Nepal, a multiethnic country is home to various culture and lifestyle. The diverse ethnicity and culture of Nepal gives the wide variety is Nepali delicacies. The variety of Nepali traditional foods may be overwhelming for you when you encounter them for the first time. Why? Because there are so many and all of them are mouth wateringly delicious.
The variety of Nepalese cuisine is based on the geographical location; mountain people and terai people have totally different recipes, and the ethnicity; different ethnic groups have their own cuisine. Along with its own authentic gastronomy, some of the Nepali dishes are inspired and influenced by the food culture of neighboring countries.
Nepalese foods are packed with nutrients and are healthier as compared to other Asian foods; the fewer amounts of oil & grease and more amounts of vegetables & greens. Since most of the Nepali people have little or no breakfast but lunch before leaving for work or school, lunch is heavy and healthy. In the afternoon, they have snacks (khaja) that can be both traditional or fusion dishes and dinner in the evening.
Nepali ‘daal bhat’ is popular which is lentil and rice and is staple food of most of the Nepalese. And nobody can say ‘No’ to the mighty Momos. Besides these popular daal bhat and momos, every single Nepali dish will for sure delight your tastebuds in a unique way.
The communities in the mountainous region of the country have their own varieties of food, which are mostly influenced by Tibetan food habits. Most ethnic groups are from the hilly region and they have their own ethnic recipes while Terai has its own cuisines with Indian influence.
The traditional Nepali foods are mostly limited to the kitchen of Nepali people and very few traditional dishes are commercialized. But some restaurants and eateries are taking the food business to completely new level by adding traditional foods to their menu.
Not just traditional foods but Nepal has remarkable traditional drinks as well.
Here, we have prepared the list of scrumptious traditional Nepali foods and drinks. If you are here in Nepal for the first time, make sure to buzz your tastebuds with these palatable dishes.
Daal Bhat Tarkari
Daal bhat tarkari is staple food of Nepal, which can be considered as National food of Nepal. Daal is lentil soup, bhat is rice and tarkari is vegetable curry. Daal bhat tarkari is often accompanied with pickles and chutney. Meat is also included but not regularly. Some restaurants offer daal bhat but they are named as Veg Thali (daal bhat with few types of vegatables), Chicken thali (daal bhat with vegetables and chicken curry), and Mutton thali (daal bhat with vegetables and mutton curry). Normal daal bhat tarkari is good but Thakali thali is the best. Thakalis are the ethnic group of Mountain region and known for their awesome recipe and cooking style. Try out some Thakali restaurants for Thakali thali and you will be amazed by the taste of daal bhat tarkari.
Newari Khaja Set or Samaybaji
Newars are the indigenous community of Kathmandu and they have wide varieties of dishes, almost more than 200 delicacies. Samaybaji or newari khaja set in simpler terms is famous snack (khaja). It is traditionally served in Newari family get-togethers and festivals (there are so many newari festivals like their dishes) but is becoming popular as regular snack for everyone. Samaybaji includes baji or chiura (beaten rice), choila (marinated spicy meat), bara (lentil pancake), black-eyed peas, boiled egg, spicy pickle, soyabean with julienned ginger, alu tama (potato and bamboo shoots curry), and green leafy vegetables. Aila (newari alcoholic drink) is also included. Newari restaurants serve the best khaja set or the Samaybaji.
Dhido is Nepali polenta. It is the boiled flour usually cornmeal and buckwheat. It is a traditional Nepali food that is cooked in almost all kitchens in hilly and mountain region of the country. Since growing rice and wheat is not so favorable in upper region, mostly the people of those regions eat dhido. It is popular traditional food after daal bhat. It is mostly accompanied with local kukhura ko jhol (local chicken curry), green leafy vegetables, pickles, vegetables curry, and gundruk ko jhol (fermented green leafy vegetables curry). It is highly nutritional and considered very healthy. Restaurants that serve traditional Nepali foods have dhido on their menu. Surprise your tastebuds with this amazing dish.
There are rarely any restaurants and small eateries, which don’t serve momos in Nepal. You can find momo wherever you go. Similar to Chinese dumplings and Japanese Gyoza, momos are flour dough wrapped around varieties of fillings. Although momos are said to be native to Tibet, with Nepali spices and tweaks it has become the most loved food in Nepal. It almost qualifies to be a national food. It is steamed but it can be fried or kothey (half steamed half fried). Usually served with tomato and sesame chutney but Jhol momos (momos submarined in spicy soup) and Chilly momos (steamed momos fried in spicy gravy) are famous. The fillings can be vegetables, meat (chicken, buff, pork, mutton), paneer, cheese and more. The restaurants are coming up with more varieties of momos and all will satisfy your palate.
Kwati is a mixed soup of nine different types of sprouted beans. It is considered to be very healthy and is also very delicious. It is a ritualistic dish that is made and eaten on the day of Janai Purnima or Raksha Bandhan in the month of Shrawan. It includes black gram, green gram, chickpea, field pea, soybean, kidney bean, cowpea, rice bean and garden pea. The beans are soaked for 3-4 days or until they are sprouted. They are cooked with various spices and made into soup. It is believed that kwati takes away all the cold from the monsoon.
Selroti is one of the best traditional foods of Nepal. Made of rice flour with some salt and sugar, it is ring shaped and deep-fried. This is prepared during Tihar and other major pujas, and is considered major part of festive treats. It looks like doughnut or bagel but is thinner with wider hole. Selroti is one of a kind of bread in the world. Mostly consumed as snacks and breakfast treats they are often paired with different vegetable curries, chicken curry, yoghurt, and tea. They are mostly found in street side vendors and local eateries. Very few restaurants serve them. These days they can be fond in major departmental stores as well.
