No foreign country visit is complete without sampling local delicacies, so if you ever find yourself in Nepal, you have to make sure to try local food offerings. With more and more tourists visiting Nepal yearly, the increase in the number of restaurants in the country comes off as no surprise. In fact, over the years, more international restaurants have sprouted over the country, catering to a more diverse group of customers.
Despite the international food fare in Nepal, however, you should not pass up on the opportunity to try traditional Nepali dishes. After all, you can sample international cuisine anywhere in the world, but authentic Nepali dishes are a lot harder to come by outside Nepal.
Characteristics of Nepalese cuisine
Of course, it is impossible to generalize the entirety of Nepalese cuisine, seeing as variations exist depending on the location. Nevertheless, there are a couple notable characteristics of Nepalese cuisine.
First, Nepali dishes tend to be gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan-friendly. That notwithstanding, bear in mind that Nepali dishes remain quite heavy so you might want to go easy on the portions, especially if you are trying out several dishes at a time.
Second, Nepali dishes use spices – a lot. Pickled spices and curries are a staple in Nepalese cuisine, so if you are not very fond of spicy food, you might be a bit too surprised. If you are dining out, consider asking the waiter about how spicy the dishes are and request that they put less spice. Feeling adventurous? Just go for it and maybe drink a lot of water.
Must-try traditional Nepali dishes
Nepal’s cuisine is as rich as its culture and heritage, so going on a Nepali food trip might be quite daunting for the first-time visitor. To make your food trip a lot easier and more enjoyable, and to make sure that you really get to sample the best dishes that Nepal has to offer, we put together a list of must-try traditional Nepali dishes for you. Try the following:
1) Dal bhat
The dal bhat may very well be every Nepali’s favorite dish. However, to call it a dish might be quite misleading, seeing as this rice and lentil curry is typically prepared with whatever vegetables are in season and meat curries. It is also often served with salad, pickles, or curd. The dal bhat is a staple in every home and restaurant serving Nepali dishes, so you really have not had the full Nepali experience until you have tried dal bhat.
This is Nepal’s version of the Tibetan dumplings and you definitely should not leave Nepal without sampling these treats.These are made by filling rice paper wrappers with finely chopped vegetables and minced buffalo or chicken meat. As with traditional dumplings, momos can be steamed, fried, or added to soup. Even better, momos are always made fresh. You might have to wait a bit longer for your order to arrive but, trust me, it is certainly worth it.
This is a side dish, not very much unlike the Korean kimchi, although the preparation is different. Gundruk is basically fermented green leafy vegetables, with a slightly salty and mushroomy taste. Gundruk is a perfect accompaniment to a good dal bhat.
The chiura is less of a dish and more of a unique Nepali take on rice preparation. The chiura is made by beating rice until it flattens and then drying it out. You can eat it on its own, but is quite dry and does not really have much by way of taste, so it is best eaten with wet curries.
5) Sel roti
This is more of a snack than a full meal – not that anyone really is complaining. The sel roti is round and deep-fried, not unlike the donut, but with only a small hint of sweetness. Sel roti is among the dishes you will find practically anywhere in Nepal, from celebrations and festivals to everyday roadside snack stalls.
Speaking of snacks, bara is another popular Nepali snack. More specifically, bara is a distinctively Newari cuisine. It can be described as a savory rice-flour pancake and can be eaten on its own or with an egg and/or minced buffalo meat.
Like the bara, chatamari is a popular Newari snack which is very popular in Kathmandu. Chatamari is prepared with rice-flour crepe topped with chopped onions, coriander, minced meat, egg, and spices. Given its shape and preparation, it is often referred to as the “Nepali pizza”.
Another Newari dish, the yomari is so special that it has a festival of its own – the YomariPunhi Festival. At the end of the rice harvest, locals prepare sweet yomari to celebrate. Yomari is basically dumplings in the shape of a fish, typically stuffed with sweet coconut or molasses. This is a seasonal dish and outside the duration of the festival, this dish can be quite hard to find.
If you love salad and spicy food, then Sandheko is the dish for you. This is another Newari dish and is typically made with potatoes, peanuts, onions, coriander, and a whole lot of chili.Sandheko is actually a popular bar snack so if you are planning to experience Nepal’s nightlife, you might want to check it out then.
10) Juju dhau
This is the Newari version of yogurt. Juju dhau is a sweetened yogurt made from buffalo milk. This is only available in Bhaktapur so make sure to try it out.
Nepal’s cuisine is certainly scrumptious. It is all about fresh produce and a nice kick from spices, so if you are used to eating at fast food chains, Nepali dishes will come as a welcome change. A lot of the dishes mentioned above are quite hard to find outside Nepal, so make the most out of your stay in the country and try out these delicious local delicacies. Even better? You do not need to go to fancy restaurants to try out most of these.