Malpuwas in Nepal
“There’s this breakfast place in Patan. It has no name. A local place. Do you want to go tomorrow morning?”
I’m not an early riser. But a local eatery with no name? Those are my favorite places of all. They are hard to find because they seem so ubiquitous to locals that most people don’t even think to tell you they exist. Prajjwal lives in the area and guides me and Sajana. We follow him down alleys, then into a tiny square courtyard. No sign, a few plastic chairs outside. It doesn’t look like much.
Inside the dim interior are huge woks filled with oil, from which emerge the items that are the main breakfast draw here. As a table empties we claim it.
On the old plastic table, among the names that have been scratched on it, is the phrase Fuck Earthquake. It’s not yet a year, after all, since the devastation of April 25th.
The food arrives in threes. Three small, steel bowls with a soupy curry of some sort. A plate with three alu chops on it, and three malpuwas, both of which are the reason for this place’s fame. It’s what everyone is eating. This is not beautiful food, but oh, how good. The alu chop—thick slices of boiled potato covered in a spiced batter and fried—is good, but the pea curry is outstanding: rich, tangy and spicy. I inhale my serving and want more. The malpuwa, however, is a revelation. I’m not generally a fan of Nepali sweets—most are too sugary for my liking. However, I’ve never had one like this before, hot and fresh. It’s something between a donut and a pancake: light, crunchy, and delicious. Tea arrives and we have another malpuwa because they’re just so damn good. I can tell that Prajjwal is pleased that Sajana and I like them.
The eating part is over quickly. This is not fancy food to linger over, and besides, someone else could probably use the seats. Tables of students are making way for laborers and young women dressed for the office. Before we leave I ask owner Ramesh Rajkarnikar how long they’ve been open. “Since my grandfather’s time,” he says, which conveys more than a date could about the history of the place. He confirms it has no name, they don’t need it.
Outside, Prajjwal points out a smear, a spray-painted red symbol by the door. “It got a red tag,” he says. “That means it should be demolished and rebuilt because of earthquake damage.” We look around, then at each other again. It looks solid enough, but what do we know? What is obvious is that no one cares and that most likely, this place will remain exactly as is.
We wander back to our scooters, dodging passersby, happy and satisfied.