Nepali Food And Beverage
Fragrant spices, juicy vegetables, and an exotic way of presenting food make Nepalese cuisine as intriguing as all the original culture of the Himalayan country. Of course, the culinary traditions of the people living in Nepal have differences due to ethnicity and geographical diversity.
But in any case, some dishes can be characterized as national. And it should be noted that the Nepalese treat food reverently; they value it as an essential “fuel” for life and not a joy for a gourmet. For this reason, the dishes are simple but refined in flavors, thanks to the use of original mixtures of common ingredients and spices, which also characterizes the national specificity of food.
Basically, Nepalese cuisine is very simple yet refined. The national dish is Dal Bhat Tarkari consumed two times a day: morning and evening. Pickled vegetables, meat, and curry dishes are often served with it.
Typical spices include garlic, pepper, coriander, ginger, mustard, chili, and cumin. Ghee is mainly famous in the country’s Terai and hilly region, while yak butter is famous in the Himalayan region.
Let’s see in detail what this magnificent nation offers in terms of food and beverages.
Unique food culture of Nepal
Nepal’s food culture is strongly influenced by Hinduism. The most distinctive feature is that the types of meat that can be eaten are limited.
People in Nepal consume mainly three types of meat: mutton, buffalo, and chicken. Beef meat is not allowed in Nepal as in Hinduism cows are revered and equated with gods. Fish dishes are also widely eaten in Nepal.
However, chicken is the most popular and is often served as a side dish along with rice, lentils, and vegetables in most restaurants and homes.
Goat meat is what Nepalese like, and pigs are considered dirty, so only a limited number of people eat them. In addition, many vegetarians do not eat meat or fish at all for religious reasons.
Traditionally, even in higher circles, hands are used to eat meals in Nepal. However, tourists who want to conform to the customs should be careful to use only their right hand. The left is considered impure and taboo at the dining table.
Some facts about Nepalese food culture
- In Nepal, people usually eat with the right hand, as the left hand is considered unclean.
- Most dishes in Nepal are prepared with garlic, onions, and ginger.
- As a matter of principle, the Brahmins and Chhetris ethnic groups do not eat food prepared by another caste.
- The orthodox Hindus of Nepal abstain from alcohol, chicken, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and chilies as these foods irritate the body’s senses. Yogurt is often served with spicy dishes to soften the heat.
- Spices called masalas, such as cumin, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek, chili, and pepper, should not be missing from vegetable and meat dishes.
- Buddhists are also permitted to eat yak meat.
- Cows are sacred and national animal in Nepal, and therefore consuming beef meat is strictly prohibited.
Comparison of most popular Nepali food by its popularity
|Food||Spiciness||Description||Cost in Nepali rupees per plate|
|Dal, bhat, and tarkari||Mild to moderate||Lentil soup with rice and vegetables||400 to 900|
|Momo||Mild to moderate||Dumplings with various fillings||160 to 250|
|Alu Tama||Moderate||Bamboo shoot and potato curry with beans||70 to 90|
|Alu Achar||Moderate||Potato pickle||70 to 90|
|Chhoela||Very spicy||Marinated meat||150 to 250|
|Sekuwa||Very spicy||Marinated meat||600 to 700|
|Chicken curry||Very spicy||Chicken meat curry||250 to 300|
|Bara||Mild||Lentil snack||50 to 70|
|Chowmin||Mild||Noodle snack||185 to 350|
- Unique Food of Nepal
Here is the list of unique and delicious gourmets of Nepal:
- Dal, Bhat, and Tarkari (Lentil, rice, and vegetable) is the national dish of Nepal
The whole of Nepal feeds on dal, Bhat, and tarkari, served two times a day in the morning and the evening. The heavy meal is also served with many side dishes, including spicy pickles and meat, so the dish is nutritionally well-balanced.
Traditionally, the dish is eaten with the right hand without cutlery. With the interaction of Nepalese spices such as masala, cumin, fenugreek, turmeric, ginger, and many more give the Dal Bhat a very special touch.
If you are tired of dal or lentils, you can serve rice with any legumes or beans. Likewise, with the vegetables, a variety of vegetables can be served with rice, including famous alu, Tama bodi or spinach or cauliflower, and many more.
The idea of combining legumes and cereals in one dish does not occur in every nation. This combination of food cannot be found in other national cuisines. This combination makes Dal Bhat very useful in terms of the set of trace elements your body will receive from one serving of the dish.
- Gundruk and Dhido (Fermented green vegetable and Polenta)
Gundruk is a fermented leafy green vegetable, a popular food in Nepal, and is considered one of the national dishes, much loved by locals and vegetarian tourists.
