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What to Eat and Drink in Kathmandu and Nepal

Food in Nepal

Nepal is an ethnically and culturally diverse country, and one outcome of this is that there is an impressive array of local cuisine. Nepalese food has been strongly influenced by both India and Tibet, and in places like Kathmandu there is a growing interest in western dishes. Much of the local cuisine (particularly from the Himalayan region) can taste a bit bland if people are used to spicy or savory food, but the diet in Nepal receives a good deal of praise for its health giving properties.

Nepali Dal Bhat

Dal Bhat is the National Dish of Nepal

The nearest thing to a national dish in Nepal would be dal bhat. The basic ingredients of this are rice and lentil soup. Many Nepalese will eat dal bhat twice a day. There are many different versions of this meal, but the most popular is dal bhat tarkari which also comes with curried vegetables.

Local Cuisine in Kathmandu

Modern Kathmandu is home to many ethnic groups, but the indigenous people of the Kathmandu valley are the Newar (Newa). The Newar have their own cuisine which is said to consist of about 200 dishes. A Tibet and Chinese influence is obvious in their food. They also have foods that a similar to western dishes such as:

  • Chatamari is a popular snack. It is similar to pizza.
  • Swo is similar to Scottish haggis.
  • Yanghu yi hau is similar to the white pudding that is popular in the UK at breakfast time.
  • Choee tastes like salami.

Food in Nepal and Religious Festivals

It is common in Nepal to associate certain types of foods with particular religious festivals. Chatamari was once only eating by the Newar people on festival days. Kwati is a type of curried sprouted bean soup that is also associated with festival days of the Newar. On all of these special days there is usually a good selection of vegetarian as well as non vegetarian dishes available.

Nepalese Meat Dishes

It is illegal to kill a cow in Nepal so beef dishes are not common. The meat dishes tend to be made from chicken, pork, mutton, or water buffalo. The most popular chicken dishes include:

  • Thupka is a traditional type of chicken soup that is also popular in Tibet and Bhutan.
  • Chicken masu is spicy and comes with gravy.
  • Jwanu Chicken is marinated and cooked with chilies and other spices.

Pork Dishes in Nepal

Popular pork dishes include:

  • Pork masu
  • Bangur bhutuwa is a spicy stir fried pork dish mixed with spices.
  • Phagshapa is pork with chili and radishes.

Mutton Dishes in Nepal

Mutton dishes include:

  • Khasi mo masu ledo is a mutton curry dish.
  • Lamb Pakuwa is a slow cooked dry lamb curry.

The Newar people have at least 80 different recipes that include buffalo meat.

Nepalese Vegetarian Dishes

The Nepalese excel when it comes to their vegetarian dishes. It is important to realize though, that many dishes will contain dairy products so they will not be suitable for vegans – it is usually possible to have a vegan option for the same meal when requested. The most popular vegetarian dishes in Nepal would include:

  • Dal bhat
  • Alu Tareko is fried potatoes cooked with spices.
  • Vegetable Pulao is a vegetarian fried rice dish.
  • Alu dum is fried potato in gravy.
  • Alu acchar is a dish made from pickled potatoes.
  • Golveda ra dhaniya ko achaar is made from tomato and cilantro (coriander) pickle.

Nepalese Desserts

The most popular Nepalese desserts include:

  • Juju Dhau comes from the Bhaktapur region of Nepal. It is like a mix between yogurt and custard.
  • Skiarni is a yogurt dish that is mixed with spices and fruit.
  • Rasbari are a type of sweetened milk ball (similar to ice cream) that usually come with rose water flavor syrup.
  • Bufri are a type of rice cake that comes in a diamond shape.
  • Alu Tama is made up of potato mixed with bamboo shoots.

Non Alcoholic Drinks in Kathmandu and Nepal

The most popular non-alcoholic drinks in Nepal include:

  • Chay is the local tea that comes with milk. It is also often mixed with ginger or other spices.
  • The Nepalese also enjoy a salty tea known as suja – it contains milk and butter.
  • Lassi is similar to a milkshake, made traditionally from curd or sometimes yoghurt, it is churned and chilled. This drink is not only popular in Nepal but also in many parts of South Asia.

Alcoholic Drinks in Kathmandu and Nepal

The most popular alcoholic drinks in Nepal include:

  • Raksi is made from rice or millet (a type of grass) and is similar to tequila. This is the cheapest and one of the most popular alcoholic drinks in Nepal. It is often consumed on festival days.
  • Jaand is sometimes referred to as Nepalese beer, but it is closer to a rice wine. It is not as strong as raksi, but most it is usual to dilute it in water.

Table Etiquette in Nepal

There are a few dining rules that visitors to Nepal should be aware of including:

  • It is considered taboo for non-Hindus to enter a Hindu kitchen.
  • It is considered bad manners to touch anyone else’s food in Nepal.
  • The local people use their left hand for cleaning themselves after the toilet so only the right hand is used for eating. It is also bad table etiquette to pass food to someone else using the left hand.
  • It is traditional for the Nepalese to eat two main meals of the day – one at about seven in the morning and one around eight in the evening.
  • In recent years the Nepalese have tended to snack more. They refer to this type of food as kha ja which translated means eat and run.