Srinagar: ‘Lhasa’ has remained Kashmir valley’s favorite restaurant when it comes to Chinese and Tibetan food and one of the reasons behind its success is a hearing-impaired chef Vir Bahadur alias Kancha.
For the past 46 years ever since the inception of Lhasa, Chef Kancha has been cooking thupa, fried wantons, and other delicacies at the restaurant located close to the popular tourist destination Dal Lake.
Though Kancha, who is in his sixties, is hearing-impaired, he has a special ability to read lips and can manage to mumble a few words when asked a question.
“My name is Vir Bahadur. I have been here for the past 46 years,” said the chef.
While Kancha, who is now the head chef at Lhasa, can barely utter a few words, popular food blogger Omar Rather of ‘KashmirFoodGram’ fame said he had been adopted by the founder of Lhasa.
“Nowadays many restaurants serve Chinese and Tibetan food but this food was mainly introduced to Kashmir way back in 1976 by ‘Lhasa’. This restaurant was set up 46 years ago by late Abdul Rehman, who was fond of traveling. I was told by his sons, who now manage the restaurant, that he had then noticed Chinese cuisine was not available in Kashmir. Therefore, he started Lhasa and it serves authentic Chinese food ever since,” Omar said. “Chef Kancha was adopted by the late Abdul Rehman and he is now like their family member. People come to this restaurant because it serves authentic Chinese food. And the taste of the dishes has remained the same primarily because the chef has remained the same too for the past 46 years.”
Interestingly, Omar said Vir Bahadur got the nickname Kancha because of his Nepali origin.
“He cannot hear but he has a special ability to lip read and he is basically from Nepal. In Nepalese, kancha means small kid. When Vir Bahadur came here as a small kid, he was called kancha and till now he is known by the same name,” he said.
Lhasa is especially famous for its dishes like ‘Thupa’, Lhasa special fried rice with mutton, chicken, and black mushroom pieces, crispy fried wontons, and chicken mushroom bamboo shoots.