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Of the Earth: Homegrown, local doesn’t mean predictable

  • Namaste employs a variety of spices in its Indian and Nepalese dishes. Contributed photo/Albert Notarangelo

  • Chef Krishna Paudel and owner Swostik Rana Magar in the new Indian and Napalese restaurant Namaste in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Namaste, an Indian and Nepalese restaurant, located on Main Street in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • BLIXT



For the Recorder
Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Even with a growing number of excellent restaurants in the area, there’s one that uses the freshest, most local ingredients to create a palette of far-away tastes that are quite unlike anything I’ve ever encountered. Homegrown, yet exotic.

In the six weeks since chef Krishna Paudel and owner Swostik “Sunny” Rana Magar opened their restaurant Namaste at 286 Main St. in Greenfield, they have been seducing an increasingly wide-ranging circle of fans with the authenticity of their Indian and Nepalese menu.

“We believe in real food, pure food, all organic,” said Magar, describing the careful handling of the goat that is delivered once a week by Frizzell Hill Farm in Leyden and that goes into dishes like goat biryani (super-aromatic basmati rice, nuts and spices). “We mix and roast our own spices.”

Paudel lives in Holyoke, but is from Solukhumbu in Nepal, and Magar lives in Springfield, but is from Kathmandu. Their dedication to a uniquely Nepali experience is reflected not only in the menu, but in the décor, music and staffing. That’s all due, in part, to one element that is decidedly not Nepali: Albert Notarangelo.

Notarangelo, with an Italian heritage and a management background that includes a stint at the Deerfield Inn, applied to be Namaste’s manager, but the restaurant didn’t need one quite yet. So, he was hired as server. At the same time, however, he has emerged as a true advocate for everything Nepali. He even painted the men’s room with a three-sided panoramic landscape of the towering Solukhumbu range.

“These guys get homesick,” he said. “It was something I could do.”

Notarangelo picks out the Nepali music on the sound system; he dials up video, which can range from Nepali TV to Bollywood musicals; he interprets the Nepali flag, a double pennant and the world’s only quadrilateral flag, which is hung in the dining room beneath traditional Himalayan prayer flags, along with the Hindu deity Ganesh.

Most significantly, Magar said, Notarangelo compiled an encyclopedic 5,000-word glossary of every dish, every spice and most natural ingredients that are part of the Namaste experience. We learn, among other things, that ghasi (a sauce that visitors should be required to taste) is a popular curry from Mangalore, made using fresh coriander, garlic and coconut. We also learn that typical ingredients for a garam masala include black peppercorns, mace (part of nutmeg), cinnamon, cloves, brown cardamom, nutmeg and green cardamom.

This is good news for a guy like me who, until now, thought that tandoor was a kind of bread, like naan — rather than a hellacious cylindrical clay oven in which naan, and many other things, is cooked.

The Namaste clientele ranges from local to just-passing-through. Monica Stillings of Greenfield, who stopped to pick up a take-out order, said she was content to simply sit and enjoy a cup of chai, mango lassi or carrot pudding.

“Whatever it is they’re doing here, I hope they keep doing it,” she said.

Namaste, as you likely know from yoga 101, means something like “the spirit in me honors the spirit in you.” Uttered as a greeting or a plea for more goat jalfrezi and bhindi masala, you can’t lose.

The Cutting Board

This recipe for carrot pudding (gajar ka halwa) is not precisely Namaste’s recipe but it’s similar.

Ingredients:

2 T golden raisins

1 lb carrots, peeled and coarsely grated

2 T ghee (clarified butter)

½ c cashews

1 c whole milk

7 oz. sweetened condensed milk

¼ c sugar

¼ t ground cardamom

Soak raisins in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain.

Heat ghee in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add nuts. When the nuts take on a golden color, remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add grated carrots to the pan with remaining ghee. Cook for one to two minutes, then add milk.

Mix well, reducing heat to low and simmer until carrots are softened (approximately 10 minutes).

Add condensed milk. Stir well. Add sugar.

Allow carrot mixture to cook until all milk is evaporated (approximately 30 to 40 minutes).

Stir in cardamom, nuts and raisins. Remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly and serve.

Wesley Blixt lives in Greenfield. He is a longtime reporter and the author of “SKATERS: A Novel.” Send him recipes, stories and suggestions at wesleyblixt@me.com.