Nepalese Food and Cuisine
- by Zoe
- Last Updated: 2021-09-02
Nepal is a multi-ethnic country with different cultures and lifestyles. Its rich and diverse ethnic groups and cultures make a wide variety of Nepali cuisine. When you first encounter traditional Nepali food, their variety may dazzle you.
The types of Nepali cuisines are determined by geographic location. Eg. Rice is the staple food in most areas of Nepal, however, the staple food of the people in mountainous areas is mainly corn, millet and buckwheat. Besides its own authentic cuisine, some Nepalese dishes are inspired and influenced by the food culture of neighboring countries such as India and Tibet. In addition, every community has its own rich Nepali food culture. For example, Newari is an indigenous community in Kathmandu, which has a wide variety of dishes and almost 200 kinds of cuisines.
Dal Bhat(aka. Dal Bhat Tarkari) is the national dish of Nepal. It's also a staple food pilaf. Besides, no one can say “no” to the attractive “momo”. Apart from popular Dal Bhats and momos, every Nepalese dish is sure to please your taste buds in a unique way.
There's not only traditional Nepali food but also great traditional Nepali drinks. Here we will introduce delicious traditional Nepalese foods and drinks. If you are visiting Nepal for the first time, be sure to enlighten your taste buds with these delicious dishes.
Nepalese Food Recommendation
Food of Nepal is rich in nutrients and healthy compared to other Asian food due to less oil and more vegetable usage. Since most Nepalese eat little or no breakfast before going to work or school, their lunch is rich and healthy. In the afternoon, they have snacks (khaja), which can be traditional or fusion cuisine. Then have dinner.
Dal Bhat Tarkari
Dal Bhat Tarkari is a staple food of Nepal and is regarded as the national dish. Its name is composed of three parts. Dal refers to lentil soup, bhat refers to rice, and tarkari refers to curried vegetables. Dal Bhat Tarkari is usually served with kimchi and chutney. Some restaurants offer kinds of this cuisine, such as Veg Thali (dal bhat and vegetables for vegetarians), Chicken Thali (dal bhat, vegetable and curried chicken), and Mutton Thali (vegetable and curried mutton). Takaris is an ethnic minority living in the mountains and they make the best Dal Bhat Tarkari, which is known for its good taste and cooking style.
Newari Khaja Set or Samay Baji
Newari Khaja or Samay Baji, in simpler terms, is the famous snack khaja. During Niwari family gatherings and festival celebrations, there are many dishes like this. This Nepal traditional food is becoming a regular snack for everyone. Samay Baji includes chiura (mashed rice), choila (spicy meat in marinade), bara (lentil pancakes), black-eyed peas, boiled eggs, spicy kimchi, tempeh with ginger sauce, hot sauce (curried potato and bamboo shoot), and green vegetables. Newari restaurants offer the best Khaja set menu.
Dhindo, a kind of polenta, is usually cooked with cornflour and buckwheat. This kind of food can be found in most kitchens of this country. Since rice and wheat cultivation are not popular in the upper reaches, people in most areas eat Dhido. It is a popular Nepalese traditional food after the Dal Bhat, mainly paired with local kukhura ko jhol (curried chicken), green vegetables, kimchi, curried vegetables, and gundruk ko jhol (dried fermented leafy vegetables). It is rich in nutrients and regarded as a very healthy diet.
In Nepal, there're almost no restaurants that don't offer momo. No matter where you go, you can find momos. Like Chinese dumplings, momo is a kind of food with various fillings wrapped in dough. Although potato Momo is a specialty of Tibet, it has become the most popular food of Nepal and a national delicacy after improvements with Nepalese spices. It can be steamed or half-steamed and half-fried, usually served with tomato and sesame sauce. Jhol Momo (momos dipped into the spicy chutney) and Cold Momo(momos dipped into spicy gravy chutney) are also very famous. The stuffing can be vegetables, meat (chicken, butter, pork, lamb, etc.), milk tofu, cheese, etc.
Kwati is a soup that mixes nine different types of sprouted beans and is considered very healthy and delicious. This is a ceremonial dish, which is mainly made and eat during Janai Purnima/ Rakshya Bhandan(It's a festival for strengthening a bond of love between sisters and brothers). It includes black soybeans, mung beans, chickpeas, peas, soybeans, kidney beans, cowpeas, rice beans and peas. The beans should be soaked for 3 to 4 days until they sprout, and then cooked with various spices to make a soup. People believe that the scent of Kwati would ward off the cold brought by the monsoon.
Selroti is a very addictive traditional food in Nepal. It is made of rice flour, salt, and sugar and then deep-fried in a ring shape. This food is prepared for Tihar, a widely celebrated Hindu festival in Nepal. It looks like a doughnut or bagel, but it is thinner and has a bigger hole. AS a kind of bread, it mostly serves as a snack and breakfast, with different curried vegetables, curried chicken, yogurt, and tea. In the past, it mainly appeared in street vendors and small restaurants. Nowadays, it can also be found in major department stores.
Dum Aloo or Aloor Dum
Dum Aloo is one of Nepal's most popular dishes and one of the best potato-based delicacies. The weather in Nepal is sultry and hot, and there are only a few ingredients to satisfy people's tastes. Dum Aloo is a spicy curry usually made with baby potatoes, so it's mainly used as an appetizer or snack, or as a side dish to eat with rice and Rotis. Like Selroti, it also becomes a holiday dish, which is served in special meals like weddings, celebrations or festivals.
