Despite its proximity to the region, South Asian food is severely underrepresented in Shanghai. In a city full of French, Italian, and Spanish restaurants, you can barely find somewhere serving Indian food – arguably the most popular South Asian cuisine here – let alone Nepalese food. Which is why it’s incredible that Nepali Kitchen has thrived for almost two decades. Opened at the turn of this century, it was, and still is, the only restaurant in town cooking Nepalese dishes, and we talk to owner Kanccha Ghale about why he started his business back then, how he adapted his food to the local palate, and the challenges of running a restaurant today.
尽管南亚在地理上和上海比较近，但南亚食物在上海却得不到重视。上海到处都是法国、意大利和西班牙餐馆，但却很难找到印度餐馆，而印度菜可以说是上海最受欢迎的南亚菜，更不用说尼泊尔菜了。在这种情况下，Nepali Kitchen能够保持兴盛繁荣近二十年之久，实在令人惊叹。Nepali Kitchen于这个世纪初开业，当时是上海唯一一家尼泊尔餐馆，现如今仍然是独此一家。我们有幸采访到了餐馆业主Kanccha Ghale，和他谈谈当初为什么会开一家尼泊尔餐馆，他如何根据本地口味进行调整，以及在如今运营一家餐馆会遇到哪些挑战。
When you opened your restaurant in Shanghai 17 years ago, what was the restaurant scene like back then for Nepali food?
Back in 2001, there was no Nepali food in Shanghai. Very few people knew what Nepali food was all about. When I cooked Nepali food at my place for my friends, they loved it so much that it gave me the idea to open a restaurant. That’s how Nepali Kitchen was born. I identified the best cook in Nepal, asked him to join me here in Shanghai, and from day one we decided excellent service for our customers, unique ambiance, and cozy decoration would be our foundations. We were first located on Xinle Road for four years before moving to a bigger place, a beautiful lane house on Julu Road where we have been for 14 years now.
Have you had to adapt the flavors to the local taste, or do you keep it as close to home as possible?
We try to keep home flavors, to be as close to authentic Nepali food as possible. All our spices come from Nepal and all our cooks are Nepali. Our chef has been working with us for more than 14 years. What we adapt is the level of chili according to our customers’ taste. Our waiters always ask if customers prefer mild, average, or very spicy dishes.
What perceptions did local diners have of Nepali food?
At the very beginning, the Chinese did not like foreign food so much. They were not really curious about it. For years, only 20 percent of our customers were locals. But it has been changing a lot over the last 10 years. Chinese customers are getting really curious about foreign food and they enjoy it a lot! More and more Chinese are also traveling to Nepal and they get to know more about our culture. As a consequence they like to come to our restaurant as a reminder of their trip, or sometimes it give them the idea to arrange a trip to Nepal.
What dishes have proved popular over time? Why do you think people like them?
Some of our most popular are the Cheese Balls. They contain shredded mozzarella, fresh cilantro, potato, and flour mixed with variety of typical Nepalese spices and fried to golden color. The Aloo Kobi Fried is a dish of freshly chopped potatoes and cauliflower stir fried with Nepalese herbs and spices. There’s the Beef Choila – succulent pieces of beef pan grilled then marinated in rich Nepalese spices and fresh coriander. Our Chicken Sticks are wings soaked in a special sauce, fried, and served with three different kinds of homemade sauces. Then there’s our Chicken Chilli, which is fried chicken tenders cooked with fresh bell peppers, tomatoes, and onion. A combination of sweet, sour, and spicy.
How has Shanghai’s restaurant scene changed since you first opened your restaurant? Is it easier or more difficult to run a restaurant here now?
The restaurant scene has changed a lot since 2001. Shanghai is so unique, so fast. There were only few foreign restaurants then compared to now and much less customers. A lot of things were somehow easier at that time. Rent was cheaper, it was easier to recruit staff, but it was harder to find good quality products.
The biggest challenge now is dealing with increasing rent and cost, and regulations changing very often. There are lots of new restaurants opening as well and it’s driving up the cost of rent. Staff salary has also been rising. But we like challenges.
How will Nepali Kitchen continue to evolve?
Our strength has always been to adapt to our customers and our environment, so we will continue doing what have made us successful over the last 17 years. What will never change is the tradition of hospitality at Nepali Kitchen and our dedication to serve our customers.
819 Julu Road / 巨鹿路819号