Aalu dum is one of the popular dishes in Nepal. This is one of the best potato dishes with very few ingredients that leave your taste buds satisfied. It is tangy and hot. It is mostly eaten as a starter or snack or side dish for rice and rotis. It also makes a great pair with selroti as festive foods.
Originated from the hill station of Darjeeling, aalu dum is mostly popular in ethnic communities of eastern region like Rai, Limbu. But almost everyone loves aalu dum and restaurants with traditional menus definitely have aalu dum.
Thukpa is a noodle soup, a Himalayan food, originated from Tibet. It consists of noodles, vegetables and meat (chicken, buff or pork). It can be super hot and mostly favored during winter. It is warm and comforting dish hence, very famous in the colder region and cold weather. But it is easily available in most of the restaurants and eateries all time of the year.
Chatamari, also known as Newari Pizza is a flatbread made of rice flour with various toppings, just like pizza. Egg, minced meat and onions are the most common and traditional toppings. But the evolvement in the food culture has introduced other toppings like cheese. This newari delicacy is famous among people of Kathmandu and all Newari restaurants and local eateries serve various kinds of Chatamari.
Originally called ‘liangfen’, which translates to cold noodle, laphing is a cold noodle dish brought to Nepal by Tibetan refugees. This is favorite dish of people who love super hot and spicy food. It is made with dough in soya sauce with ginger, garlic, salt & pepper. The dough is rolled and cut in circles. Plenty of eateries around Boudha and Tibetan camps serve laphing. You can get two types of laphing; plain laphing and soup laphing. Laphing will set your tastebuds on fire and give you atypical culinary experience.
Do you still want to continue Nepali gastronomic journey? Here are some more popular Nepali foods that you can try.
- Thenthuk: A broth consisting different kinds of vegatables, meat and dough
- Yomari: A popular festive dish of steamed bread with various kinds of fillings like chaaku, khuwa or even ground meat.
- Maas ko Bara: Lentil patties or flat pancakes topped with ground meat and egg.
- Taas: Popular dish in Terai region, spicy fried mutton served with bhuja (puffed rice), pickles and green salad.
- Kinima: It is fermented and dried soyabean, famous in eastern hilly region.
- Sekuwa: It is barbequed spicy meat; especially Bajeko Sekuwa is famous.
- Ghonghi: Snail dish is common food of Tharu community in Terai region.
- Khapse: Crisp biscuit-like snack made from flour, ghee, water, and milk (optional) made by people in mountain region, especially in Lhosar (new year) but is easily available in Buddhists area and stores.
- Suji ko haluwa: It is almost like dhido but made of semolina and is kind of sweet. Some dried fruits are also added.
- Tingmo: Tingmo or Tibetan momos are steamed and porous bread.
- Juju Dhau: Juju dhau is newari for king curd, made from buffalo milk and sweetened with honey is the most famous curd in Kathmandu.
- Kheer: A kind of porridge, which is mostly consumed as dessert. It is made of made of rice boiled in milk with sugar and dried fruits.
- Khalpi: fermented pickle made from mature cucumber.
- Yak Cheese: Cheese made from yak’s milk in the Himalayan region.
- Khuwa: Reduced and thickened milk, which is used as filling in Yomari and Momo, also Khuwa Kulfi (a popsicle made of Khuwa).
- Pustakari: Traditional Nepali sweet or candy made from sugar, khuwa, peanut powder and coconut powder.
- Pau/Titaura: Famous treats usually made with fruits that vary from sweet, salty, sour to hot and spicy.
- Chhurpi: Hardened cheese, also known as durkha is Himalayan treat.
Nepali foods are tasty and flavorsome that delight your taste buds and so are Nepali drinks. Nepal produces both tea and coffee and most Nepalese love to drink tea or coffee in the morning and afternoon. You can find wide arrays of tea and coffee-based drinks.
Most of the ethnic communities have alcohol as a major part of their religious and cultural rituals. Hence, they produce varieties of homemade alcohols, which are so good.
Here are some of the famous alcoholic and non-alcoholic Nepalese drinks:
- Nepali Tea: You can get two types of Nepali tea; orthodox and CTC (crush, tear, curl) tea.
- Butter Tea: A Himalayan drink made with tealeaves, yak butter, water and salt.
- Chhyaang: Brewed drink, usually made from semi-fermented rice, barley and millet grains.
- Aila: A traditional and homemade Newari drink prepared by the distillation of fermented rice or millet grains.
- Raksi: Another traditional distilled drink made from millet or rice, mostly by the people of hilly region.
- Tongba: A traditional and indigenous drink of Kiranti people in eastern region. Fermented millet grains are placed in container and hot water is poured. It is left undisturbed for few minutes and then it is ready to drink. It is sipped with straw and is popular mostly in winter season.
- Khukuri Rum: Commercially manufactured, khukuri rum is considered as one of the best rums. Coronation Khukuri XXX Rum comes in a bottle shaped as a Nepali blade, Khukuri and is taken mostly as souvenir from Nepal.
It was not possible to get all these foods and drinks in commercial restaurants and eateries. But with the evolution of food business, you can easily get them now. You just have to go to the right place, be it posh restaurants or simple local eatery or small street side vendor.
Do you think we are missing something that should be on our Nepali food list? Do let us know in the comment section.