“Strangely I had to leave home to realize how deeply connected I was to Nepali food. I spent years eating western food, plenty of it too, and always felt disconnected, always looking for a sense of belonging. It was only when I came back to the (Indian) subcontinent, and was surrounded by familiar flavors, did that sense of home creep back in.”

Pratibha and I laugh as we swap terrible “curry” stories. While being a “fan of curry” has its political undertones, there is no denying the comfort that one gets even from a sloppy bowl of suspicious red (or brown) gravy.

Prathibha points to her mid-20s as a time when her relationship with food unfolded. She left home young, always seeking out food that carried traces of home.“I was born and raised in Kathmandu, Nepal. My mum grew up in Calcutta, India, and my father grew up in the northeastern hilly village town of Chainpur, in Nepal. So food at home was influenced by both those places. Growing up, we barely went out, so home-food was all I knew. Rice, dal, lots of palung saag (spinach), tamatar achaar (tomato chutney/pickle), seasonal veggies, and oh we’d have chicken or goat curry twice a week. It was the same thing everyday, and I could eat it for the rest of my life!”

Nepali food, heavily shrouded under the banner of “Indian food” is quite distinct in flavour. “Nepali food is midlly spiced, lots of herbs and fresh vegetables and influences from Tibet and China are fairly evident”, shares Pratibha as she now spends time recreating dishes of her childhood, learning the nuances of Nepali food along the way. Based in Vancouver, Canada , she misses herbs like gundruk and jimmu that are found only in the hilly regions of Nepal but finds her way through recipes by using peppercorns found in Chinese grocery stores. And on some days, she finds some semblance of home in the misplaced gravies of Indian restaurants.

But being nifty is something she unknowingly inherited. When one doesnt find ‘home’, one (re)creates it. “Growing up, every Dashain, I would see my father in the kitchen, mixing and matching ingredients to create these goat kebabs from his childhood. The excitement would be palpable and you’d know the process was as important to him, as the final product. He grew up in the hilly Nepali village of Chainpur, where every Dashain, the village would make goat kebabs to last them the entire ten-day festival. He tries to recreate that dish every year, retracing his steps back to his childhood.”

I ask her if she’s ever asked him for this recipe, if she’s ever felt the urge to make these kebabs. “It worries me a little how a lot of the recipes I’ve been handed are full of “handfuls of this” and “scoops of that”. But I’ve realized cooking is a metaphor for life. You’ve got to figure out the proportions for yourself and have a somewhat guiding frame to get started. You’ve got to leave room for error, and you’ve got to be open to new possibilities..”

 Chainpur Dashain Goat Kebab  ︎ 


Chainpur Dashain
Goat Kebab


Dashain, is Nepal’s most auspicious festival. A version of this festival is celebrated in India as Dussehra. A ten-day festival in Nepal, Dashain brings families together to eat and celebrate. Each year, this goat kebab dish was made by my father’s family in Chainpur. The quantities were always large because it was meant to feed the entire family for all ten days. So the prep always began a couple of days before the festivities. They would use a ton of ghee in the recipe to preserve the meat because there would be no refrigerators back in the day. One needn’t use so much today, or maybe you can?


  • Goat (lots of pieces!)
  • Lots of salt (“huge sprinkle” as my dad would say, but its probably more than that)
  • Ground cumin and coriander powders
  • Ground ginger and garlic
  • Mustard Oil (this is a must and gives it a distinct taste)
  • Herbs – now there is a particular herb that was used, but my dad can’t remember the name. “It was green and pointy”, is all we have for now!
  • Ghee – now this was used in big amounts to preserve the meat, but you can add in moderation for a bit for flavor.


  • Take a huge pot and mix the meat with the marinade. Make sure to mix with your hands, or don’t bother. No spoon will do the trick. Use your fingers to get the marinade in all the crevices of the meat if you want to do this right.
  • Store this for a couple of days (in fridge of course!)
  • Once Dashain arrives, fry it up on a pan in batches, as needed.

People make many things to go with this, but the common way to eat it is with a iskus vegetable curry. Iskus (chayote) is grown and found in abundance in Nepal. We eat it almost every meal, so this stir fry is a fairly predictable accompaniment. Just fry it up with cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, onion, tomatoes, ginger-garlic paste - the usual stuff. This can then be eaten with baji or beaten rice that’s very typical to a Nepali plate.