Dum Aloo, this traditional Indian dish originated in Kashmir and is widely popular in Nepal and India. Almost everyone likes it, and it must be on the menu of a traditional restaurant.
Thukpa is a kind of noodle soup, unique food in the Himalayans, which originated in Tibet. It consists of noodles, vegetables, and meat (chicken, beef, or pork). This soup is most popular in winter because it can warm the stomach in cold areas and cold weather.
Chatamari, also known as Newari Pizza, is a kind of bread made of rice flour and various ingredients, just like pizza. Its traditional ingredients include eggs, minced meat, and onions. With the evolution of food culture in Nepal, other ingredients such as cheese have also been added. This Newari cuisine is very famous among the Kathmandu people. All restaurants in Newari and local restaurants serve a variety of Chatamari.
Laphing was originally called "bean jelly", meaning chilled noodles, which was brought to Nepal by Tibetan refugees. This is a favorite dish for people who like super spicy food. It is made with rice flour, ginger juice, garlic, salt and pepper. There are many restaurants near Bodhnath Stupa and Tibetan camps serving laphing. There're two kinds of laphing, regular and soup. Lapling will ignite your taste buds and give you an unusual flavor experience.
More Nepali Food
Do you still want to continue your Nepalese food journey? Here is more popular Nepali food that you can try.
Thenthuk: A soup made of different kinds of vegetables, meat and dough.
Omari: A popular holiday food, which is the steamed buns made with various fillings, such as chaaku khuwa, or even minced meat.
Maas ko Bara: Lentil pastries or pancakes, topped with minced meat and eggs.
Taas: A very popular dish, which is the spicy fried lamb with bhuteko bhat, served with kimchi and green salad.
Kinima: It is a fermented and dried soybean, which is famous in the hilly areas of the east.
Sekuwa: It is barbecued spicy meat, especially the most famous Bajeko Sekuwa.
Ghonghi: The delicacy of snail is a common food in Tharu community.
Khapse: A deep-fried biscuit made of flour, ghee, water and milk (optional). It is made by people in mountainous areas, especially during the New Year period. It's also a Tibetan pastry so you can find it in Buddhist areas and shops.
Suji ko Haluwa: It's similar to dhindo, but this traditional Indian pudding is made of wheat flour, ghee, sugar, and some dried fruits.
Tingmo: It is a kind of steamed bread in Tibetan cuisine. It is similar to Chinese bread rolls and does not contain any type of fillings.
Juju Dhau: Juju Dhau literally means "king yogurt" in Nepali. It is made from buffalo milk and sweetened with honey, which is the most famous yogurt in Kathmandu.
Kheer: A type of gruel, usually served as a dessert, is made with milk, sugar and dried fruits, paired with fermented kimchi made from ripe cucumbers.
Yak Cheese: Cheese made from yak milk in the Himalayas
Khuwa: A Condensed milk used to fill Yomari and Momo, and Khuwa Kulfi(a kind of popsicle made from Khuwa).
Pustakari: Traditional Nepalese candy made of khuwa, peanut powder and coconut powder.
Pau/Titaura: It's a famous snack, usually made of fruits including many flavors such as sweet, salty, sour, and spicy.
Chhurpi: Chhurpi or Durkha is hardened cheese consumed mainly in the Himalayan region of Nepal and Tibet.
Local Nepali Beverages
Nepalese food is delicious and delights your taste buds, as does Nepalese beverages. Nepal abounds in tea and coffee and most Nepalese like to drink tea or coffee in the morning and afternoon. In Nepal, you can find all kinds of tea and coffee drinks. In addition, most minority communities regard alcohol as a major part of their religious and cultural rituals and for this purpose, they produce various homemade alcohol. There are some famous Nepali drinks of tea and alcohol:
Nepali tea: There're two types of Nepali tea: traditional Orthodox tea and CTC(cut-tear-curl) tea.
Butter Tea: A Himalayan drink made with tea, yak butter, water, and salt.
Chyang: A brewed drink usually made from semi-fermented rice barley and grains. Therefore it's a little cloudy in color and has a mild sour taste, much like a mild cider.
Aila: A traditional homemade Newari beverage(liquor), distilled from fermented rice or grains.
Raksi: Another traditional distilled beverage made from millet or rice, mainly brewed by people living in the mountains.
Tongba: It's a millet-based alcoholic beverage of the Limbu people in eastern Nepal. The production process is to put the fermented grains into a container and pour hot water. Let it be quiet for a few minutes, and then you can drink it. It is usually sipped through a straw and is most popular in winter.
Khukri Rum: It is Nepal's finest Rum since 1959 and can be proudly proclaimed as the "Taste of Himalayas". During the coronation ceremony, Khukuri XXX rum will be packed in a blade-shaped bottle, mainly as a souvenir.
In the past, it was difficult to buy these drinks and food in commercial hotels and restaurants. But with the development of the food industry, you can easily buy them now as you just need to go to the right place, whether it's a high-end restaurant, a simple local restaurant, or a small street shop.
Wish you a happy and delicious food journey!
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