By Carissa Hickok
It’s impossible to talk about Nepal without discussing the food. The diversity of cultures, ethnic groups, and religions in Nepal has created a plethora of different food options, all equally delicious. This post is meant to describe some of the staples of Nepalese cuisine, as well as some regional favorites you’d be crazy not to try.
When discussing the food of Nepal, dal bhat is the inevitable starting point. This is the staple of a Nepalese person’s diet, often eaten twice a day. Dal Bhat consists of two main parts. The dhal is a soup made from lentils and spices, while the bhat typically consists of steamed rice. This is often combined with vegetable curry to create a meal that rarely tastes the same twice. A wide variety of condiments are often consumed alongside the dal bhat, typically spicy chutney or a fermented pickle.
Those who dislike spicy food should be careful, as dal bhat can have quite a kick to it. It can be found virtually anywhere in Nepal, so feel free to try it out in different areas and see if there are any regional differences!
Although dal bhat is clearly the dominant food in Nepal, the rice needed to make it cannot be grown in many parts of the country. Because of this, those living in the hills have to adjust their eating habits according to what they can grow. Wheat is often substituted for unleavened bread, which is often made into chapati – an unleavened flatbread typically resembling a tortilla. Maize and barley are also quite common in these areas, and are often made into a sort of porridge.
The hills are also rich with variety when it comes to vegetables. Spinach, tomatoes, green beans, cauliflower, and cabbage are all readily grown and available in these areas. When it comes to meat, chicken and fish are the most common. Beef is rarely eaten, since a large percentage of people are Hindus. Anyone spending time in the more mountainous areas of the country will surely become familiar with these foods.
Although Tibet is not a part of Nepal, but rather an autonomous region of China, the Tibetan culture still has an enormous influence on the country. One of the staples of Tibetan food in Nepal is momo, which demonstrates the unique mix of the two cultures. Momo is Tibetan-style dumplings that are often seasoned with Nepalese spices. Traditionally they contained buffalo meat, but now can be found with goat, chicken, and even vegetarian options.
Meat and dairy products are a huge part of the Tibetan diet, largely due to the prevalence of goat farming in the area. Lamb and yak are also popular meats. Grain, specifically barley, is the cornerstone of the area, since rice is often difficult to grow in the hills of Northern Nepal.
In short, food in Nepal is as diverse and exciting as the country itself. Trying out different cuisines will undoubtedly be a highlight of your experience in Nepal.
Carissa enjoys traveling so much that she left the corporate world to work as a freelancer, which allows her to up and go on a regular basis. She lives with her dachshund, Daphne in central Florida.