Nepal harbors several ethnic tribes, and each tribe has its own food culture. These ethnic tribes celebrate their food and their cultures individually. And collective foods from different ethnic communities make up for the Nepalese cuisines. Nepalese food is a massive collection of culinary influences and styles from Indian and Tibetan cuisines like every other country's national cuisine. When eating certain dishes, you will be like, “Oh! I have seen this somewhere.”
As the taste palates match with its neighboring countries, food is also somewhat similar. And that reaction is sure to happen if you are someone who has previously traveled to India or Tibet.
In this blog, we are exploring Nepalese foods and their various cuisines. Before diving into Nepal’s traditional ethnical cuisines, let’s take a glance at the food of Nepal.
We Nepalese are adamant about spices. While preparing a dish, we use several spices to make our food flavorful. The variety of spices, herbs, and flavoring ingredients used in Nepali cooking reflects the diversity and richness of Nepali cuisines. Spices in Nepali cuisines are used for the exquisite flavors and the nutrition, medicinal value, texture, freshness, and heat. Spices like cumin seed, coriander, turmeric, garlic, onion, and ginger are widely used in daily Nepali cooking. While Himalayan garlic (Jimbu) and Nepali pepper (Timur) are the critical flavoring ingredients in Thakali cuisine, they are commonly used in ethnic groups residing in hilly areas.
Furthermore, the exciting spice combinations and preparation methods are peculiar to Nepal and passed down centuries. There was very little culinary presence outside of Nepal until the latter half of the twentieth century (when it was first opened to the rest of the world). However, there has been a steady flood of people introducing new foods, customs, and food preparations since then. Many spices used in Nepal are unique and operated differently from their counterparts in other spice-growing regions. In Nepal, there are possibly a dozen or more unique spices and spice formations available.
Nepalese traditional drinks
Nepal is renowned for its exotic and unregulated combination of eating and drinking, unlike any other cuisine on the planet. Nepalese are avid homebrewers and distillers, but alcohol consumption may be very sacred or lewd, depending on the context. The religious, ceremonial, and cultural use of alcoholic drinks demonstrates their socio-cultural significance and tells traditions. The Sherpas, for example, consume a lot of fermented beverages, and their way of life is closely associated with popular drinks like Chyang, tonga, and buttermilk tea. Similarly, alcohol is a normal part of life in the Newar culture. It is both socially and ritually appropriate. Unlike some other caste communities prohibited from cooking and drinking alcohol at home, the liquor is brewed at home due to caste considerations.
Some traditional local drinks of Nepal
Raksi - Raksi is the most popular alcoholic beverage in Nepal. It is a distilled version of chhyang and bears a heavy resemblance to tequila. The drink is a mixture of fermented rice, millet, or fruit. It is also used to remedy indigestion, cough, and cold, and a little raksi can be rubbed on sore knees or the back and chest to relieve pain.
Chyang- Another traditional drink is Chyang. It is made from cereal crops such as barley, paddy, millet, and few others.
Tongba: Tongba is an alcoholic beverage brewed from millet crops. The drink came from the Limbu community of Nepal and is quite popular across the country during winter.
Mohi (Yogurt drink or buttermilk drink) - A typical cold drink made from the liquid leftover after churning butter from cultured milk is mohi. It is a non-alcoholic drink and is primarily famous in the villages. Farmers drink this drink to clench their thirst after working in the field on a sunny day.
Nepali Traditional Sweets
Nepal produces a variety of fruits and nuts that are featured in locally prepared sweets. Dessert is not a well-established concept in Nepali cuisine, and sweets made with milk, yogurt, and cheese are often eaten for breakfast. However, many sweet delicacies such as Lakhamari, aitha, fini, khuwa, barfi, and much more authentic sweets are Nepalese food.
Nepali Traditional Pickels
Nepalese are obsessed with pickles. Be it spicy or sweet, and we love to have them with our meals. At least one type of pickle is found in every household of Nepal. The most common Nepal pickles are Mula ko Achar (radish pickle), aap ko achar (Mango pickle), Amala ko achar, Dalle Kursani ko achar, and many more. These pickles are made using different spices and vegetables, and fruits. Vegetables are finely chopped, dried, fried in oil, and mixed with spices to make these pickles.
Nepali Usual Snacks
Nepalese loves to have sour and spicy foods for snacks. Our favorite snacks are Panipuri, Chatpatey, Waiwai (noodles), and Tibetan dishes such as chowmein, laping, momo, and many more. Snacks like dry (dried*) meats are authentic snacks that are eaten along with any things. Dry meats are called Sukuti in Nepal, and they come in various options- mutton dry meat, chicken dry meat, and buff dry meat. Likewise, our go-to foods also are samosa, pakora, furundana, Dalmoth, and many more.
Now that you have information about Nepalese foods, let’s ethnically learn about some of the famous traditional Nepalese cuisines.
Newari food is under the broader umbrella of Nepali food, but it’s from the unique Kathmandu Valley region. The indigenous Newa people, also known as Newars, are the community of people who have fine-tuned this world-class cuisine into some genuinely magical flavors. Newa cuisine, which consists of over 200 dishes, is the most celebrated food variety in Nepal. Many Newari cuisines are prepared with various spices such as cumin, turmeric, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, chilies, and mustard oil and seeds. Some of the popular dishes from Newari cuisine are Samay baji, chatamari, yomari, Bara, choila, kwati, kachila, and many more.
The Thakali Khana is quite popular in Nepal as it represents a staple dish eaten by all across Nepal at least once a day. Thakali Khana comes from Thakali ethnic groups who primarily reside in the low-Himalayan regions of Nepal. The Khana set looks exactly like the regular Khana (Dal-Bhat) set but with different ingredients. Thus, one should be cleaver to recognize authentic Khana. Thakali cuisines use locally grown buckwheat, barley, millet, dal, and rice grown in the hills with cold water. Thus, it tastes different than the everyday meals that we eat. Also, the dinner is served on a giant bronze plate with rice or dhido (as per individual’s preference), vegetable curry, lentil soup, and achar (pickle) placed separately.
Tharu Dish (Ghonghi) – Tharu Escargots
Ghonghi, one of the most common foods in Nepal’s Tharu culture, is frequently eaten as a delicacy, much like chicken or mutton. This snail species is filled with ground linseed soup and is known as escargot in France. This dish is usually consumed by sucking the snail from its body. The ghonghi is eaten with rice, and this mixture has been a staple meal for indigenous people in Terai for centuries.
Tibetan Influenced Dishes
Many loved dishes of Nepal are influenced by Tibetan cuisine. For instance, momo (Nepali dumpling) came from Tibet, now one of Nepal’s favorite dishes. Most Tibetan cuisines are perfect dishes to eat during the winter season or gloomy weather. Some popular Tibetan dishes of Nepal are Khapse, Laping, Thukpa, chowmein, Thenduk, syafale, and many more. People love to eat these dishes primarily for lunch due to their sour and spicy flavor.
These are few famous traditional Nepali cuisines that are quite popular among every ethnic group of Nepal. Besides the above-mentioned dishes, there are Sherpa dishes, Rai dishes, Lhorung cuisines, and many more exciting cuisines. We enjoy them eating with friends and family. And most of all, we cherish our food as it is part of our heritage and culture.
Anyone planning to visit Nepal, should try their hand at Nepali cooking class and learn about preparing your hearty Nepali meal. You will love and cherish the experience of cooking a traditional dish of ours.