The Nepalese are hardy people and so is their cuisine. Though a tad limited in variety, Nepali cuisine is functional to the core but high on taste. The national dish of Nepal is the simple unpretentious daal bhaat. Ethnic groups dish up their own delicacies but even these are essentially subsistence food that is very vital for the body. Apart from the traditional Nepalese fare, other types of food and cuisines from momos to macaroni are widely available here. The food in this mountain kingdom is generally tasty and inexpensive, enabling tourists to enjoy both traditional and international cuisine.
To the Nepali, food is the fuel that gives him the energy for mountain life, especially as a porter and guide. When you are trekking, you too will understand the importance of this basic fare!
Our Nepal restaurant guide below will tell you all you need to know about the food and cuisine in Nepal. After shopping for that perfect souvenir, relax and enjoy a tasty meal at one of Nepals restaurants. You can check out what the local dining scene is like in the destinations below, as well as some local suggestions of where to find a good meal.
Food & Cuisine in Nepal
Nepalis in rice growing regions eat daal bhaat twice a day: once at around 10.30 in the morning and next in the evening, soon after the sun has set. These two main meals are interspersed with snacks like popped or beaten rice, curried potatoes and flattened bread washed down with milky tea, which is high on sugar!
A very interesting fact about the food habits of the Nepalese is that they avoid the use of metal spoons. Metal spoons are believed to detract from the flavour of food, put you off your food and make you thinner. Now, being thin is not a good thing at all as far as Nepalis are concerned! Urbane diners therefore use silver cutlery while most Nepalis use their right hand to eat with.
The meal is usually served in a thali, which is a metal plate with small partitions in which the daal, vegetables and pickles are served. The Nepali likes food hot and the idea is to pour the daal on the mound of rice, mix the two rapidly and eat it continuously before it loses heat. Of course you can interrupt this constant hand to mouth existence to take in a little vegetable and pickle!
There is no restriction on the number of daal bhaat portions that may be eaten. Waiters make repeated sorties, extorting you to eat more helpings, and you are supposed to eat all you can. Porters tank up on at least three platefuls of daal bhaat before they start climbing and very often the distance to a certain point is measured in terms of the amount of daal bhaat required by the porter to reach there!
Nepalese cuisine essentially focuses on nutrition and is quite basic. But this is not at the cost of taste, flavour and diversity. The Nepalese make liberal use of flavourings and spices like cilantro, chillies, cumin, pepper, coriander, garlic and ginger. The seasonings are fried in ghee, mustard oil and sometimes in yak butter! Nepali dishes are easy to cook!
All around Nepal, and more so in the rice growing regions, daal bhaat is the staple dish, eaten twice a day. This dish comprises a thin broth like preparation (daal) made from seasoning boiled lentils with chillies, ginger and cilantro and cooked rice (bhaat). Daal is poured liberally over a heap of bhaat and this is eaten along with vegetable curries (tarkaari) and a dash of pungent spicy pickle (achaar).
The two main meals are interspersed with snacks like beaten rice (chura), flat bread (roti), vegetable curries, bread and milky sweet tea.
Famous Nepalese cuisine
Gundrook - Dheedo
Gundrook Dheedo is a nutritious yet tasty dish that is made from dried green vegetable, maize and wheat. It is completely sugar free and very popular not only with the Nepalese but with tourists as well.
Alu Tama or Potato Bamboo shoots, as the name suggests, is a dish made from bamboo shoots and potato, seasoned with curry spices. It is distinctly Nepalese in the sense that most Asian cuisines except Chinese do not use bamboo shoots, and the Chinese do not use curry flavours when they use bamboo shoots.
Vegetable Pulao (Fried Nepali Rice)
Vegetable pulao is a rice dish flavoured with cumin and turmeric. It is served in Nepali households during parties and feasts. A great hit with the tourist, vegetable pulao is eaten either with manchurian sauce or curd.
Masu, a popular Nepali delicacy, is served during the main course with rice. It is gravy made with curried or spiced pork, buffalo meat or chicken.
Vegetable Thupka (Egg Noodles)
Tibetan Vegetable Thupka is an important seasonal dish served at the traditional feast held to celebrate Losar, the Tibetan New Year.
This is the Newari version of the pizza and is very popular with tourists who regard it as a healthy and tasty substitute for the pizza. Chatamari is quite simply flattened bread made out of rice flour and served along with or without the toppings of vegetables, eggs, meat and sugar.
Tongba is a kind of homemade wine cultured with Limbu (Lemon). Here, fermented millet seeds are soaked in hot water. The resulting brew is sipped with a bamboo straw while the mug is replenished periodically with hot water. This enhances the taste and impact of Tongba, which is a great favourite with tourists. The Nepalese, of course, guzzle it all through their winter.
Rakshi is a strong alcoholic drink that is distilled from millet. A mandatory requirement at social events and religious rituals, and known both for its alcoholic content as well as its antiseptic properties, Rakshi is often homemade.