CHOILA: SMOKY, SPICY, AND EXQUISITE
Newari cuisine is a cornucopia in itself within Nepali cuisine. From creating original delicacies like Bhuttan, Aalu Tama, Sapu Mhicha, etc., to putting their twist on the Tibetan dumplings to create Newari momo, Newari cuisine is a gift that keeps on giving. However, the best and juiciest fruit of all in the cornucopia that is Newari cuisine is possibly the dish known as Choila. Choila, sometimes chhwela or chhoyela, is a popular Newari dish made from grilled buffalo (water buffalo) meat mixed with spices and served cold with spring onions sprinkled on top. However, nowadays, buffalo meat can be replaced with any other type of meat such as chicken, duck, lamb, or goat meat. Choila is usually enjoyed as a snack or an entree.
Although the grilled version is more popular, what many may not know is that there are actually two types of choila which are Haku choila and Mana choila. Haku choila is made by grilling the meat on an open fire. Only tender lean meat is used to make this type of choila so that it cooks quickly over the fire. The fire chars the meat on the outside and cooks it to medium-rare, resulting in smoky flavored meat. The black-charred exterior is what gives this choila its name, as “Haku” means black in Newari. The cooked meat is then carefully cut into thin cubes and set aside to cool down. Then, the cut meat is mixed with lemon juice, roasted mustard oil, and spices like salt, turmeric, pepper, chili powder, and cumin, along with a generous dollop of ginger and garlic paste (crucial for that iconic choila taste). Next, garnishes like chopped coriander and spring onions are added according to one’s preference. Mana choila, on the other hand, is made by boiling offals like tripe and liver that are then seasoned with aromatic spices and herbs. It’s an exquisite dish, but one might have to warm up to it slowly.
Choila is an indispensable part of Samay Baji, a Newari set of foods that includes beaten rice, and an assortment of meats, beans, potatoes, lentil patties (bara), soybean, pickles, fish, and alcohol (usually chhyang or aila). Samay Baji holds great religious and cultural significance in the Newari community and is often prepared as an offering to gods on festivals. Nonetheless, choila can be enjoyed on its own as a mouth-watering appetizer or as lunch or dinner served with a side of beaten rice or rice. The spicy scrumptiousness of choila, along with its chewy and soft texture will give your taste buds an out-of-this-world experience.
The Chowk has brought this crown jewel of Newari cuisine to Hobart, prepared in the same authentic Newari way as in Kathmandu. So, the next time you visit The Chowk, don’t forget to get the spicy chicken choila alongside your favorite drink.