Perched amid the verges of giant Himalayas, Nepal is not only renowned for trekking but also for a multitude of traditional and modern cuisines to relish upon.
If we give a peek towards the Nepali cuisines, we might feel that Nepal lacks varieties other than the staple food “Daal Bhaat”. But, looking deeper into the Nepali kitchen one will unravel many new dishes. Especially, multiple flavors of foods are cooked inside every roof, for every single occasion.
As Nepal is a multi-ethnic and multicultural nation having its own variety of dishes to serve. indeed it is a diverse one. Every single community here holds its own food culture and recipe that are yet to be uncovered and most importantly, to be tasted. The Newar, Thakali and Tharu communities themselves have more than 500 different dishes in their cuisine alone. When it comes to the entire community-dwelling here, they offer a plethora of savoring options.
Dishes prepared here in Nepal i.e. between two giants India and China, mountainous foods are seemed to be much influenced by the Tibet while the Terai has its own wide variety of the food due to rich production and inclined towards Indian lifestyle. Hence, Nepalese cookery is the perfect blend of both Tibet and Indian culture.
Most of these unique Nepali foods are still in the shade because all the foods are not commercially produced and served in the restaurants. The reason behind this is some of them are only prepared on definite occasions. In the list, we have attempted to include all the dishes having their unique Nepali flavor and may not be comparatively accessible to those first-timers.
Before entering the main list, we must mention the staple food, Daal Bhaat Tarkaari. It is a major dish which is consumed by almost all Nepalese people. Daal Bhaat is a set of several dishes which is served with Daal (Lentils soup), Bhaat (Boiled Rice), Tarkari (Curry), Chutni (Pickle), Masu (Meat), Paapad (Thatched Chickpea) and garnished with some seasonal salad. Daal Bhaat is the perfect dish which can fill the crying tummy.
FYI: ‘Daal Bhaat Power, 24 Hour’- The most popular and relevant saying regarding the staple food Daal Bhaat in Nepal. You can get a T-shirt printed with this quote. Have fun! Have one!
1) Mo: Mos
Believed to have originated in Tibet, a mo: mo is a small steamed dumpling or a bun which is filled inside with kiima and wrapped with flour from outside. It is generally steamed for 10-12 minutes and served with tomato-based achaar (pickle).In every corner of Kathmandu, we can find mo: mo being sold as fast food and a street eat in the evening.
2) Newari Khaja Set
Newari Khaja Set is another food one should not miss in Nepal. It comes with a set of several dishes presented together in an alluring plate. This set can be easily savored in Newari- based restaurants or in the street pub almost everywhere in Kathmandu Valley. Chiuraa (beaten paddy), Chhoila (boiled and mixed with spice meat), spicy curry, beans & bamboo shoot soup & some fried peanut-cashew nut are its major ingredients. As it is a complete meal, it can be eaten as lunch, snacks, dinner as a main course.
Chatamari, a must-try delicacy of Nepal, is commonly known as Nepalese version of Pizza by international as well as national holidaymakers. It is made from rice flour, Maas (lentil) and eggs.
When a snail-shaped rice cake is filled with brown cane sugar (chaaku) and some sesame seeds, or khuwa (made from milk), it is called Yomari. Before serving it is then steamed. This particular delicacy is listed as the chief item on the menu during the post-harvesting season/ celebration of Yomari Punhya. On the occasion of full moon day, Kathmanduities offer worship to Annapurna, the goddess of Grains, for the rice harvest.
Thukpa is boiled noodles which is filtered and served cooked with vegetables and meat items. It is also called Thokpa and is very popular in Kathmandu and highland (hilly and himalayan) regions of Nepal. It is mostly prepared during winter. Thukpa is noodle dipped in very hot soup, so it is good for health in cold places. It normally keeps us warm.Â People prefer hot and spicy tomatoes pickle with Thukpa.
Kwaati like Yomari, it is an occasional food in Nepal which is very nutritious food item containing high protein and fibers, is enjoyed by all the different ethnic groups in Nepal. It is prepared from a mixture of nine different beans, Kwaati according to local belief is considered extremely beneficial for the digestive system, apart from its nutritional value, especially on the occasion of Janai Purnima. It falls in the month of August.
7) Aalu Tama
When it comes to the soups which are served all around the year, the soup of aalu taama stands tall. It is a sour, hot as well as spicy soup made up of potatoes, fermented bamboo shoots accompanied by black-eyed beans. It is one of the popular Newari dishes and relished almost all year round in Newar communities. It is usually eaten as a secondary item with beaten rice and Smayabaji. It's is a common Nepali name but it is known as chhon-kwon in Newari dialect. Chhon means a bamboo shoot and Kwon basically refers to hot soup. Give it a try while dwelling around the bustling streets of Kathmandu. You will thank us later.
Rice Pudding [Khir] is one of the most prepared foods in Nepal. It is a mandatory item which is necessarily prepared in parties and ceremonies. From marriage ceremony, gathering, festivals to the funeral, Khir is served and relished to observe the occasion. Besides that, Khir is also considered as the pure food in Nepal (Hindu), as it is prepared by cooking rice in milk. It is mainly eaten in less amount though and served as dessert or side eat.
9) Samay Baaji
Samay Baji comes under those traditional Newari food items which are prepared mainly during festivals. Particularly, it consists of varieties of Baji (beaten rice), black soybean, chhoila (smoked meat), with Bara and pickle. According to the Newari culture it is eaten with aaila [locally produced Newari liquor]. No worries! If you don’t have aaila, replace it with any whiskey.
