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June 27, 2010

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Spice fans get a hit of Nepal cuisine

QUICK to cook, good to eat, rich in flavor with wide use of spices and flavor such as ginger, garlic, coriander, pepper, cumin, mustard oil and many others, Nepalese food is famous for its tempting, varied tastes and high nutrition levels.

And those who have a spicy bent now don't have to travel to the exotic country to try the cuisine. The Nepal Pavilion in the Expo Park's Zone A offers some of the country's most famous and authentic dishes.

Its set meal priced at 40 yuan (US$5.90), on the cheap side among other foods at the Expo, is the most popular.

It includes four dishes -- steamed rice with dried grapes, fried chicken, green salad called Aachar and a serving of vegetable curry.

"It is quite a big hit among our visitors," said Bishan Shah, the pavilion's F&B Manager. "It sells almost 500 sets everyday, and on weekends it soars to 800 daily."

All the spices and curry used in the pavilion are air-lifted from Nepal to the Expo, with high quality and freshness guaranteed. "Each dish uses more than 15 traditional Nepalese spices," said Shah.

"We make it a little less spicy than in Nepal to cater for Chinese diners, but it turns out that Chinese are really big spice fans. They love it hot."

Each morning at six o'clock, the five Nepalese chefs start to prepare food. It usually takes about four hours to marinate.

Nepal is famed for its abundant spices and herbs. "We put various spices into our food to add different layers of flavors. And many spices are good for the health," said chef Sudip Marahatta.

"They are good for the human digestive system, help control blood pressure and contain low levels of calories and fat."

Quite a number of herbs and spices have proven medical benefits, such as green cardamom broadly used to treat infections in teeth and gums, turmeric considered a cleansing herb to kill bacteria, and red pepper which helps increase metabolism and fat-burning by up to 25 percent.

The green salad in the set meal features a unique Nepalese dressing, called Aachar, which is made of lemon juice, sesame, sun flower oil, chopped cucumber, tomato and mashed potato to form a paste.

The menu is updated every week and food is guaranteed fresh. "As a matter of fact, there's nothing left after one day of crowds," Shah said.

Varied snacks are available at the pavilion for those who just want to have a small bite of the country's food culture.

Momo, the small, white-flour pastry-like Chinese dumpling, is probably the most popular snack in Nepal. Hop into any Nepalese restaurant and you will always find momo on the menu.

The cutie dumpling is usually stuffed with buffalo meat in Nepal, but the chef has changed the fillings to pork meat in Shanghai.

"We don't have enough buffalo meat here and Chinese might like pork better," the chef said. As for the price, it is 10 yuan for four momos.

Other snacks include fried chicken leg (10 yuan each) and chicken breast (10 yuan for four pieces).

As it is getting hotter and the Shanghai summer is unbearably sultry, a cup of refreshing Masala Lasssi (10 yuan), a traditional Nepalese drink, can cool you down.

It is usually made of plain yogurt, with a little bit of honey added to make it slightly sweet, and green cardamom powder to provide flavor. In Nepal, fruits such as banana and strawberry are also used for thickening and additional flavor.

"It's a perfect drink in summer. Guests can sit around in our bar, sip the Masala Lassi, cool themselves and enjoy the decor of our pavilion," Shah said.

For those who love to drink tea, a Nepalese brew is not to be missed. Flown in specially from tea gardens in Nepal, its rich color and aroma is surprisingly tasty.


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