Eat This Now

Nepali Kitchen Offers Rainy Day Respite with Momo and Chai

Enjoy dumplings, parathas, appetizer platters, and chai in your own private hut in the front yard of a house on NE Fremont.

By Katherine Chew Hamilton November 16, 2021

Private outdoor dining huts at Nepali Kitchen

Eating in restaurants is great and all, but believe me: if you get an invite to eat homemade momo in someone’s yard, clear your schedule at once. You won't regret it. Fine, Nepali Kitchen & Chai Garden (3434 NE 49th Ave) is technically a restaurant, but the experience is all warm and homey at this family run Northeast gem. Guests dine in colorful, cozy private huts built in the front yard of a house, sparking so much intrigue in the neighborhood when the restaurant first opened that it became a featured post on Nextdoor (maybe the one and only time the site has been useful to me). You’re served by a mother, father, and son team serving chai and momo they make themselves. The flavor is everything you'd expect from a top restaurant, but the portions are ones you’d feed to a hungry teenager, and it's so clear the food is made with care and personal attention.

Nepali Kitchen opened in November 2020 after nine years of operating under the same name in Lincoln City, where according to son Pranaya Dangol, they were the only Nepali restaurant in the area. “It was only us,” he says. “I think we were probably the only [Nepali] family there as well.” The family closed the restaurant and moved to Portland in 2019 so Pranaya could attend college here. At first, the plan was to convert the house into a standard indoor restaurant—but when the pandemic hit, Pranaya and his father Sarbajya Dangol decided to build private outdoor huts instead. It took them three months from start to finish to create the bright wooden structuers, but each hut has its own personality—some with decorative pillows and benches and others with bar chairs and tables, complete with art on the walls.

From top to bottom: the Nepali Kitchen platter, veggie momo, paratha, and chicken momo

Momo, of course, are a must-order. They’re a family effort—all three, including mother Sunita Shrestha, gather together three days a week, spending hours at a time making the filling and stuffing and folding the dumplings. The chicken momo are plump little spheres filled with a gingery, cabbage-laden filling—kind of like chicken soup in delicious dumpling form. The football-shaped veggie momo should appeal to vegetarians and omnivores alike, stuffed with a hearty blend of mushrooms and cabbage and onions. Unlike most momo I’ve found, which are steamed, these are delicately pan-fried, with a slightly crisp, pleasantly chewy underside that adds textural interest. Dip them in the two included sauces, a tomato chutney or a bright green spicy cilantro sauce. 

The surprise hit is the paratha stuffed with a blend of spinach, potato, and cheese. On my recent visit, the pan-fried flatbread was astonishingly thin and crisp, crackling gently before yielding to the tender potato inside. One order comes with a seemingly endless stack of paratha wedges, ready to be dipped into rich, cooling sour cream. 

The Nepali Kitchen platter

But the hands down most interesting dish is the Nepali Kitchen special, ideal for sharing among friends. It’s an appetizer platter typical of the Newar people of Nepal, explains Pranaya, often eaten for festivals. The bara is a pan-fried, ginger-filled lentil pancake cut into wedges, which my dining companion likened to falafel in texture and flavor. Peanuts, tomatoes, and onions are blended together for the badam sadeko—I could not stop reaching for this. The choyala is spiced, shredded meat (typically buffalo, but in this case pork), and the whole plate is rounded out with some crunchy raw veggies and two kinds of potatoes: a refreshing cold, cucumbery potato salad, and crispy pan-fried potato chunks.

Face it, you’ll definitely want a cup of chai to sip along with everything, served piping hot in a giant cup that rivals a Starbucks venti in size (and certainly smashes the competition in flavor). Made with your choice of regular milk or soy, it’s lightly sweet, fragrant, and perfect for warming your hands as you fill your belly amid the crisp fall air.

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