Another top food in Nepal is Bara which is a traditional Newari community-based snacks which is less or more like a pancake facilitated with black lentil. Considered as healthy and hygienic food, it adds the value of Nepalese food menu mainly popular foods in Nepal. In Kathmandu, many small, as well as big scale eateries, offer scrumptious Bara at reasonable prices.
11) Dhido with Local Chicken
Dhido is a traditional Nepali item which is prepared mostly in the hilly region of Nepal. The flour pudding is considered as the healthiest and is a common cuisine prepared mostly during the fast. It was commonly consumed by Nepalese history makers because it is light but gratifying and also because it lasts longer so that consumer does not feel hungry very soon after eating this. Though it is flour pudding only some might consider it tasteless due to lack of spices, but do not worry it is served with Chicken’s or Mutton’s soup. Also, it is also regarded as pure food to eat during the fast because it does not entail salt or vegetable oil.
12) Juju Dhau, King of Yogurts
Juju Dhau is also one of those mandatory eateries which come when someone speaks of Nepal. One of the renowned and most consumed Newari desserts, it literally implies the ‘King of yogurts' in Newari dialect. Also, Dhau (yogurt), termed as Dahi (curd) in Nepali is an important aspect of Nepalese culture and a part of daily chores. Not only used as a dessert, as biological juice and lassi in Summer, but this is also one of the most important elements which are used during the puja. Puja cannot be completed without aksheta or teeka made up of rice grain mixed with Dhau accompanied by vermillion powder. We can find Juju Dhau in every Nepalese kitchen as it is one of the most common and popular items in Nepal. Not only that Nepalese people are fond of eating Dahi-Chiura ( Beaten rice with yogurt).
13) Bhakka, Eastern Thaaru Dish
Bhakka is a steamed cake, made out of fluffy rice flour and is a traditional delicacy which belongs to the Tharu community mainly residing in and around the eastern plains of Nepal. It is specially prepared by Rajbansi community. Bhakka is peculiarly eaten as breakfast or sometimes as a snack with tomato pickle. Though the outlook of this dish seems to be very simple, the process of making is wonderful i.e. soft and fluffy; which is very smart too. If you happen to make a visit towards eastern Nepal like Biratnagar or other cities, you are likely to see females steaming and selling Bhakka in the early morning. It has now gradually become popular street breakfast in the corners of Kathmandu valley too.
14) Ghonghi, Snail’s delicacy
Another most popular food from the Tharu community of Nepal is Ghonghi which is often catered as the delicacy of snail and prepared as just the way others cook chicken or mutton. A similar type of dish is known as ‘escargot’ in France, where it is served with linseed soup. Usually, we can taste Gonghi in all over the market places of Terai [plains] where the Tharu community dwells.
Gundruk [also referred as Sinki] is probably the most popular as well as loved food in Nepal when it comes to soup kinds of stuff. Gundruk, authentic to Nepalese soul is generally savored by all ethnic groups in Nepal from plains, hills to mountains. It is the dried and fermented form of leafy vegetables, made generally from mustard green leaves (Raayo’s lettuce), radish leaves (Mula ko saag), cauliflower leaves (cauli’s leaves). In Nepal, excess these leafy vegetables before winter, are fermented in the dark which is later sun-dried and stored for years. The fermentation process aids in developing very peculiar smell and tangy/sour flavor. Gundruk, the dried lettuce of several leafy vegetables is rich in minerals and vitamins. It can be used as soup when we have less fresh vegetables during the winter and dry season. It is prepared by mixing Bhatmas and tomatoes for intense sour taste. Gundruk and Dhido were what Nepalese ancestors ate during the war with the British in history. Hence, Nepalese have an intense level of respect as well as love for this mouth-watering and energy-inducing combo, Dhido with Gundruk.
16) Sukuti: Nepalese Dry Meat
Sukuti, Nepalese dry meat is edible dry meat. It can be eaten as it is. But, some mouths prefer charbroiled and spiced as an appetizer, some happen to mix it with other ingredients and blend it with pickle or even curry. Also, it can be consumed by putting in noodles, Thokpa or Chowmein. It yields different tastes when mixed with different items and cooked. Sukuti is generally dried in sun or on charcoal smoked fire. You can buy it while taking a course around the ancient streets of Asan and New road, just a few minutes of a stroll from Kathmandu Durbar Square.
17) Yak Cheese
Yak cheese is wonderful! Cheese is what one must not miss during the trekking in and around Nepal. We can buy Yak Cheese in giant chunks and store it safely to take it back home. As it is made with the milk of Yak, it is readily available in high altitude. But if sought in Kathmandu, one can easily get it.
It literally means "a round bread" in Newari dialect. Newari is a local language spoken by a community in Kathmandu Valley. Gwaramari is a famous breakfast item typically consumed with chutney [pickle] or milk tea. Taste it! It is amazing when eaten warm.
It’s a Tibetan street food with a blast of flavor in each mouthful which is spicy cold noodle made up of Mung bean flour. It is served with both soup and dry formats. We can taste a dry Laphing which has everything in it, except for the soup. The lively alleyways around Boudha Stupa are the fascinating places to relish upon several Tibetan delicacies.
20) Aalu Paratha
Last but not least, the aalu paratha is the combo of potatoes mixed with flour and cooked as Bread like Roti in the Nepali language. You can try it in simple Khaja Ghar. Best is when it is served with intense sour tomato pickle.
So, we think we have been able to provide you some insights on foods one should not miss during their Nepal stay. The thing is that everything mentioned above might not be readily available and everyone in Nepal even might not provide you. Hence we recommend you guys, better to explore Kathmandu and beyond with fully trained and fluently speaking guides as well as well-informed tourist personnel.
Thank you for the read!