new Things I Ate in Cambodia: Blind Date: Tibetan Food Proves Surprisingly Good

Friday, August 26, 2011

Blind Date: Tibetan Food Proves Surprisingly Good

Blind Date Restaurant
Fancy Market (Top floor - watch for the sign from the street.)
12, NB Singh Road
+91 35 4225 5404
Darjeeling, India

Blind Date is a small, somewhat creatively decorated restaurant in Darjeeling that specializes in Himalayan food - the common cuisine ground in between Nepal, Tibet, Sikkim and Bhutan. The constants? Momos (dumplings), Thukpa (noodle soup), fried bread and fried rice, and more dairy products then are usually encountered in East Asian influenced cuisines. Most importantly: Blind Date is both dirt cheap and delicious. For your buck, it's just about the best eating experience in Darjeeling. Don't miss it.

Just be sure to use the bathroom first, since, like every restaurant in Darjeeling (just about) there's nowhere to go in the restaurant. Not a problem for men, who may exert the Indian males God-given right to piss on anything wherever he pleases at any time, but ladies may want to hold back on the beer. Watch this space for an upcoming screed about Darjeeling's discriminatory bathroom facilities, but, writing about food right now.

I believe this was Chhurpi, the Himalayas' somewhat weird but delicious variant on the West's hallowed cheese soup. (The fact I am unsure irritates me - I lost my notes somewhere, and Google is proving unhelpful). We ordered it with pork, which was the way to go. Although it's made with Himalaya-style fermented cheese - pretty much cottage cheese with a weird name, don't need to delve into it further, do we? - the taste is somewhat equivalent to cheddar. However this stuff is made, it's ideal for a foggy day at high altitude.

Ting-mo, or Tibetan bread rolls, are often served steamed (like the Chinese do) and are a rather inoffensive and basic carbohydrate. Good at high altitude to keep you hiking but not something I'd pick out of a police lineup for supper. Thankfully, deep frying turns the stuff into golden-crispy Grade-A deliciousness. Get two orders.

I don't have a picture of Blind Date's variant on the theme, but momos are just what people in the Himalayas - and at various restaurants in India - call God's Chosen Food, the dumpling. The main way you can tell them apart from East Asian variants on the classic is the shape - momos tend to be rounder. Other then that, they're filled with various kinds of things and served in a dizzying number of ways. I happen to like the variety that are pan-fried and served with a thick chili sauce the best, but I'll eat and adore pretty much anything pan fried and served in a thick chili sauce. You can never go wrong with momos in this part of the world, and thankfully, you'll never be forced to live without em'.

I should add that Blind Date has some of the best chili chicken on the subcontinent. Chili chicken is a much beloved Chindian dish (You know, the bastard love child of Chinese and Indian food) and is sort of like a spicier, harsher, variant on General Tso's chicken. This being India, the chicken is usually served bone-in and stir-fried with a not-fucking-around chili sauce, some whole chilis, and some vegetables. My friend Kiran and I are nuts for it, and this was great.

Fried rice is what Asia runs on. The world will probably run on fried rice in a hundred years. I'm cool with this. Blind Date, true to form, has excellent fried rice. They keep it in the pan long enough to get a little nutty crisp on it, which is essential, and there's plenty of stuff in it, which is also essential.

Gobi Manchurian, another beloved deep-fried and spicy Chindian dish. It's deep-fried cauliflower in a sweet and spicy sauce. Just about ubiquitous and pretty good if you, like most people, prefer your vegetable products crispy and delicious.

I've got a thing for fried greens, which most people think is kind of weird. Whatever. These were really good, and a nice mix of various local-greens varieties - not over or undercooked, nice and fresh, a simple and slightly spicy Chinese-style sauce with some vinegar.

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