Friday, January 06, 2012


There is a cute little store in our tiny 'Burgh that sells Tibetan accessories, and last spring, I heard that they had opened a restaurant next to the gift shop. I don't know what took me so long to get down there to eat, but now that I have, I'm kicking myself for not going sooner and frequently! Longtime readers of this blog know that I rarely have anything complimentary to report about the food in this town--to say that there is a dearth of good eats in this area is quite the understatement. But Himalaya Restaurant is a jewel hidden in plain sight...right in downtown Plattsburgh!

The decor is colorful and enchanting, and the ambiance is serene. But it's all about the FOOD! It's actually three restaurants in one, featuring Tibetan, Bhutamese, and Nepali cuisines. They make everything from scratch, and you can really taste it! I had lunch there with three friends the other day, and everything we had was simply SCRUMPTIOUS!

This is what my friend, June, and I both had for lunch, a soup eaten before the Tibetan New Year/Losar celebration called Bhanktuk or Guthuk. It has little handmade dumplings not unlike German spaetzle or Italian gnocchi.

This is called Emma Dasi or Ema Datsi (Bhutanese): Sauteed peppers garnished with tomatoes, onions and fresh cheese. It tasted somewhere between a mild curry and the best cream of tomato soup you've ever had!

These are Momo (Tibetan dumplings--coarsely chopped meat, onions, and cilantro encased in flour dough and steamed) served with a spicy cabbage salad.

I think this is called Shapta (Tibetan): Sliced pieces of meat (chicken pictured here) sauteed with green peppers, onions, tomato, ginger and garlic, served with Drobuk, which is bread made from a steamed flour dough.

I loved everything I tasted, but I especially enjoyed the Ema Datsi. I was thinking about ordering that the next time I went to Himalaya (perhaps as soon as this weekend when my roommate can go with me!).  But the problem is, I don't really care for green peppers, and the dish was replete with them. Moreover, in my reading about this national dish of Bhutan, I learned that it is usually made with hot peppers and is quite fiery in nature, though the one served at the restaurant was very mild (a nod to our wimpy North Country palate, no doubt). So I started to conceive a vision of how I might make my own version at home using various chilies, such as Cubanelle (1), long hot (3), Fresno (4), and jalapeno (1).

I think I came up with something that is very delicious, but also about blew my head off! So the recipe admittedly needs tweaking. It needs a better balance of sweet to hot peppers (I used all hot peppers this time), and it also need something more...tomatoey. Himalaya's Ema Datsi is redder in color and has a more pronounced tomato flavor. Perhaps a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste? I'll play around with it in future iterations. Meanwhile, this is damn good stuff, and if you don't have access to Bhutanese cuisine in your town, then you should try making some yourself.

Edit: Before I put away the leftovers, I reheated the curry and added a tablespoon of double-concentrated tomato paste and some more chicken stock to thin it to a desirable consistency. That was what it needed! So next time, I think I'll add a small can of tomato paste and up to one additional cup of chicken (or vegetable) stock.

Ema Datsi (Bhutanese Curry with Chilies and Cheese)
(Source: adapted from a recipe on

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 cups (1/2 to 3/4 lb.) peppers, seeded and chopped (I suggest half sweet, half hot)
1 large onion, cut in half and sliced thinly
2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable)
1 1/2 cups tomatoes, coarsely chopped (I used about 10 Campari tomatoes)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
1/2 pound Haloumi cheese*, cut into small cubes
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream or yogurt, optional
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and saute the peppers and onions for about five minutes or until they just start to color. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat slightly, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and garlic and bring back to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes are melting into the liquid and the garlic has softened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a nonstick skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil and fry the cubes of cheese until golden brown on both sides. Turn off the heat, and set aside. When the curry is done simmering, stir in the cheese cubes, the cream or yogurt, and the cilantro leaves. Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for another 10 minutes.

Serve with Bhutanese red rice (if you can find it) or brown basmati is also delicious with this spicy curry.

*The traditional cheese used in this dish is called churpi, and it is made from yak's milk and then dried until hard. It's very long-lasting, and its main quality is that it is non-melting. Since churpi is apparently an acquired taste (and not available outside of Bhutan, methinks), the recipe for ema datsi requires a domestic substitution.

You could try a dry farmer's cheese or a feta--or even make your own paneer. But I like haloumi, famous for its ability to be grilled without melting. Instead of stewing the cheese, I decided to fry the chunks, and then add them to the curry at the end. The browning gave them a savory/meaty/umami flavor that was delicious in this dish. I highly recommend Haloumi as your substitute cheese.


The Cookbook Junkie said...

I'm not sure how excited I would have been if someone said we were going to a Tibetan, Bhutamese, and Nepali restaurant but everything you pictured looks like something I would love.

I knew this was leading to one of your successful recipe reproductions! You know, I have never tried haloumi cheese. I've known about it for years but I've yet to come across it in the wild. I'll have to search it out. I'm sure Wegman's carries it.

Joy Bugaloo said...

Ahh...Wegman's. I'm so jealous that you live near one!