Yaks Bangor: Eats from the Himalaya

Outside of traditional chip shops in Bangor, Northern Ireland, it’s pretty much standard Chinese, Indians, pizza and kebabs that make up the culinary landscape of Bangor’s town centre. And while you do find the odd trendy take on Asian fusion etc. adding a bit to the diversity of eats in town, they don’t really share the same authenticity as their origins. That is why I was surprised to find Yaks Bangor, a Napalese restaurant/takeaway, running so strong in the town centre (Abbey Street). During a time when town centres were dying and the British economy fell on its ass.

Nepalese Food in Bangor

I am relatively new to Nepalese food. For a start, I have never been to Nepal, and while I have travelled in the Himalayas before, I was mostly living off local staples like Thukpa, Dahl Baht, and Maggi/Wai Wai Noodles. Foods that are fairly common on all sides of the nearby borders (Sikkim India, Tibet China, and Bhutan), but foods that would struggle to fit on a westernised menu. And then there are momos, a snacky meal that is about as synonymous with the Himalayas as Yaks are. And it was the originality of the buffalo momos at Yaks that put them firmly on my to-do list when back in Bangor.

Globally Recommended

It is normal for Gastro-tourists in Bangor to whinge about the lack of diversity and range of food found in town. And I actually first heard of Yaks in Bangor from just random expats, travellers, and backpackers from Bangor who recommended a visit when back home. So this eventual 2nd instalment of takeaway Tuesday (on a Saturday) brought me to Yaks Bangor, 3 years or so later than recommended (I cook a lot at home), excited to share an experience of the Himalayas. And while they do have a comparatively contemporary and friendly restaurant in Bangor compared to usual standards, I am all about takeaway, and eating with the comforts of home. So takeaway/delivery it is (Yaks Online Menu Here).

Traditional Indian Dishes

I really needed something different/interesting after my past posts when I challenged my myself to eat like a vegetarian for a week, as well as my surprisingly fun series eating weird stuff from the discount food stores of Bangor. But I also spent the past 2 weeks creating fakeaway Indian food; including Phaal Aloo, Keema Lamb, Aloo Vindaloo, Chicken Tandoori, Tikka Masala, and Channa Masala… So the “Traditional Indian dishes”, which are all pretty much covered on the Yaks menu, don’t really stand a chance. As I not on my order. But they’re all there, and this probably helps to its success, as it offers Indian food with a Himalayan twist.

Yaks Bangor: Order for Delivery

So our order was pretty much all Nepalese food, including the Yaks Meat Platter, Himalayan Masu, Jholilo Masu and of course buffalo momos. And there are two options for delivery either through Yaks themselves or Just-Eat. Only ordering directly from Yaks puts money back into the local businesses/economy instead of big international brands. It’s up to you. Anyway, the delivery charge is a bit steep (£3.50) so I opted for collection and was slightly disappointed when they ignored my additional comment to “tell the lad collecting that his beard looks awesome“. My nephew could use a nice comment once in a while.

Yaks Starters Menu

It’s rare when I’d buy just one meal to myself or eat through 2-3 courses these days. As I prefer to just mix-and-match stuff on my plate. A bit like Tapas-style. This goes more so with South-Asian food, where it’s pretty much the norm to grab a plate and throw on a load of different meats, curries and flavours, Thali-style.

So my appetizers and starters are just thrown in with the mains etc. to make a proper meal. Instead of spacing them out to prolong a meal like restaurants helping out chefs preparing for the customer.

Yaks Meat Platter (£8.25)

I am going mostly with anything that has ‘Yaks’ in its name, signature dishes, which brings together more original appetizers on the menu. At the same time, the Yaks Mixed Grill (£11.95) may have been the better option given everyone stole them after telling them I ordered all the mains as extra hot (I was paying tbf).

So the Yaks Meat Platter comes with “Chicken sekuwa, king prawn, chicken wings & lamb sekuwa”. And I’m fairly sure sekuwa just means skewer in Nepalese, only pronounced with a lisp. So it’s similar to kebabs, or kabobs, and it’s literally just skewered meats cooked in a tandoor oven. So these are the foods that are pretty hard to fake at home without a proper charcoal-fired oven.

