We are often asked what is Nepali food? Or what are the best Nepali foods to try when visiting the country?
Here are 10 of our favourites.
Dal Bhat Takari
This is the favourite food of every Nepali. In actual fact, this is the staple food of every Nepali. They eat it twice a day! Every day.
What is Dal Bhat Tarkari?
Basically, this is a vegetable curry (takari) served with dal (lentil) soup and plenty of rice (Bhat). As simple as that. There is probably some kind of pickle served with it or a few green chillies.
Made with a variety of spices, every household’s Dal Bhat tastes unique. For those who are here trekking, you will definitely have this dish several times over.
If you want to really taste the difference try eating Dal Bhat in an upmarket restaurant such as Krishna Arpan at Dwarika’s Hotel and then in some small local establishment.
The taste, presentation and variety of vegetables’ will vary considerably. What is eaten at home is somewhere in between?
The vegetables in the curry will depend on the season and the dal (lentils) could be green, yellow, orange or black depending on the taste of the family.
Meat is often served (on request) in restaurants but is only served for special occasions and festivals in the home.
Where to Try it
This the other favourite food of every Nepali! Often made in Buddhist households such as people of Tibetan origin, Sherpas and the like, Hindu households do not make these. But boy they do love to eat them in restaurants!
What is Momo?
Momos are little parcels of meat (or vegetables) expertly wrapped in a rolled flour dough. Like a pickle. Then they are steamed and served with a spicy sauce or pickle into which the little parcels are dipped.
These are extremely inexpensive and are usually served about 10 pieces on a plate. Often eaten for lunch or a snack. There are fried momos as well – the same thing is fried in oil until crispy on the outside.
It is very unlikely you will not eat momos several times during your stay in Nepal. Most of the restaurants catering to the local population will serve momos. There are also cafes specifically selling only momos.
Today, you can also find restaurants, such as Places, Thamel selling momos whose dough is made of spinach, giving them an interesting green colour.
Some restaurants and hotels also now sell momos with sweet fillings. This is a modern take on the dish.
Another variation is bao, sometimes pronounced pao. These are larger, more bread-like dumplings which originated from China and are often served in Tibetan households or Tibetan restaurants in Kathmandu.
Where to Try it?
Eaten either with curry or with Yogurt for a snack or when on the go.
What is Chuira?
Chiura is beaten rice. That is, rice beaten flat and dried. This ensures it can be kept for a long time. It is pretty dry to eat – hence the curry or yogurt.
If there is a party going on you are pretty much guaranteed to get some Sekuwa! This is mainly eaten as a snack, before the main meal (which will be Dal Bhat).
What is Sekuwa?
Sekuwa is meat roasted, traditionally, over a wood fire. When still raw, the meat is mixed (marinated) with herbs and spices. Sekuwa can be pork, goat, chicken or a mix of meats.
This is something that can be made into a pickle or a soup and which Nepalis seem to love.
What is Gundruk?
Gundruk is a fermented leafy green vegetable. Salty. And very difficult to define. It doesn’t taste like anything you have had before.
You will either love it or hate it. Often served as a soup it can be served as a pickle alongside your Dal Bhat. If you see it on the menu, do try it out and tell us what you think it tastes like!
This delicious food is usually eaten at certain festivals. But can also be found in road-side stalls where it is good to have with a cup of tea.
What is Sel Roti
The name is a bit confusing, because Sel actually means the kind of bread this is, while roti is bread.
So it’s kind of like calling it bread. Anyway, it’s made of rice flour and looks like a skinny donut. Deep-fried with a little hint of sweetness these are eaten with spicy pickles or just with tea.
The original inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley are Newars who have their own dishes. Some which will appeal to the visitor, and some which definitely are an acquired taste.
Here are a few we like.
Also served as a snack bara can come plain, with an egg broken on top, or with some kind of meat.
What is Bara?
Basically, it’s a rice flour pancake. If you are ever taken to a Newari restaurant, (we recommend you try Lahana in Kirtipur) this is a safe bet if you have no idea what the other items are. Or in case you do have an idea as to what the other items are!
This is another safe bet.
What is Chatmari?
A Newari snack that is basically a rice flour crepe (thinner than a bara) that has savoury toppings ie onions, minced meat, egg, chillies and spices.
Usually pretty spicy this is a popular snack, particularly when drinking alcohol.
What is it?
Usually made of potatoes or peanuts, there are a lot of chillies, raw onion and spices in this dish. It is served cold.
In general Nepalis don’t eat sweets. There are a few very sweet sweets eaten during festivals but it is not normal to have a dessert at the end of the meal. Dhau is an exception.
What is it?
Dhau is yogurt (also known as curd). Often eaten with the meal (it cools the pallet after particularly spicy curry).
In fact in the more fancy restaurants, you might get a little dish of yogurt with your curry. Juju Dhau is considered special.
It comes all the way from Bhaktapur and its name means King of Curd. Thick, creamy, and sweetened this yoghurt of buffalo milk is much richer than yoghurt made from cow’s milk. And it comes in little clay pots.
Where can you try?
Bhaktapur local shops.
Some Newari Food You Can Try – If You Dare!
In Newari culture, no part of the animal goes to waste. Which is of course very sensible. Here are some Newari foods you might want to try. Or not.
You may see them on the menu, you may ask what exactly it is. Your friends and even the waiter may not be able to describe in English words. Best jot these down before heading to a Newari restaurant so you know what you are eating!
- Hakuchoila: spiced ground meat, broiled
- Senla mu: liver, steamed and sautéed
- Swanpuka: lungs filled and fried
- Bhuttan: fried intestine and other abdominal parts
- Mainh: tongue pieces, fried
- Kinema: fermented soybean
- Dheedo: a porridge-like substance made from maize and wheat you eat with curry instead of rice
- Sinki: pickle of fermented root parts of carrots; goes with dheedo Gundruk