Yin Yang Restaurant has a history to be proud of, and a chef who conjures up amazing and genuine Thai cuisine.
Thailand is a favorite tourist destination for many Kathmandu-ites, most of whom, without fail, come back rhapsodizing about the fantastic Thai cuisine. Well, they need not just immerse themselves in pleasant memories, they can relive their gastronomic experience again and again at Yin Yang Restaurant in Thamel. For this is where you are guaranteed truly authentic Thaifood, prepared by no less than a Thai chef, Ms. Chorthip, who is more popularly known as Fi-Dang (“It means ‘Elder Sister’”, she said), and who has been with this legendary restaurant for the last nineteen years.
Yes, that’s right, it has been a long time now that Fi-Dang has been putting her exquisite cookery skills in preparing all those delectable dishes that have become so popular with many Kathmandu-ites. Among which is Pad Thai, the national dish of Thailand, listed as one of the five most popular dishes worldwide. Well, I tried out Pad Thai last Saturday at Yin Yang, sitting at one of the tables in the garden dining area next to the open kitchen—a most agreeable setting—in the company of friendly owner Ritesh Shrestha and cheerful Chef Fi-Dang.
Among the world’s most favorite foods
“It has Thai noodles, sugar, and imli (tamarind), besides other ingredients,” said the chef, who incidentally has five chefs in her family! It teased my palate with its sweetish flavor. “Thais like sweet food,” she added. Well, it was a sweet dish like no other I had tasted, really tasty and flavorful. However, the soup I had alongside, Tom Yam Koong, was far from sweet, and it is also a very well-known dish. A spoonful was enough to bring new warmth in the depths of my being, its spicy-tangy flavor zestful, to say the least.
Along with prawn and other ingredients, and a lot of fragrant spices, this rejuvenating soup also included lemongrass and galangal, both of which Fi-Dang had herself brought from Bangkok. This is another reason why Yin Yang prides itself on serving genuine Thai cuisine, they use the best ingredients sourced from their place of origin. The lemongrass from Thailand, I can vouch, imparted a really rich citrusyaroma, while the galangal (a cousin of ginger, but without its pungency), is an interesting part of Tom Yam Koong, and very agreeable to the taste.
Fine dining, Thai style
Another dish on the table was Som Tum, a spicy salad with a certain character of its own, quite bracing, which Ritesh revealed, was a favorite with Nepali customers. So, we were having quite a balanced meal, with Tom Yang Koong, the piquant soup, Pad Thai, the sweetish appetizer, and Som Tum, the spicy-flavorful salad. Next, it was time for tasty bites of Chicken Satay, mentioned as SA-TE Yin Yang in the menu. Skewered on a stick, the grilled chicken was a tender delight that was easy and fulfilling on the palate, and not as spicy as most other Thai food. It tasted all the better with its thick and creamy peanut sauce. Peanuts, I have to note here, are a part of many Thai dishes, including
Another regular ingredient is coconut milk, and especially more so in the green curry—I think it was KaengKhiao Wan Kai (Green Curry with Chicken)—that we had along with steamed Thai fragrant rice. The curry was excellent, and I wanted to know what made it so special, to which Chef Fa-Ding replied, “The vegetables are fresh, and the coconut milk, an essential part of the curry, is also fresh.” Adding to this, Ritesh stated proudly, “Yes, unlike many others, we only use fresh coconut milk.” That’s another feather to Yin Yang’s cap, that they are extra careful about the condition of their raw materials. A note on the white rice: Yin Yang serves genuine Thai fragrant rice, which may add to the cost, but certainly also adds to the authenticity of their Thai cuisine.
One of the most popular restaurants in Kathmandu
The Thai experience at Yin Yang was pretty exciting, the dishes prepared by a Thai chef with two decades of experience, and in a restaurant that is quite legendary. Established in 1970 in Basantpur, near the famous Freak Street, by Ritesh’s father Mr. Tejendra Nath Shrestha (popularly known as TJ to his multitude of loyal customers), Yin Yang was the most popular restaurant in the area at the time. Along with the shifting of the tourist scene to Thamel, TJ also established a restaurant by the name of Third Eye Restaurant in 1989 near Kathmandu Guest House, the landmark of Thamel. Yin Yang Restaurant, alongside, was set up in 1996. So, it’s not only the delectable Thai cuisine that one goesto Yin Yang (it could well claim to be the pioneer in introducing Thai food in Kathmandu), it is also the delightfully friendly atmosphere one finds there, with some staff still from the good old days, and of course, Chef Fa-Ding herself!
Now, having given you a glimpse into the world of Yin Yang (which by the way has two more dining rooms on the first floor; seating capacity being 150), let’s go back to the food again. Yes, there’s more. Thai cuisine is reputed for its many fantastic sauces, a particular sauce perfect with a specific dish. Made of ginger, garlic, chili, vinegar, sugar, etc., they are so good that you could enjoy the fragrant rice with a sauce alone! One sauce in particular, Nampala Prig, or Chili Fish Sauce, was just out of this world, and apparently, it’s a really versatile sauce that adds relish to any dish.
To conclude, Thai cuisine is an enjoyable and exciting diversion from the usual Nepali fare (as good as it is), and wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a night out in the pleasant environs of the famous Yin Yang Restaurant to pleasure your taste buds with Chef Fi-Dang’s tasty concoctions? Friends, family, colleagues, or business associates, no matter who you are with, they would surely thank you tons for inviting them to savor the many different kinds of delectable Thai food at Yin Yang Restaurant, the place for authentic Thai cuisine.
Another reason why Yin Yang Restaurant is great for a culinary outing: there’s ample parking space. Especially of paramount importance in a place as bustling as Thamel!