I was at least left a piece of chicken, a leg/drumstick, with the bone pretty much scorched to a crisp. Yet the chicken was still tender and juicy and I really don’t know how this works. The meats are otherwise marinated/spiced similarly to tandoori or tikka only they use another Yaks special spice mix which includes a coriander & ginger sauce. They’re then pan-roasted along with onion and peppers in another “sekuwa” spice mix.

Buffalo Momo (£5.50)

Momos are not the most obvious staple of South Asian cuisine as they’re more influenced from the East Asia side of the Himalayan borders and are comparable with jiaozi/baoxi dumplings of China or Gyoza from Japan. But they are very much uniquely Himalayan and come served with a deliciously rich chilli sauce (and sometimes dark soy and a soup).

At Yaks though they offer buffalo dumplings sourced from the Ballyriff Buffalo Farm in Magherafelt (I actually caught this on BBC ‘The Farmers’ Country Showdown). So Yaks use water Buffalo meat, an animal synonymous from my own back yard in Thailand. Where the buffalo meat is ground/minced and seasoned with another of Yaks secret spices (incl. onions, ginger). They are then wrapped and steamed in flour casings. Typically Buffalo would taste similar to beef, only leaner and gamier, but the firey spices here bring the momos to a whole new level.

Steamed foods, admittedly, don’t work so well with delivery/takeaway as they really are best served straight up in a steaming tray to a table. And my momos arrived all stuck together having been flopping about in a takeaway container through delivery. But there is always the pan-fried Momo to make them more takeaway-friendly.

Yaks Special Menu

Aka “house specials” when ordering from Just-Eat. This is where the best of Yaks/Nepalese food is, and after ordering Himalayan Masu and Jholilo Masu, they do beat the “traditional Indian dishes”. All come as well with boiled rice, pilau rice or plain ol’ naan bread. Or you can pay the extra £1.50 for Yaks Special Naan wrapped over cottage cheese (paneer) & potatoes (aloo) and with some light ‘Nepalese’ spices.

There are a bunch of others at extra, we also got the Keema (minced lamb) Pilau Rice. But the Yaks Special Naan is above all else.

Curries can also be made mild, medium hot or very hot, and I originally planned on ordering mediums, for the sake of authenticity, but I really just wanted extra hot. Definitely the right decision. Anyway,

Chicken Himalayan Masu (£10.50)

The Nepalese menu does come with a bit of guesswork, where ‘Masu’ is ‘Meat’ in Nepalese, and I’m clueless elsewhere. But they do share a few ingredients with the Chicken Himalayan Masu saying it’s cooked with a thick ginger, garlic, coriander and yoghurt based sauce, although I’m fairly sure there’s some tomato as well in the base.

What I loved about this ‘special’ is there were similarities to other fiery favourites, and it is comparable to some of the better madras’ and vindaloos that I would typically go for when ordering traditional Indian/Bangladeshi food (I did order it very hot). It did not lose its spiced flavour either behind the extreme heats of other things like Phaal. But overall the sauce was spot on, with plenty of spice flavour, and plenty of heat, and it would be winning here were it not for the Jholilo Masu.

Lamb Jholilo Masu (£10.95)

By far the best eat of the night was the Lamb Jholilo Masu, although I have no idea what Jholio means other than its description “Nepalese style homemade curry”. But I would happily drink the stuff. And I always prefer my curries with lamb/mutton. It’s also green, which I thought was down to the birdseye chillies they used to crank the heat (the best way), but it’s just too green. So there maybe a taste of spinach (palak/saag) in there, and maybe some paneer beause it’s good and creamy. Otherwise I’m clueless.

It is a fantastic dish, completely new to me, and the creaminess reminds me almost of a Korma, only less bland and sugary, packing a similar heat to vindaloo with the extra hot chillies. It maybe coconut-based, or yoghurt based, but I’m still relatively new to Indian cuisine. I’ve really no idea. And that’s part of why I like it. It’s something I’ve not come across before.

Yaks Bangor Nepalese Restaurant

Address: 48 Abbey Street, Bangor, BT20 4JA

Phone: 028 9147 0470

Online Menu: Yaks Website

Our Nepalese Order:

15a. Buffalo Momo £5.50
10. Yaks Meat Platter to Share £8.25
23b. Lamb Jholilo Masu £10.95 (Very Hot) 
+ Keema Pilau Rice £1.50 
22a. Chicken Himalayan Masu £10.50 (Very Hot) 
+Yaks Special Naan £1.50
Subtotal £38.20
Service charge £0.40
Total £38.60

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