A long time ago in my college years I visited Taste of Tibet, which was being touted as the go-to momo place at the time. I wondered at the college-friendly prices – Rs 35 for a plate of momos, and went out for ‘dessert’ after – softies on Brigade road. ‘Free Tibet’ (I thought I spotted a poster) seemed like a distant enough cause to support without any real awareness or emotional engagement.
Since then, I’ve eaten momos in Sikkim, staying at, among other places; Hotel Tibet (definitely saw a poster there). Momos in Nepal, on the street, where we tried to discover how to go to Tibet without taking a guided tour (you can’t). Nepali friends spoke about how Tibetans sometimes passed through, and were sometimes chased, on their way to India.
I’ve eaten momos in Mcleodganj in Dharamshala, where, outside of the deep enclosed silences of the monastery, you can hear the most terrifying escape stories from almost every restaurant/café owner in the town. We imagine ourselves intrepid travellers right until we hear about that great climb across the Himalayas.
In Bangalore, you get momos on most streets these days. Tiny stalls have popped up in Indiranagar, Koramangala and Kamanahalli. Always accompanied by red chilli sauce, your choice is between vegetarian and chicken.
In Sikkim, it’s beef, pork, chicken, trailing down to vegetarian, which is the last resort at a lonely stall on a chilly mountainside.
Back in Taste of Tibet after a long time, I’ve lost that fascination with vicariously supporting a cause, though that long-term hankering to see the place remains. Instead, I take in that complex register of past and present, memory and fantasy. The momos are still something to write home about, and don’t have that slightly fermented smell you get in the stalls. The clientele is still primarily students, apart from an occasional group of monks. There is a large picture of Lhasa city on the wall. There is a photo of the Dalai Lama behind the counter, where a sleepy girl struggles to register your order.
The menu has expanded to include Szechuan, fried rice, Manchurian, which we ignore. Irony in the form of market expansion.
Shabalay, a fried flat something-like-a-samosa, comes in beef or chicken. It always arrives hot as hell, crunchy outside, juicy inside. Note these new words: Phing with Tingmo, Shaptra with Tingmo. Phing is the kind of soup that warms, fills and satisfies the hungry. Tingmo is a soft bread that soaks up gravies with ease.
And the prices? They’ve risen only in accordance with inflation, not with pretension. You can still get a full meal on a student budget or on a broke adult’s wallet. You also get the merest hint, the smallest whiff, of long journeys, resilience, a forgotten underground, ghosts of graffiti still peppering its walls.
How to Get There:
Contact: 080 41478237 / +91 9880027746
Price: ₹250 for two people
Timings: All days 11 am to 9:30 pm