Dhido is polenta made from wheat and corn, combined with fermented and steamed leafy vegetables. This very nutritious dish is often served in the mountains to refresh after long hikes.
- Alu achar (Potato pickle)
Alu achar is a mix of diced, softly boiled potatoes and cucumbers mixed with spices such as sesame, cumin, and turmeric. It tastes like curry-flavored potato salad, and in Nepal, it is eaten not only as a salad but also as a side dish or as a snack.
The secret to the deliciousness of Alu achar is the oil flavored with roasted fenugreek seeds, a spice with a sweet caramel-like flavor.
Fenugreek seeds have a strong bitterness as they are, but by slowly cooking them, the bitterness is softened, and they become a good accent for cooking.
Alu means potato in Nepali, and Achar means pickle. It is a representative dish of Nepal, where potatoes are often eaten.
- Chukauni (Another Potato Dish)
Chukauni is a combination of yogurt, potatoes, and spices that is rarely seen elsewhere in the world. The refreshing taste of yogurt and the mellowness of potatoes are just the right amount of refreshment, making it a perfect accompaniment to curry, biryani, and other dishes.
It is popular as a light meal because it contains plenty of potatoes and has a large volume. It’s delicious to eat, but if you crave something with a strong spice flavor, put this Chukauni on top and eat it together to make it milder and easier to eat.
This is a must-have salad in Nepal, where many spices are used in cooking.
- Sadheko Bhatmas (Marinated Soybean)
This dish is made by marinating fragrantly roasted soybeans with garlic, paprika, cucumber, and chili peppers.
The crunchy texture and aroma of soybeans, the refreshing flavor of vegetables, and the appetizing combination of garlic and chili peppers are delicious to eat as is, but they go great with alcohol.
It is dressed with a sour dressing, so once you start eating it, you won’t be able to stop eating it.
- Alu Tama (Potato and Bamboo shoot curry)
Alu Tama is one of Nepal’s everyday home-cooked dishes. The roux resembles a smooth soup curry and contains plenty of fermented bamboo shoots, potatoes, and beans.
The crunchy texture of the fermented bamboo shoots and the right amount of sourness go great with curry. It is a popular dish you must try when coming to Nepal.
- Meat dish
Meat dishes in Nepal emphasize texture rather than tenderness, and many of them use plenty of spices. The main representative menus are:
- Sekuwa: Crispy outside and juicy inside
Sekuwa is a popular meat dish among non vegetarians in Nepal that resemble to Kabab an Indian cuisine. The meat used for the dish is commonly chicken but mutton, pork, buffalo meat or even sheep meat is also used for the dish.
The secret recipe that adds the dish its unique taste is the marination of the meat with seasoning for long hours after which the meat is skewered and grilled over charcoal that gives the dish its smoky flavor.
The common spices used for this dish is chili pepper, garlic, ginger and garam masala.
- Chhoela: a traditional Newar dish
Chhoela is particularly made from buffalo meat marinated in spices. Because it is marinated, the spices are soaked into the inside, and it is characterized by its spicy and savory taste. It is a traditional dish of the Newar tribe, the indigenous people of Nepal.
Due to the time-consuming preparation, it is often served as a dish of hospitality during celebrations and festivals in Nepal.
- Sukuti: Spicy dried meat
Sukuti means dried meat especially made from buffalo meat. Since refrigeration was not common in Nepal in ancient times, there was a deep-rooted culture of drying and preserving meat so that it could be used up without waste. It is also used as a preserved food for ethnic minorities living in high mountains.
However, refrigeration has become common in Nepalese households; dried meat has become one of the delicacies in Nepal.
There are many variations for preparing sukuti, such as mixing it with vegetables into a curry or stir-frying it with spices. Sometimes, it is simply seasoned with salt and pepper, and grilled can also be an excellent accompaniment to alcoholic beverages.
- Lamb Curry
It is a deliciously spicy lamb curry usually served with bread or chapati. Usually served in the icy region of Nepal, it is served warm to fight against the cold climate. The secret to the moth watering taste of the dish is the tender meat of lamb is slowly cooked for hours in the curry.
Sometimes, to add variety to the flavor, potato, vegetables are also added in the curry.
- Chicken curry
In Nepal, chicken curry is one of the good choices for those who are very hungry because the chicken portion is very well prepared and with a lot of creamy sauce! And also for those who are in the mood to taste a little more spicy food and warm up on the icy Nepalese nights.
III. Noodle dishes in Nepal
Even if dal bhat and tarkari is the national dish, Nepalese cuisine is also flourished with several noodle dishes influenced by China and Tibet. The main noodle dishes include:
Chowmin is a curry-flavored noodle dish greatly influenced by Chinese cuisine. The ingredients vary depending on the taste and preference of the people; however, the most commonly used ingredients are mushrooms, onions, cabbage, eggs, and chicken. The spices are mostly mild, so it is a light snack that is favorable for all tastes.
