While Nepal is not particularly reputed for its “haute cuisine”, it does offer a few dishes that can tickle the taste buds.
Finding a tasty meal in Kathmandu is easy; there are foreign and local restaurants in abundance around the city. I had some authentic tasting Mexican food in a back ally somewhere in town, spent days ordering heavenly platters of goodness in a psychedelic vegetarian Israeli joint and savoured the best chocolate cake of Asia in a quaint road side café. All without much of a search. In Pokhara as well, there are enough great restaurants to make you gain the weight back you lost on a trek.
The quest for a tasty meal becomes quite a bit harder once you leave the big cities. There is relatively little variation in the dishes and whether they’ll be bland or not, is always a gamble. These are the most common options you will find in Nepal.
This your surest option if you want to have a descent quick meal. A succulent ball of meat wrapped in a blanket of glutinous dough; momo’s are sold at every street corner. Though usually steamed, the less popular fried variation is also available. They are comparable to dim sum but with a filling packed with spices and herbs. You would never guess from the way they look but they’re often incredibly juicy and fragrant. The best place to eat them is at a food stall on the street. They’re steamed right in front of you; as fresh as can get. Every now and then you can coma across momo’s with fillings other than meat- Snickers for example…
Juju dhau a.k.a “the King of all curds” is a speciality from Bhaktapur. It’s made with naturally sweet buffalo milk infused with cardamom, cloves, coconut or ginger, depending on the manufacturer. The added spices are almost unnoticeable while still making a world of difference. It is then stored in clay bowls in a naturally cool place.With no added sugar, the king curd serves as an excellent refreshing snack or breakfast food.
You can find Juju dhau all over town; just look for a (cardboard) sign with a drawing of a pot of clay or order it in a restaurant. Inform yourself so you get the real deal instead of the watered down version made with powdered milk.
This dish is on every menu, no matter where you are in Nepal. I’ve tried it on several occasions but I was never convinced. I found it bland and unappetizing. Then again I’m not a fan of lentils in the first place and with it being the main ingredient of the dish… The only people I’ve heard say they really liked Dal Bhat were the Nepali, vegetarians and vegans. So who knows, you might enjoy it.
Learn to love ramen noodles and/or eggs, because unless you’re bringing your own food, that’s pretty much what you’ll live off during a tea house trek. Also on the menu are fried rice, soups and a pricey dal baht. Any dish containing rice or fresh ingredients will pricey in the mountains because they have to be transported all the way up to the villages.
I like a bowl of Shakpa soup, a Newari comfort food. It’s exactly what you need to warm up in the chilly (ice cold) evenings. That being said, I loved trekking food in general, not because of the taste, I mean let’s face it, ramen noodles and egg twice a day is not the most exciting dish. But I loved it because of the gorgeous views it would come with, made everything taste so much better.
Just like in India, the Newari lassi is sort of a natural, watered down yoghurt drink. It’s all natural and you can add fruits or honey to sweeten the drink. Or even better, go for the masala lassi. Masala is a mix of spices, in this case it’s often black pepper. Black pepper in your yoghurt? YES! It’s a fantastic combination!
Who would have guessed there is incredible local cheese in Asia? None of us European cheese snobs, that’s for sure! Yak cheese grew to become one of my favourites. It’s a yellow cheese with lots character, which doesn’t seem to melt. Ideal to bring along on hikes. A definite must try.
The food may not be the country’s highlight but Nepal makes up for what it may be lacking in the kitchen with mind blowing nature, beautiful people, fascinating culture, great art and so much more. You won’t be worrying about the food much.
Have you eaten in Nepal? What did you think?