The term 'Himalayan cuisine" is awfully broad. It's used in reference to type of food made by the countries hugging the 1,500 mile-long mountain range. That includes Tibet, Nepal, and the northern edge of India.
Even so, the cuisine is hard to come by in the Southland. There are only a small handful of Himalayan cafes -- most of them owned by Nepalese immigrants.
Defining characteristics: an abundant use of yak, barley, mutton, and spices. While yak may be unconventional, it's more sustainable than cows: The animals require less food than cattle and the taste isn't too far off from beef.
Overall, the food is extremely hearty. The Himalayas, after all, iare a mountain range with extreme winters and mild summers. The people need the extra meat and potatoes.
Tara's Himalayan Cuisine
Tara's is a Himalayan dumpling specialist. The dumplings are called momos, and have a stickier and drier consistency than their Chinese counterparts. Shaped like crescent moons, they can be filled with yak or chicken or vegetables. The highlight is the tomato achaar dipping sauce, a pleasant combination of ripe tomatoes, red chilies, mustard seeds, and fresh ginger. Tara's sources their spices from Nepal and the yak is born and raised in Colorado.10855 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034; (310) 836-9696.
Tibet Nepal House
The yak chili is the star dish at Tibet Nepal House, which has been a Pasadena tenant since 2001. It's a funky stir-fry of yak meat, green chili, bell pepper, onions, and tomato -- intensified with a layer of spices. While great by itself, it's even better over long-grain steamed rice. Yak is all over the menu. It's in the momos, stews, and meatballs. Try to get here at lunch. They have a buffet on weekdays until 3 p.m. 36 E Holly St, Pasadena, CA 91103; (626) 585-0955.
If anything, Himalayan Cafe skews more Indian, but it's a great entry point for people who don't want to dive head-on into traditional Himalayan food. Start with the momo as an appetizer and then finish the evening off with kheer, a Nepali-style rice pudding seasoned with cardamom and nuts. 36 S Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105; (626) 564-1560.