The recently opened Himalayan Kitchen (431 State St.; (805) 882-1000) is a family affair, run by the husband-and-wife team of Diki and Karma Bhote. Hailing from Chyamtang, a small village in northeast Nepal, Karma immigrated to the U.S. in 2006 to work alongside his childhood friend Chef Karma Tenzing Bhotia of Pasadena’s Tibet Nepal House. They bonded over passion for their ethnic cuisine but even more over their desire to spread Nepalese culture in America.
Recently, they expanded their reach, Bhotia opening a Himalayan Kitchen in Durango, Colorado, and the Bhotes focusing on their new spot on State Street. “The people of Santa Barbara have really embraced our culture and our food,” said Karma. “It’s a great feeling to have community support.”
Comprising traditional dishes from Nepal, India, and Tibet, Himalayan food fuses culture, flavor, and health, avoiding MSG, trans fat, and most gluten. The restaurant’s vegetarian selection includes the Vegetable Sekuwa (veggie skewers marinated in yogurt sauce) and the vegan Kumari Tarkaari, seasonal vegetables pan-fried with onion, tomato, dry chili, and the 12-seed mixture bara masala.
Spices are integral, from black-and-white cardamom to star anise and saffron, many shipped straight from Nepal. Showcasing the region’s unique flavors is the dish Tse Phing, pan-fried mung bean noodless sautéed with mushroom, cabbage, carrot, celery, onion, ginger, garlic, cilantro, star anise, spring onion, zimboo (a wild garlic), and timboor, a special black pepper from Nepal.
Meat lovers must try the yak. The animals graze on the Himalayas’ many medicinal plants, making the meat lean and light, as well as low in fat and cholesterol. Karma recommends the Yaksha Mo-Mo: Tibetan steamed dumplings, stuffed with ground yak and seasoned with onion, garlic, ginger, cilantro, and secret spices, served with momo achar, a common Nepalese dipping sauce.
“Everybody has loved the food so far; the feedback has been wonderful,” said Karma. “Nobody knows tomorrow, but we need to keep the hope that we can introduce our culture to others and keep people smiling.”