Binod Baral is a humble man with vision and passion to operate his ideas in the international food industry. He went to London at the age of 20 and joined Okra Fine Dining Indian Restaurant in Primrose Hill with a team from the Tamarind in Mayfair. Later on, while his team members went and joined Benares, Baral joined Delhi Deli as a head chef, with a vision to develop a new brand of takeaway Indian outlets. Later, after visiting 76 different countries and serving food to 68 different airlines, he wanted to open his own Nepali restaurant. He says, “I used to serve Thai food and tell the people that the food is Thai, but I am Nepali, so they encouraged me to make my own authentic food.”
Baral explained how, in the context of Nepal, people usually go to the spiritual (dharma-karma) path after their 50s, but he wanted to start his own restaurant serving authentic Nepali food with the local taste of Nepal. “I wanted to go back to my roots,” he discloses. Explaining how, in a foreign land, you could rarely find a place that served real Nepali food, he says, “Here, in London, there are no authentic Nepali food restaurants, people incorporate the Indian taste like tandoor in the kitchen, and tikka masala and korma on the menu, but I wanted to open a place which is all about the homely local taste of Nepal.”
Baral’s restaurant, Momo & Roti, is located in Kingsley Rd, Hounslow, U.K. It serves local Nepali food, with hand-ground spices, Nepali ingredients, and the typical Nepali hospitality. Baral has tried to maintain the authenticity of Nepal in a foreign land and the menu of Momo & Roti really reflects the taste of Nepal popularly preferred by the Nepalis. His restaurant has a majority of foreigners as its clientele, and Baral, too, mainly targets foreigners. He says, “My main purpose is to introduce the local Nepali taste to the foreigners here. We teach them the Nepali way to eat momo. They try to break it into half and eat it, but we tell them to put the whole thing in their mouth (laughs). Momo is a popular food around the world; they are called dim sum or dumplings, but in my place, we make the local Nepali momo with all the local spices. So, there is like 70% foreigners and 30% Nepalis coming in, and even when we market ourselves, we try and reach mainly to the foreigners.”
Baral explains how, not only foreigners, but also the second generation Nepalis, needs to know about real Nepali food, and says, “My children usually have Western food like fish and chips and spaghetti, but I encourage them to taste our Nepali cuisine.” Incorporating the local Nepali taste, Baral’s Momo & Roti is a smoothly running business. However, his journey of setting up this restaurant was not so easy. He explained how people focused on the risky aspects of opening a Nepali restaurant. Remembering his early days, he says, “My colleagues and my wife used to tell me about how the rent was too high, and also suggested me to put in Indian dishes in my menu to attract more people, but I was very clear about what I wanted and how I wanted my restaurant to be.” Fast forward a few years, and today Baral’s restaurant is doing very well, and he is very confident about it, as he is getting the deserved appreciation and recognition from people.
Fighting through all the confusions and hurdles, and with confidence and a clear vision, he moved forward with his ideas. He emphasizes, “I knew what I was doing”, and he really did know. For the future days, he wants to further expand his Momo & Roti restaurant, and with proper planning and suggestions from his mentors, he is gathering a team and inspecting two different sites for the restaurant.
He also plans on opening Asian culinary academy and providing vocational training to people, based on his experience of running one of the biggest outside Indian food chains with 21 branches in London as Group Executive Head Chef for the company called ‘The Bombay Bicycle Club’, a part of Clapham House Group PLC. He currently owns another restaurant called Zumbura, and with Momo & Roti, he is taking the local Nepali taste to the international food market with confidence and pride.
From Friday Weekly
Cuisine and Culture (ENCC) – Nepal Heritage Cuisine: