If you are in Nepal and don’t try Nepali foods then you will be missing a big chunk of experience behind. A better way to enjoy the local delicacies would be to establish a good relation with some local guy and ask him/her to take you to the hidden gems of the Nepali food world. There are really small places hidden in narrow roads that have been running for decades and have specialized in certain dishes. But these places do no marketing and so without the help of local people you may never find these places. Ask around if you must. Some such places are:
- Honacha, Patan
- Everest momo
- Snowman cafe, freak street (Jhochen)
Now, let me get your head around some of the best food Nepal has to offer; I am a big foodie myself so you are in good hands:
1. Dal bhaat
The most common and everyday household meal. If there is anything like a national food of Nepal Dal bhat would be it. Dal bhaat was traditionally eaten by Khas people in the ancient times. Nowadays it has sort of become a national food of Nepal. Every other household eats dal bhat as their staple food. This dish consists of steamed rice, vegetables as side dishes, soup made of Lentils, meat curry of your choice and pickle. It is served in almost every other restaurants.
Mr. Been "And the best thing is you can refill as much as you want and no extra money will be charged. I do that all the time!"
Dal bhat is perfectly balanced in terms of nutrition and consist of energy producing foods which is why it is recommended in the trekking regions. Besides filling up your tummy you will also be energized for the next day. A popular saying suffices this, “Dal bhat power 24 hour”. You should be seeing lots of t-shirts with this line in the streets of Thamel. As previously mentioned there is so much diversity in terms of everything and food is no different. With variety of people come different eating habits and delicacies.
Khas people or now collectively Brahmins, Chhetris, Thakuris etc used to eat Dal Bhat. It was they that started the tradition of eating dal bhat twice a day; one in the morning and one in the night. Slowly the Khas started to migrate to different parts of Nepal and the tradition of eating Dal Bhat caught on. It is now a staple diet of every household. The rice is often replaced with Dhindo, a thick porridge like substance made from buckwheat or barley.
Even foreigners have been fond of Dal bhat. Check this song out and you will know ;)
2. Newari food
I earlier mentioned that I was a foodie but nowhere near to Newari people. When it comes to food they own it! This ethnic group has to be the biggest foodie in all of Nepal as is suggested by the variety of food they have to offer. If you have ever been to a Newar party you will know exactly what I am talking about. A common talk in the town is that if you present a buffalo to a Newar family nothing will remain of the animal. Each part of the ‘delicious’ animal is a delicacy in itself for the Newars. Meat is obvious but besides that the eyeballs, tongue, liver, intestines, brain, bone marrow etc are all considered a delicacy and eaten with great enthusiasm by the Newari people. Which is why the talk in the town; nothing remains!
Some of the more famous cuisines are burnt buff meat (choyla) , bone marrow stuffed in intestines (Sapu Micha), blood sausage, bitten rice (Chuira), fried intestines (Bhutann), fried lungs (phokso), pancakes made from lentils (bara) etc. There’s also sanyakhuna and Takha/ Thalthale which are jelly like substance with buff meat inside them. The jelly part is made by boiling buffalo fat extensively and leaving it to freeze. They aren’t hardcore carnivores however as it may seem. They eat their veggies as well, but in a manner typical to the Newars. The more famous veg items are spicy potatoes (piro aalu), and steamed spinach with peanuts. There’s also yomari, which is a type of steamed sweet bread with a dark chocolate like filling called chaku; the steamed bread is made from rice flour. In fact there is a separate festival dedicated to this food alone called Yomari Punhi. I have to admit there aren’t as many veg items as there are non-veg items. I know you must be startled by some of these dishes but they are tasty and are normal cuisines amongst newari people. A lot of food requires a lot of drinks to wash it down which is why Newari people have their own homemade liquors (aaila, chyaang). Homemade liquors might require fire extinguishers to your throat. If you want to go for a relatively mild one you will probably want to order chyang, a white liquor made from rice. The one that might require a fire extinguisher is transparent just like water and is called aaila.
Lawrence of Himalayas "Kirtipur has pretty cool newari restaurants serving up authentic newari dishes. One of the more famous ones is ‘Lahana’. There is another one by the name of Honacha in Patan Durbar Square that is quite famous for newari dishes, specially chhoila. These however are not fancy and clean establishments. Therefore, nowadays there are some modern restaurants serving up newari dishes too, The village, Falcha to name a few."
I am quite excited to introduce you guys to this delicious food because I simply love it! It is the Nepali version of meat filled dumplings and boy have they made it their own. A restaurant which doesn’t serve momo is sure to be a flop because every other Nepali guy or a girl enters a restaurant and most definitely orders a plate of momo. So if you are planning to open up a restaurant in Nepal make sure it serves momo. Nowadays there are many varieties of momos available. Not just the regular meat fillings but there are veggies, cheese, khuwa as well. Read our blog to find out various types of momos available.
Momo has sort of become like a staple food of all Nepali people. You will have to doubt a person claiming to be Nepali if he/she doesn’t know what momo is. The wrappings are made from white wheat flour and the filling is most popularly buff. Other options are pork, chicken, vegetables etc. It is mostly eaten with a spicy dipping. There is even a separate day by the name of ‘Momo Mania’ dedicated entirely to varieties of momo. Momo is everywhere; it is in every restaurant, in everybody’s mind, in music even. Check out this jazz piece:
Besides the above mentioned best three, Sherpas have their Rigikur, Syomar, Tsampa and butter tea. Rigikur are potato pancakes, Shyomar is sort of like a liquid cheese. Tsampa is roasted flour made from Barley. Butter tea is a regular drink in the Himalayas. Traditionally, it is made from tea leaves, yak butter, water and salt. Also, Khapse is their go-to snack food which is basically deep fried dough made from wheat flour. The Tharus have their Ghonghi which is considered a delicacy. In France it is known as escargot and are considered a delicacy there as well. Although I am quite sure Nepalese won’t be charging you as much as in France. They are basically snail shells and the snail is eaten by sucking it from the shell.
If you happen to be a boring person and decide not to try the local delicacies don’t worry. There are restaurants serving all types of food from all over the world. Italian, Spanish, Mexican, Japanese, Korean, Indian you name it, they are all available in a variety of restaurants. Some restaurants even localize foreign food and try to give it a Nepali twist. One such delicacy is momo.
Mr. Been "Let me warn you! If you want to try all the dishes Nepal has to offer make sure you have a strong digestive system or make sure there are toilets around. Nepali foods can be evil to weak stomachs. When the time comes you will know why Nepalese use water instead of paper towels in the loo after a long one."
Lawrence of Himalayas "Momo is served in every restaurants in Nepal but there are some more famous ones. Dragon, Ghangri cafe, Everest momo, The bakery cafe are the more famous ones."