Snugly situated between India and China, Nepal was destined to offer the cuisine of dreams, which somehow manages to achieve a wonderful uniqueness all by itself. Hearty meats (no part is wasted so look out for some more adventurous dishes) and spicy chutneys, to warming soups and light, fluffy dumplings, Nepali dishes can invigorate you for a mountain ascent, charge your batteries for a rambunctious festival or satiate the Gods, if you happen to knock back a little too much Aila.
We’ve narrowed down the best must-try dishes Nepal has to offer by way of introduction but do try as much of this unique food as your waistband will allow. You won’t regret it.
Originally Momos hail from Tibet but are a huge favorite (and some even say more delicious!) in Nepal. These bite-size plain flour dumplings that can be steamed or fried, or a bit of both, are traditionally stuffed with minced buffalo and finely chopped vegetables but can contain other meats like chicken and pork or even cheese. They can be eaten alone with a spicy Jhol achar (chutney) to dip. Similar to Japanese gyoza, you really can’t go wrong with these bad boys. Making Momos is actually somewhat of a social event in Nepal. Even the Nepali Diaspora abroad hold Momo parties, where they’re made in the home amid banter with family and friends. As momos are meant to be eaten whole, a good momo needs to burst open in the mouth and will fill the nostrils with sharp, floral, warm, earthy spices.
A traditional Nepalese dish, dal – which is black lentils boiled slowly into a thick soup – is served on a platter with rice, curried vegetables, and a spicy achar to heat things up a bit, should you wish. The fun part is mixing them all together. Nepalis pour the dal over the rice and add the vegetables and sauce, rolling it all together into a neat (or not so neat, it takes some practice if you’re new to this) little ball and pop it into your mouth with your thumb for the ultimate Nepalese taste-bomb! People will eat this for several meals in Nepal and is considered a national dish.
‘Dal Bhat Power 24-Hour’ has become a popular catchphrase among tourists visiting Nepal for trekking. That’s really all you need to know about Dal Bhat!
The Newars are the historical inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley and the surrounding areas and they make up about 5% of Nepal’s population. Food is a central part of the ritual and religious life for the Newars. Like an Indian Thali, the Newari Samay Baji consists of several small dishes for a perfectly balanced palate. The usual dishes are Baji (beaten rice), Haku Chhoyla (barbequed, spice buffalo meat), Sanya (smoked fish), Wo (lentil pancake), Mushya Wala (roasted soybean salad), Khein (boiled egg), Aalu Wala (boiled potato salad), Wauncha (stir-fried greens/spinach), Bhuti (boiled black-eyed beans) and Lava-Palu (julienned raw ginger and garlic). Typically, this would be served with Aila (rice liquor) or Thwon (rice beer) and best enjoyed with a spicy, tangy soup called Alu-Tama (made from potato, bamboo shoot, and black-eyed beans). This is the kind of ritual you want to get on board with…
Usually eaten during the winter, this rich and filling noodle soup is perfect for warming you from the inside out. Especially when you’re up in the chilly mountains, thanks to the tasty hot broth the noodles are served in. Popular in the mountainous regions of Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, and Northern India, the noodle often used is called bhatsa, which is similar to Italian gnocchi. Paired with winter vegetables and frequently made with mutton or yak, the Nepali version is hearty, and the broth can pack a punch when it comes to heat! Add some achar for extra spice, if you like your noodles just as the Nepalese do; fiery!
When visiting Nepal, you’ll see a lot of street-hawkers attentively fanning charcoal grills with lines upon lines of meat skewers. Typically buffalo or goat meat, but also sometimes chicken or pork, this meat needs to be just the right ratio of meat to fat for the most mouth-watering flavor and to rightfully claim the title of a perfect sekuwa.
Even though you’ll probably smell this tantalizing aroma wafting through the streets at any time, it’s a huge staple during the biggest Nepali festival, Dashain. This 10-day celebration sees a massive consumption of meat, as it is a tradition to slaughter goat, duck, sheep, and buffalo so all family and friends can get their fill during the festivities.