Thukpa is very popular in Nepal; it is a noodle dish similar to udon that came from China and Tibet. In Nepal, it is popular as a special dish eaten on sunny days of winter.
It is made by stewing chewy noodles and vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, and spinach in a salty chicken-based soup. It is characterized by its gentle taste, which is rare for Nepalese cuisine that often uses spices.
Snack is the light meal eaten during mid day and is often referred as Khaja in Nepal. The main light dishes included as a snack or khaja in Nepalese cuisine include:
- Momo, a typical light meal
Nepal and Momo actually are two terms that represent each other. Although the dumplings are inspired dish from China but Momo has become an integral part of Nepalese cuisine and has become an identity of famous Nepalese snack among tourists.
Most momos are steamed, very rarely fried, and sometimes baked. Every now and then, the dumplings are also filled with vegetables and often just purely vegetarian. No matter which type they are: momos are always delicious.
Goat, chicken and pork are particularly popular as meat fillings.
- Bara, a typical Newari dish
Bara, called wo in Nepali, is a traditional Newar dish made from lentil flour mixed with minced meat and eggs.
The black lentils are especially used for cooking bara in which the lentils are soaked overnight and are grounded finely. Then spices are mixed and are cooked, they go very well with the chili sauce. Bara is crispy and crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside; the dish is tasty, light, and nourishing at the same time.
- Chatamari, Nepalese Pizza
Chatamari is also a traditional Newari dish similar to Italian pizza. It is thin and flat and made with rice flour instead of lentil flour. The dish is stuffed with finely chopped vegetables, eggs, meat, and spices. Because of the hourly preparations, the dish used to be prepared only in festivals but chatamari has gained popularity not only among local people but also among tourists. So it has emerged as one of the famous street food in Nepal.
- Syabhale, a delicous meat pie
Syabhale is a Tibetan-style meat pie with ingredients such as potatoes, minced meat, and onions wrapped in flour dough. It’s common to fry it lightly in oil, but it’s also delicious when baked or steamed.
Even if it’s big, it’s about the size of your palm, so you can eat it like a snack.
Everyday food of most Nepali people
When it comes to Nepalese cuisine, beverages are a must. Below is the list of unique Nepali beverages:
- Masala Tea
Statistics of Tea consumption in Nepal
|Nepal position in world tea production||19the rank|
|Contributes in worldwide share||0.34%|
|Number of workers employed in tea factories||66576|
|Districts that produced tea||Illam, Panchthar, Dhankuta, Terathum, Sindhupalchowk, Kaski, Jhapa|
|Tea exports||Third leading agricultural export of Nepal|
|Worldwide tea consumption position||13th|
|Per Capita consumption||350 gm|
|Per person consumption||2.42 cups in a day|
|Nepal Tea Day||15th of Baisakh|
This traditional Nepalese tea is an integral part of the daily life and hospitality of the people. You drink a cup of tea in the morning with friends, you drink a cup of tea at a business meeting, and that cup of tea again to welcome guests.
The masala tea is prepared by adding tea leaves in a boiling water with a mix of milk and water. A generous amount of sugar is added, and the ginger, cardamom, and pepper give the tea its spicy aroma and taste.
This drink, which has Indian influences, is thirst-quenching and fresh and is often consumed on hot, muggy days to hydrate.
It is a kind of smoothie made with curd or yogurt, sugar, fruit, and water.
Local rakshi is a very popular alcoholic drink in Nepal. It is a distilled rice wine typical of Nepal, India, and Tibet.
It is often made at home using millet or rice, and the result is a strong, clear drink like vodka or gin. The local population drinks it during the holidays or in the evening at the end of a meal.
Tongba is an exotic drink that is drunk in India and Nepal. Tongba is made from boiled and strongly fermented millet. It turns out such a vigorous gruel, which, to top it all, is also seasoned with local herbs and then left to dry under the sun. The whole thing dries from one month to six months, depending on the aroma and taste.
Nepalese people drink hot tongba. To do this, it is preheated on an open flame. It is necessarily poured into wooden mugs, giving the drink a taste. At the same time, fresh millet is put in a mug so that the taste is quite bright.
These are some unique Nepalese dishes you should try whenever you visit the country. Some dishes are often eaten at Nepalese festivals, but Nepal is a cheerful country with many celebrations and festivals, so there are many opportunities to eat them. The real pleasure of Nepal is that you can enjoy not only Nepalese cuisine but also the lively atmosphere when you go during the festival season. Please refer to it when you go sightseeing in Nepal.