Attending a cooking class and learning how to make some of the local dishes is one of the things I love to do while travelling in new countries. No surprises then, that one of the first things I did when researching “Things to do in Kathmandu” was to seek out such an opportunity.
I decided upon the 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School as it also has a social conscience. It’s origins lie in empowering women in Nepal (both of our teachers had come from difficult backgrounds) and also supports a child sponsorship program. Add in an the opportunity to cook a wide range of traditional Nepali dishes and I really couldn’t go past it.
The kitchen itself is located outside of the main tourist area of Thamel, but Sushila and Sabita (our incredibly enthusiastic teachers) met myself and 2 other ladies near our hotel for the 10 minute taxi ride to where we would be cooking. A welcome surprise was that this turned out to be in an absolutely beautiful setting with a stunning garden.
We were joined there by 2 more women and collectively had to choose one of the 3 menus available. Sabita explained all the dishes to us (the pictures also helped) and we eventually decided upon Menu 1: Chatamari (Nepalese pizza), Daal Bhat (the unofficial national dish of Nepal), and chocolate momos.
Shopping for Ingredients
Menu decided, our first task was to go buy the ingredients at the local store just around the corner. Sushila gave us a pop-quiz on the different vegetables and fruits on offer and explained how they were used in Nepali cooking as we loaded up our baskets with the fresh produce we would need for our 3-course meal.
We then headed across the road to purchase a chicken for those of us making a chicken curry for our Daal Bhat. It was fascinating to see the old-style scale and watch the lady burn off the remains of the feathers using a blow torch!
Back in the kitchen, we donned our aprons
and watched the process Sabita used to make some of the best Masala tea I’d had in Nepal. Apparently one of the secrets is to not be frightened to boil the milk until it changes to a deep caramel colour!
After we had enjoyed our tea in the garden, we returned to the kitchen to start on our starter – Chatamari, otherwise known as Nepali pizza. There are many differences between this pizza and the one you are thinking of in your head. For a start – the base is more like a thin crepe made from rice flour
and the spices used (eg cumin, coriander, turmeric) are completely different!
The outcome is interesting and very tasty – best enjoyed, you guessed it, out in the garden 🙂
Hunger pangs appeased (I didn’t have breakfast in anticipation of the cooking school), it was back to the kitchen to begin work on our Daal Bhat. This is an incredibly common dish in Nepal consisting of rice, lentil soup and often a vegetable curry, and is eaten once or twice a day by most Nepalis.
Here we had several processes going on at once.
We all had a go at crushing garlic and ginger with a mortar and pestle (no garlic crushers or pre-crushed garlic/ginger here!) It was surprisingly difficult to keep the garlic in particular from flying off in every direction!
I had my first experience at using a pressure cooker to make the daal (lentil soup).
We used all sorts of spices to create a fabulously tasty chicken curry.
Kept the flavouring very simple for the spinach accompaniment.
And were back on the mortar and pestle to crush the chilli for the salsa.
Believe it or not, during all of this – there was even time for a bit of singing and dancing!!
The end result was fabulously tasty, and once again we enjoyed eating it out in the sunny garden setting.
Already full, but there is always room for dessert! Especially when it involves chocolate!
Chocolate Momos are essentially steamed chocolate dumplings. We had already made the dough while making the Daal Bhat and left it to rest, so now it was time to roll it out
fill it with chocolate chips and butter (I always found it hard to judge just how much),
and close our dumpling with one of the many patterns Nepali women use to create these delights.
Sushila actually demonstrated 3 different patterns, and you can see our mixed successes in the steaming pan below 🙂
The outcome was served in a biodegradable bowl made from dried leaves, and was, as you can expect, absolutely delicious – despite the slightly dodgy-looking shapes 😛
The 2Sisters Nepal Cooking School is a fantastic experience and a lot of fun. Sushila and Sabita have an inexhaustible energy and a fascinating story and are a real joy to spend time with.
The food is delicious and, at the end of the class, the school emails participants a recipe book for all the dishes they cook in the school, not just the 3 cooked on the day. The great thing is that the ingredients are relatively easy to find no matter what country you are in – so it is possible to go home and reproduce great Nepali food.
And of course, the added bonus is that by choosing this school you are supporting the empowerment of women in Nepal and can also contribute to child sponsorship.
Time: ~3.5 hours