Nepalese food is different. It is an offbeat and alternative culinary, nothing like you’ve eaten before. To be honest, Nepalese cuisines aren’t globally celebrated as Thai or Indian, Mexican or Chinese are, and it is a lesser known taste of Asia. Infact most of its traditional dishes do not have any distinct, bold flavor, and for the spicy palate, the food may be bland! Yet it is delectable, extremely nutritious, and popular among Westerners trekking in the Himalayan foothills. The simplicity and subtlety really surprises the food enthusiasts!
Nepalese cuisines are pretty healthy since the food isn’t loaded with grease and spices, and the local folks love green vegetables which only makes their food more nourishing. For seasonings, commonly used elements like ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, turmeric, dry red chillies, etc are incorporated in cooking and sometimes exotic, local spices like Timur (Szechwan pepper) and Jimbu (Himalayan herb) are also added for that extra zing. Whilst oil, vegetable oil, is the preferred medium of cooking, ghiu (clarified butter) and mustard oil are also used to flavor some dishes.
An ideal Nepalese or Himalayan cuisine, as it is commonly referred as, consists of Dal (boiled lentils), Bhat (steamed rice), Tarkari (vegetable curry/broth) or Masu (Meat) and Achar served on a big Aluminum plate. Their Achar is different (not mango and lemon pickles!), and it also serves as a side dish. Achar adds that punch to their otherwise simple meal hence there are many varieties, and some can even be stored in bottles for weeks! Apart from rice, Sukha Roti (plain chappati) is also consumed and in poorer and remote areas, Dhiro, a thick mush made of maize or millet or wheat flour is the staple diet. Nepalese folks aren’t that fond of sweets, but occasionally make desserts like Kheer to satisfy the cravings. Preserved/fermented foods like Gundruk and Sukuti and Tibetan delicacies like Momo (steamed dumplings), Thukpa (Himalayan stew) and Chow-Chow (stir-fried noodles) are relished and eaten on a regular basis. Chiya (Tea) is consumed in big mugs and two or three times a day, and local liquor like Chhyang (fermented rice beer) and Tongba (fermented millet beer) are quite popular even among the tourists. They really come handy in fighting the cold climes of the Himalayas.
If you are traveling to Nepal or Darjeeling-Sikkim region, which harbours the highest percentage of Nepalese people in India, you could explore some of the local delicacies. The choice is endless. But here’s a list that you can start with.
- Saag – green vegetables like mustard, spinach and iskush ko munta
- Gundruk soup & Gundruk salad – dried and fermented green vegetables leaves
- Momo – dumplings filled with minced meat (mutton/chicken/pork/beef) or vegetables
- Sel roti – doughnut-like snack made from rice flour
- Sukuti – spicy dried fish preparation
- Ningro – a variety of fern that is found in the Himalayan region
- Churpi ko achar – fermented cheese produced from milk of cow and yak
- Kinema – fermented soy beans
While you wait for your Himalayan escapade to savor these amazing dishes, here are two dishes that you can make at home using locally available ingredients.
- Chicken Thukpa, a Tibetan cuisine, is a hearty bowl of noodles in chicken soup. It is an ideal dish for a cold winter night and really comforting when you have a sore throat and a blocked nose. Click to read its recipe.
- Alu Til ko Achar (Potato Sesame), a favorite of Nepalese community, is tangy and tasty. Whether, it’s somebody’s marriage or a birthday bash or any other special occasion, Potato Sesame has to be there. Click to read its recipe.
@ Anita – I had to! World didn’t know about it. Now, I think it won’t ask what exactly Nepalese people eat.
@ Deena – Momos and Thukpa are like blankets…especially on a cold winter night. 🙂 Great way to beat the cold.
@ Ivy – Thanks!
@ Roh -Damn! How could I forget Dalle ko achar. Million thanks for adding to the list.
Amit’s friend went to khatmandu recently and got for us- NEPALI MASALA TEA. Its a nice woodden box, opens delicately and gives a very nice flavour to the tea. Just mix a bit with your regular tea leaves for the colour/strength of the sip. How can you forget dalle?? our very own hot,hot chillies. I think its nice to pick up bottles of dalle ko achar.
Interesting article. Keep writing more.
Never knew so much about Nepali cuisines. Have plans of visiting Darjeeling-Sikkim in the future…let me note down the items to taste. I like Momos and Thukpa, but have never made it myself. I go to the restaurants to eat it. Thank you for posting this insightful piece.
Beautiful….Thanks for introducing Nepali Kitchen to the World.