What usually comes to mind when you think of Indian food?
Curry. Rice. Some sort of flat bread. lassi, maybe?
Actually, by now many people know that there is much more to Indian food than the neon colored butter chicken and rubbery naan at the local curry dive. But I still get bewildered by the diversity of cuisines in the country.
Darjeeling’s cuisine has been heavily influenced by two factors: the British, who charged into the foothills of the Himalayas and established the plantations that now grow the champagne of tea, and the Nepali workers who were shipped in to actually do the work required to clear the land, plant the tea bushes, and tend to the tea and who do the task to this day.
Of the two culinary influences, the Nepali wins the award for my favorite in Kurseong hands down. Every time I knew I’d go up, a special corner of my brain would light up at the thought of momos at the Kurseong Tourist Lodge. If you’re a dumpling lover, momos are right up your alley. They’re Nepali dumplings, served steamed or steamed and then shallow fried, always with fiery hot tomato-chili-garlic chutney. I usually went for the cabbage and onion filled ones but apparently the best ones have pork fillings.
Somehow most flights I took into Bagdogra airport landed at around midday or just after. The drive up to Kurseong took another couple of hours, so it would be tea time by the time we reached. We’d settle in to wherever we were staying and then head over to the Kurseong Tourist Lodge’s restaurant for our first dose of momos with a few cups of fresh Darjeeling tea. The slight nip in the air, the view of the valley from the wood paneled dining room, boarding school students enjoying weekend ice cream treats with their visiting parents and steaming hot momos…With a smile my heart would think ‘back in Darj…’
People up in Darjeeling naturally have opinions about who has the best momos, so once you’re up there, if you like momos, go ahead and ask the locals where else to get them. Who knows, you may have your own momo-esque culinary adventure.
If you’re staying in Kurseong, the Kurseong Tourist Lodge is very easy to find-ask anyone. In fact, I’ve stayed there and it’s a good deal, but I do prefer the other choices in Kurseong (Makaibari Home Stay or Cochrane Place).