Keshab Sapka: Head Chef at Mountain Tandoor

If you have ever eaten at Mountain Tandoor at the Stanford Inn then you know that it is authentic Indian cuisine. Head chef Keshab Sapka was born in Nepal close to the Indian border, studied cooking in India and has been cooking professionally for 13 years, the last four in Fernie. I asked Keshab why he chose to be a chef and he replied, “Cooking is in my blood.” Kasheb grew up in a house where preparing food was an important part of the day and his mother was a great cook. Both of his brothers went on to become chefs as well. “The hospitality industry is a good one in India and if you are a trained chef you are guaranteed a job just about anywhere.”

Keshab has worked in places like Dubai, Qatar and throughout India before coming to Canada. When asked what brought him to Fernie he said, “I come from the mountains and wanted to be in the mountains, and I love Fernie!” It is obvious from his enthusiasm that he is passionate about cooking. Many of his dishes are a fusion of Nepal and Indian cuisine using many traditions such as a Tandoor oven, where he makes his naan bread and cooks many of the marinated meat dishes.

While speaking with Keshab we were joined by restaurant manager Bobby Tambler. Over a cup of chai tea he expressed his opinion on his friend’s culinary talents. “Keshab has an extremely good hand when it comes to the portioning of spices, he is very gifted in this area which he learned from his mother and is so important in Indian cuisine. He has the three gifts a chef needs when cooking Indian food: knowledge of spices and their portions, the making of good marinades, and always using fresh ingredients.” Bobby should know - he has worked in Indian restaurants all over the world.

Here is one of my own favourite Indian recipes.

Chicken Korma (Murgh Korma)

1 tbsp each ground coriander & cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp each salt & pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 medium onions chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger root
2 bay leaves
8 whole green cardamom pods (optional)
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup whipping cream
Chopped fresh cilantro

In a large bowl combine coriander, cumin, turmeric, salt and black and cayenne peppers. Cut chicken thighs into two or three pieces; toss with spice mixture to coat. In a large deep non-stick skillet, heat oil over medium heat; cook onions until brown, about ten minutes stirring occasionally. Add garlic, ginger, bay leaves and cardamom pods (if using); cook five minutes. Add chicken, stir until lightly browned about five minutes. Add tomatoes and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes until juices run clear when chicken is pierced. Add cream and cook uncovered for five minutes. Serve over basmati rice and sprinkled with cilantro.
Serves 4-6

Fernie Food News ~
Island Lake Lodge ~ Winter Lunch and Spa Fridays and Saturdays. Take a snowcat through Old Growth Cedar Forest and enjoy lunch in the Tamarack dining room for $79. Please book 24hrs in advance, spa treatments are available at an extra cost and also need to be booked prior.
Picnic Restaurant & Social ~ Picnic welcomes new chef Ryan McLean whom has trained in France and the Mediterranean among other places, and most recently in Spain. Originally from Medicine Hat, Fernie is a special place for him and he is thrilled to call it home and share his culinary knowledge and passion.
Lunch Box: Fresh Market & Smoothie Bar ~ Now open and serving fresh, fast food including soup, curry, chili, stew, sandwiches, wraps, salads, and smoothies. All meat is oven roasted and smoked in house and sauces and dressings made from scratch. Coffee is available from 6:45am along with breakfast burritos and “breakfast bakes”.
Yamagoya ~ Celebrating a new party room that seats up to 15 people. You no longer have to wait at 5pm to secure a room for birthdays, staff or incentive parties - reservations are now accepted all year long for the new room only.
Big Bang Bagels ~ Announcing the launch of their new bagel “Da Bomb” - a monstrous bagel with four eggs, four pieces of ham, eight pieces of bacon, four slices of cheddar, a full avocado, tomato, fried onion, on a custom 1lb bagel. Please order a day in advance.
Loaf Bakery & Pizzeria ~ Now featuring whole wheat sourdough, 25% off their Loaf of the week, made-to-order 12” pizzas Thursday-Sunday, including $10 pizza and beer night on Thursdays. Lunch includes hearty soups and sandwiches, made-to-order 7" pizzas, pies, and sausage rolls. Sign up for their newsletter at loafbakery.ca.
Lizard Creek Lodge ~ Reserve your table in the dining room any day of the week and enjoy a complimentary international wine tasting with hosts Corinne and Natascha of VM Travel Adventures Saturday evenings, January-March from 5-6pm. Phone 250-423-2057 to reserve your table.
Bridge Bistro ~ “ Powder Gives you Wings” 3-5pm, Mon – Fri: purchase a jug or bottle of wine and receive wings at $5/pound. The menu also includes organic rotisserie chicken, fresh daily. Choose from a 1/2 or 1/4 chicken, or combo 1/2 ribs and 1/4 chicken. Includes fries, gravy and toasted bun.