I have never been to Tibet, nor do I really know anything about Tibetan culture, aside from the quintessentials: Sherpas, the Dalai Lama, Free Tibet.
Tibetan Kitchen in Chorlton is a small joint set-up by owners Sonny and Jane that opened its restaurant doors back in 2014, having spent nearly 8 years as a small “yak van” touring markets and festivals selling Momo, a traditional Tibetan steamed dumpling, to the hungry populace. They found that little was known about the Tibetan dish and so on they went shouting, “Momo!” and warming the insides of famished wanderers—I know because I had heard the distant call each year at End of The Road, and each year I listened for it once more.
The inside of the restaurant is small, unpretentious and errs on the fast food side to dining, with a hotplate of pre-cooked curries and a couple of big rice cookers slightly further back. Everything in Tibetan Kitchen is reasonably priced, to the point where you wonder whether they actually make any money, or if it’s just an exercise in kindness—having been given “free Momo for you!” almost every time I ordered at the festival by a smiling Sonny, it really wouldn’t be out of the realms of possibility.
I ordered a selection of vegetarian curries (£6.50 for three) along with white rice: Ngo Khatsa (spinach and chickpea), butternut squash and paneer, and a dahl, before adding on three vegetable Momo for good measure. My dining companions ordered a similar selection, swapping the paneer dish for Phing Sha, a Tibetan Beef and Potato Stew. Although you order at the hotplate, they bring the food over to you in two sittings: Momo first, followed by the curries. We made our way a seating area consisting of just three small tables and a few benches arranged so that you face other diners.
We had some complimentary Chai tea while we waited, whetting our appetites before the Momo arrived with Sonny’s “addictive” chilli sauce. This was a sauce well known to me, having sought it out to warm up on cold Dorset evenings. Aside from working as a protective barrier against any pretentiousness that may be floating in the ether, the chilli sauce is partially crunchy, almost like a thick oil that is an oh so wonderful companion to the soft chewy outer flesh of a Momo, and a compliment to the flavour of either the vegetables or beef inside.
Soon after we were served our curries: they were big portions served on a single white plate, very simple, very homely. The spinach and chickpea curry was cosy and full of flavour with a lovely texture due to the chickpeas adding a satisfying soft crunch. The dahl and the butternut squash curries were also tasty, and added variety to a plate that might have been slightly plain had I just got a single curry portion, and my dining companions admitted to preferring the vegetable dishes to their meat ones—a success for the fight against global warming, hurrah!
We left happy and full, and with some change jangling round in our pockets. Tibetan Kitchen, I thank you.