Milkshake Memories - India & Nepal


The 11th anniversary of our first trip to Asia this past week has reminded me of my introduction to Indian milkshakes. We had a long lay-over in Delhi, and the airport was being renovated. It was clear to see that the renovations were urgently needed, and the upgrade is spectacular in comparison to the old building. But these were the days when the upheaval of construction was still in full swing. Everything was in disarray, passengers were huddled wherever there was a little bit of space to be found. Chairs and waiting rooms were scarce, and the airport staff did their very best to jostle us out into the city, rather than have us hang around the airport for hours on end.

After having sat and stood in many different places, we decided that it was time to forage. We found a poorly-lit restaurant in a quiet-ish outpost of the terminal and settled down to eat. As with many travelers at the end of an intensive tour, the sight of something that very faintly resembles a familiar menu item clinched the deal immediately.

i spotted the word “Milkshake” on the menu. Instantly, visions of a selection of large receptacles of creamy, thick, sweetly flavoured, ice cream-based beverages were conjured up in my mind’s eye, and it was settled: Milkshake or nothing!

My end-of-the-trip budget forced me to choose between a proper meal on the one hand, and milkshake and snacks on the other. “You can eat a proper meal again when you get home, but right now you can have some milkshake,” was my answer to myself. And so it was that the last meal of my trip was a few fried potato wedges, but the thought of the milkshake to come made up for the insignificant sacrifice in nutrition that i'd chosen.

Enter the milkshake, and i found my hopes dashed to smithereens. There is only one way to describe the beverage in the tall glass. It is called milk. Sure, they added some vanilla, but it was still milk. Now, i was going to pay for it, so i drank it and told myself that maybe this was a sad exception to the rule, but every subsequent order of milkshake in India and Nepal has left me disappointed. It seems that the word the word “milkshake” does not come with a universally understood definition. Here it simply denotes flavoured, sweetened milk. In South Africa we would call it Steri-Stumpie or Super M. And while it’s delicious in its own right, it doesn’t conform to the notions i have as to what constitutes a milkshake.

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Every time since then when ordering a milkshake in India or Nepal, i have done so with a glimmer of hope that it would be more than flavoured milk, and each time I would end up telling myself to stop the torture. “Milkshakes are simply not to be found here. Don’t do this to yourself again. Move on.” In time, that’s exactly what i did. No matter what the food was like at the places we’d eat, i found myself distrusting their ability to serve milkshakes, and eventually this paradigm was firmly established in my mind.

Then, a few months ago, i was looking for something in Thamel, the tourist hub of Kathmandu, and i stumbled on something that fanned the embers of the milkshake hope again. It took us some time to make our way there, but during last month’s holidays we looked up Keventers to try out the much-publicised milkshakes. We ordered two flavours, one ordinary and one double thick, and i steeled myself for the inevitable disappointment.

We waited and waited and waited. It seems that only one employee turned up that day, which meant he had to tend to customers and prepare the drinks, and i caught myself thinking that it’s all smoke and mirrors and fancy shop-fronts and zero good products. Of course you know how this story ends. After too many minutes, we received our order, beautifully presented in glass bottles, by the friendly cashier-cum-drinks maker-cum-waiter, and we were (mostly) pleasantly surprised. The “milkshake” was of course flavoured milk, but it was an ice cold, creamy, well-flavoured milk, and we enjoyed it heartily. The double thick shake was of course the star of the day. Thick, smooth, creamy and delicious.

At last i have found a place to satisfy the occasional milkshake craving in Kathmandu. A quick internet search informed us that Keventers currently has locations in four countries, which includes three stores in Kathmandu, and now they have two more loyal customers.

For those of you planning to pay them a visit, here is a map of their locations. Expect to pay around $2 for the plain variety, and $3 for the thick milkshake. It’s served in re-sealable glass bottles which are yours to keep, and the straws are made of paper, which is comforting in times when plastic garbage is suffocating the earth.

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