This small mountain nation hidden inconspicuously between the towering Himalayas and Indian jungles is a land of mystery for many with its mountain trails, tigers and temples. It is all those things and more, an adventure for travelers with its rich culture, iconic hiking and more set to a backdrop of the most dramatic mountain scenery you’ve ever seen.
For many travelers, Nepal is as close to nirvana as they will ever get with its limitless journeys exploring both the Himalayas and the Nepalese food on their plates.
ShutterstockDal Bhat |
A favorite to Nepali countrymen from border to border, dal bhat would easily take the crown as national dish of Nepal if there was such a thing. This traditional food originally made its way from Bengal, and is a staple from countryside to inner city.
The dish consists of rice and lentils surrounded by an array of sides, including pickles, curries, yogurt, chutney, fish and meat. Due to farming limitations in the higher elevated areas of the country, other grains like cornmeal and barley or the unleavened bread roti may be substituted to replace the rice. The variations are limitless and so is the appetite of the Nepali for it. Dal bhat is commonly consumed twice a day.
Rice makes its way into many of the Nepalese foods, but when it’s fried to deliciousness it’s called pulao. You might already even be familiar with it already, the dish also going by the name of pilaf. This meal of fried rice and vegetables is spiced and seasoned just so with cumin and turmeric.
Pulao accompanies nearly everything, yogurt and papadams (seasoned dough) included. It’s a vegetarian option, adhering to the teachings of Buddhism. According to the religion, Buddha was born in present-day Nepal. The devout of his teachings believe the religious tenet of “do not kill” applies to all living things, including animals and fish.
In the heart of the Kathmandu Valley, the rice crepe of chatamari has been traditionally eaten during festivals and other special occasions celebrated by the indigenous Newar people. Today it’s widely eaten across the country and even other cultures as a popular snack, many restaurants in Kathmandu serving it as an appetizer. It resembles a pizza, prepared from rice flour and cooked as a flatbread over heat. The toppings range again similarly to a pizza pie, taking your pick from minced meat, tomato, onions, other vegetables and eggs.
The Newar people whom created the recipe have lived in Nepal and the Valley since prehistoric times, ruling this area called Nepal Mandala until conquered by the Gorkha Kingdom in 1768. In modern times, this influential civilization that left unmatched and sophisticated contributions to the cultures of the Himalayan foothills continues to represent five percent of Nepal’s population.
Sel Roti |
Sel roti is served as a treat during Nepal’s two biggest Hindu festivals, Tihar and Dashain. While it is based from rice flour, sel roti is far more unique than many of its Nepalese food counterparts. It’s somewhere between a donut, a bagel and an onion ring, a circular loop of rice flour that’s deep fried to crispy, sweet and puffy goodness.
Follow the lead of the locals and dip it in yogurt or eat it alongside vegetables. Street vendors serve it fresh and hot to accompany festivities. Dashain and Tihar give you a chance to try the snack. Dashain is the most looked forward to celebration in the Hindu calendar, lasting for 15 days that are followed by the five days of Tihar. Buddhists and Hindus from around the country return to Nepal to celebrate together with family and dine on sel roti during this time.
Momo is the Nepali take on the dumpling. It’s fried or steamed deliciousness with vegetables or meat in the middle. While it’s amazing on its own, just wait until you try it with the dips that are often served with it. Momo is made even better with the flavorful and spicy sauces, usually made from a tomato or other vegetable base with a dash of raw chili and garlic. These appetizers are popular in every far corner of Nepal, so finding one to sample shouldn’t be an issue.
Aloo Tama | Distinctive and famous to Nepal is this version of curry, the aloo tama. Translating to mean potato with bamboo shoot, aloo tama is a classic for Newari cuisine and served for bhoj (feast). It’s a comfort food when eaten that instantly reminds Nepali expats around the world instantly of home.
The soup is prepared with black eyed beans, potatoes, bamboo shoots and spices. It has a sour and pungent taste that makes it instantly recognizable.
In the mountainous regions of Nepal and in Kathmandu, you’ll find locals soothing their hungry stomachs with bowls of this Nepalese hot noodle soup. Thukpa, which means noodle in Tibetan, is filled with meat and vegetables and paired with sides of momo. While it pulls from Tibetan influences, Nepal adds its signature spicy twist to the food. Vegetarian thukpa can be found, but it is considered its best with a carefully seasoned selection of yak, goat, lamb or chicken mixed in.
Gorkhali Lamb | In the depths of winter, the Nepali people are warmed by the intense and savory flavors and ingredients of Gorkhali lamb. This curry dish utilizes the tender and flavorful lamb, which is slow-cooked and marinated in the curry with onions and potatoes. It is then grilled with a mix of spicy chili, then transferred back to the curry concoction to cook more and soak up the rich aromas and tastes. A side of rice completes the meal, one that’s pleasing, filling and satisfying to the last bite.
Was the food not enough? Here are 5 Reasons to Visit Nepal.
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