are greeted by soft and soothing Tibetan hymns in this rather modest Tibetan Kitchen at Kankanady. Thokmay, who runs the restaurant, is politeness and charm personified. One look at the menu and the prices quoted, and you realise that this is a classic case of paisa vasool. That, in a nutshell, describes Tibet Kitchen.
The Tibetan momos are the most sought after here, says Thokmay. You have a choice in steamed, pan-fried or boiled momos and they all come in either chicken or beef varieties. Veggies can check out the flat noodles with mushroom and spring onion.
Tibet Kitchen is refreshing after trying the usual "Indian-Chinese" dishes one gets to eat in most Chinese restaurants. The green chillies used in these dishes is totally different from the standard red chilli powder that most of us are used to, be it in North or South Indian dishes.
Tibet Kitchen came into being about five months ago, when Thokmay, a soldier with the Indian Army, came to Mangalore looking to start an enterprise. His cousin Lopsang, a cook at another restaurant, suggested starting a Tibetan eat-out. The idea struck as promising to Thokmay considering there was no other eatery in town that served Tibetan food. Lopsang is now the Chief Chef at Tibet Kitchen. "A typical day for us starts at 4 a.m. when we start making the noodles the flat noodles, and the usual ones, at home itself. We want even the raw material to be as Tibetan as possible," says Thokmay.
That's quite a task as most raw ingredients are hard to find here. Take the case of the special tealeaves that they use for their Tibetan salt butter tea. "The tealeaves that we normally use for this preparation is not found in Mangalore so we use the normal tealeaves. We try to get the taste as close to as our authentic salt butter tea as possible," says Thokmay.
Popular with students
The place is yet to be discovered by the average Mangalorean. Tibetan students are the most frequent visitors here, especially on weekends. Saturdays and Sundays are also reserved to savour tingmo, a steamed bread dish made of maida, milk and baking powder simply because of the amount of time that is needed to cook it. "We make around 50-odd pieces of tingmos on the weekends and all of them are sold out," says Thokmay.
A spicy side dish made of rock mushrooms, potatoes and vegetarian noodles is a great combination with tingmos and never fails to tingle the taste buds, promises Thokmay.
As he happily digs into his pan-fried chicken momos, I interrupt a fellow diner, Deepak, and ask him what he loves best about Tibet Kitchen. Amidst mouthfuls, he is all praise for the "excellent food" and great variety. "I love the food here, it tastes different. I drop in here so very often."
So, if you are on the lookout to dig into something different, and a place that will be easy on your pockets, welcome to the kitchen from the `roof of the world,' Tibet.
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