The most important tip I can give you on Nepal local food, and the only one that will make you elevate from being a tourist to becoming a real traveler immersed in the local culture, is “Stay away from McDonalds“. When visiting Nepal, there is awesome local food to try. Head to the local eateries too, and go where the locals go. For me, the food, wine and and even the water is part of the travel experience.
What to Eat in Nepal
The Nepali national meal is daal bhaat tarkaari. It is essentially spiced lentils poured over boiled rice, and served with tarkari: vegetables such as mustard greens, daikon radish, potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, squash etc, cooked with spices. This is served in most Nepalese homes and teahouses, two meals a day at about 10 AM and 7 or 8 PM. If rice is scarce the grain part may be cornmeal mush called Ato, barley, or chapatis (whole wheat ‘tortillas’). The meal may be accompanied by dahi (yogurt) and a small helping of ultra-spicy fresh chutney or achar (pickle). Traditionally this meal is eaten with the right hand. Curried meat — goat or chicken — is an occasional luxury, and freshwater fish is often available near lakes and rivers. Because Hindus hold cattle to be sacred, beef (cow meat) is forbidden but still can be obtained for a high price in some expensive restaurants (the price is high mainly because it is imported from India). Buffalo and yak are eaten by some but considered too cow-like by others. Pork is eaten by some tribes, but not by upper-caste Hindus. And like in India, some communities and tribes are vegetarians and do not eat meat of any sort. Outside the main morning and evening meals, a variety of snacks may be available. Tea, made with milk and sugar is certainly a pick-me-up. Corn may be heated and partially popped, although it really isn’t popcorn. This is called “kha-ja”, meaning “eat and run!” Rice may be heated and crushed into “chiura” resembling uncooked oatmeal that can be eaten with yogurt, hot milk and sugar, or other flavorings. Fritters called ‘pakora’ and turnovers called “samosa” can sometimes be found, as can sweets made from sugar, milk, fried batter, sugar cane juice, etc. Be sure such delicacies are either freshly cooked or have been protected from flies. Otherwise flies land in the human waste from the streets or inefficient sewage systems, then on your food, and so you become a walking medical textbook of gastrological conditions. Because of the multi-ethnic nature of Nepali society, differing degrees of adherence to Hindu dietary norms, and the extreme range of climates and microclimates throughout the country, different ethnic communities often have their own specialties. Newars, an ethnic group originally living in the Kathmandu Valley, are connoisseurs of great foods who lament that feasting is their downfall (whereas sexual indulgence is said to be the downfall of Paharis). In the fertile Kathmandu and Pokhara valleys this cuisine often includes a greater variety of foodstuffs — particularly vegetables — than what are available in most of the hills. As such, Newari cuisine is quite distinct and diverse relatively compared to the other indigenous regional cuisines of Nepal, so watch out for Newari restaurants. Some of them even come with cultural shows…a great way to enjoy good food while having a crash-course in Nepalese culture. The cuisine of the Terai lowlands is almost the same as in adjacent parts of India. Locally-grown tropical fruits are sold alongside subtropical and temperate crops from the hills. In addition to bananas (‘kera’) and papayas (‘mewa’) familiar to travelers, jackfruit (‘katar’) is a local delicacy. Some dishes, particularly in the Himalayan region, are Tibetan in origin and not at all spicy. Some dishes to look for include momos, a meat or vegetable filled dumpling (similar to Chinese pot-stickers) often served with beer, and Tibetan Bread and Honey a puffy fried bread with heavy raw honey that’s great for breakfast. One delicacy that you do not want to miss while in Nepal is the dried meat (it especially complements with beer/alcoholic beverages. Up in the Himalayan mountains, potatoes are the staple of the Sherpa people. Try the local dish of potato pancakes (rikikul). They are delicious eaten straight off the griddle and covered with dzo (female yak) butter or cheese. Pizza, Mexican, Thai and Chinese food, and Middle-Eastern food can all be found in the tourist districts of Kathmandu and Pokhara. If you are on a budget, sticking with local dishes will save a lot of money. Note that many small restaurants are not prepared to cook several different dishes; try to stick with one or two dishes or you will find yourself waiting as the cook tries to make one after another on a one-burner stove. As far as possible, eat only Nepali village products. Do not eat junk foods like biscuits, noodles etc. If you take only village product foods, it will help to raise their economic life.
What to Drink in Nepal
Alcohol: Raksi is a clear liquid, similar to tequila in alcohol content. It is usually brewed “in house”, resulting in a variation in its taste and strength. This is by far the least expensive drink in the country. It is often served on special occasions in small, unbaked clay cups that hold less than a shot. It works great as a mixer in juice or soda. Note that it may appear on menus as “Nepali wine”. Jaand (Nepali) or chyaang (Tibetan) is a cloudy, moderately alcoholic drink sometimes called Nepali beer”. While weaker than raksi, it will still have quite an effect. This is often offered to guests in Nepali homes, and is diluted with water. For your safety, be sure to ask your hosts if the water has been sanitized before drinking this beverage. Beer production in Nepal is a growing industry. Some local beers are now also exported, and the quality of beer has reached to quite international standards International brands are popular in the urban areas. Cocktails can pretty much only be found in Kathmandu and Pokhara’s tourist areas. There you can get watered-down “two for one drinks” at a variety of pubs, restaurants, and sports bars. Tea: Although not as internationally famous as Indian brands, Nepal does in fact have a large organic tea industry. Most plantations are located in the east of the country and the type of tea grown is very similar to that produced in neighbouring Darjeeling. Well known varieties are Dhankuta, Illam, Jhapa, Terathhum and Panchthar (all named after their growing regions). Unfortunately over 70% of Nepal’s tea is exported and the tea you see for sale in Thamel, while they serve as token mementos, are merely the scrapings from the bottom of the barrel. Milk Tea’ is boiled milk with added tea, with or without sugar. Chay is a tea drink with added milk and also sometimes containing ginger and spices such as cardamom. Suja. Salty tea made with milk and butter – only available in areas inhabited by Tibetans, Sherpas and a few other Himalayan people. Herbal teas. Most herbal teas are made from wild flowers from the Solu Khumbu region. In Kathmandu, these teas are generally only served in high class establishments or those run by Sherpas from the Solu Khumbu. Water: Problematic due to lack of sanitary facilities and sewage treatment. It is safest to assume that water is unsafe for drinking without being chemically treated or boiled, which is one reason to stick to tea or bottled water. In the Nepali neighbourhoods, a five gallon clear container of filtered/clean water sells for 55rps. In some areas stores let people fill water bottles with clean/filtered water for 10rps. per liter.
Other local foods, or drinks that you recommend? Please add and comment.