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Nepal – Cooking and Food[]

Overview of Nepali Cuisine[]

Nepal is situated in the South Asia and its natural space is full of mountains and agricultural fields. The subtropical climate lead to the intense agriculture: rice, lentil, corn, wheat, jute and potatoes are the most frequent plantations. In the Middle Ages, the Nepal state was influenced by the Indian and the Chinese civilizations, but also Tibetan civilization, which all lead to the cuisine of today: rice meals, Tibetan aliments and spices and Indian food are felt within the Nepalese cooking. In the valley of Kathmandu diverse cultures were unified during centuries.

The Nepal cuisine tends to be simple, but flavored with special spices and seeds:garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric,black pepper, chilies, onions, cilantro, scallions, mustard oil, clarified butter (ghee), and sometimes yak butter. The main dishes are the dal (lentil soup or lentil sauce, made of black, red and yellow Nepalese lentils), eaten with rice, the sag (green vegetables – spinach), with mustard and rice, masu (buffalo and pork meat with different curry spices), served with rice, the steamed rice as bhat and the tarkai (vegetables in curry and broth).

The Nepalese people drink local liquor, thon (a milk white beer made from rice) and tongba (drank with a bamboo straw).

Cuisines of Nepal[]

Map of Nepal

Map of Nepal- Click to enlarge

The Nepalese culture evolved from the mixture of the Hindu and Buddhist culture – there are some regional differences within the Nepali cuisine, but there are also some foods that make the Nepalese cuisine seem unique and general for the entire country. The dal-bhat-tarkari is such a meal, which combines rice with lentil and curry vegetables, prepared as preferred. Meat dishes range, but beef is forbidden on religious considerations.

The country is divided into five zones: the Terai, the Siwaliks, the Mahabharat Lekh, the Midlands or Pahar and the Himalayas. The culture of Newar has a distinctive and a more elaborated cuisine, characterized by the various spices. The Newar dishes include the dal (lentil soup), tsampa and chapatis, made with raw grains and milk, spiced vegetables and sweets like jelabi, laddus and mukdals. In the area of Terai, situated in the southern part of the country, the Indian foods are very popular, as opposed to the traditional Newar cuisine. The Newar people also celebrate more festivities and feasts than the other Nepali people and their cuisine is divided into 2 main groups: the daily foods, like the lunch and the dinner and the bhoye, meaning special dishes arranged in a specific order.

Preparation Methods for Nepali Cooking[]

Nepalese cooking is not too complicated, if all the ingredients are available. The cooking time varies, but the traditional cooking for celebrations and festivals takes longer, as real feasts take place. The charcoal fire is often used, so that the aliments keep their softness and nutrients, besides the natural flavor. This fire is set outdoors and it serves for the roasted meats, such as chicken, pork goat or buffalo. Different parts of plants and leaves are used as cooking items: bamboo straws or strong leaves for covering the food. Most of the vegetables dishes are made of stewed vegetables, which are afterwards prepared with sauce, dressing, or added to the main course – this might take a longer time than for a usual meal. Still, the Nepal cooking methods tend to be simple, but the foods are flavored with special spices and seeds, which are often local ones and might be harder to find: a special cumin, coriander, turmeric, cilantro, scallions, mustard oil and yak butter. All these flavor the simple meals and give them the special Nepalese taste.

Special Equipment for Nepali Cooking[]

The cutlery is missing from the traditional Nepali table, but the forks, knives and spoons are available in the Western restaurants or hotels. The Nepalese people use only the right hand to eat and this custom has been maintained for thousand of years. Still, for more sophisticated urban dinners or for tourists, silverware is adopted. Metal cutlery is believed to ruin the flavor of the food and also, it is believed that it makes people thinner. The traditional plates are called thaali, a metal plate with divisions. Deep bowls are also used for some of the sauces and dressings. The dal (lentil sauce) might be served in a different bowl and it is poured over the rice and eaten hot. The straws are a custom, when drinking the traditional drinks – the bamboo straw is used to drink the tongba.

In a traditional Nepalese restaurant, there is a dal-bhat-tarkari plate, which is periodically refilled so that the customer leaves the restaurant chock full. For some special dishes, the charcoal fire is used, for a more natural, crunchy and flavored meal – the sukuti (spicy dried meat) is prepared in this way.

Nepali Food Traditions and Festivals[]

The most important celebrations and festivities in Nepal are: Buddha Jayanti, when the birthday of lord Buddha is celebrated, the Ghanta Karna Chaturdasi, a festival that celebrates the death of a mythical demon, the Gai Jatra, the most popular festival that celebrates the procession of cows, the Yomari Punhi, a popular Newar festival, the Dashain and the Tihar, the Fagun Purnima (Holi) and the Shree Panchami festival that celebrates the birthday of the goddess of learning. Almost all these festivals and celebrations end with a sumptuous family feast, when many courses are served, by respecting the rules of bhoye.

The Newar people also celebrate more festivities and feasts than the other Nepali people and their cuisine is divided into 2 main groups: the daily foods, like the lunch and the dinner and the bhoye, meaning special dishes arranged in a specific order. During the Thair, the tradition is to light a lamp made of cotton wool mustard oil, place it on a leaf pot and then give the first portion of every family meal to the crows. On the second day, people give the dogs wide plates of food with delicatessen.

People in Nepali Food[]

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Because so many cereals and vegetables grow in the country, people are familiar to them and know how to use them best. The Nepalese people carried on the traditions through their cooking and all simple participated to the cultural Nepalese cuisine, which is exotic, fresh and spiced and for the Nepalese chefs, the most important aspect is that their food tastes fresh and natural. Because the Nepalese people had to unify the traditions of the influencing cuisines: Chinese, Indian and Tibetan, the Nepalese cuisine turned out a unique traditional mixture, with specific culinary regions with specific traditions, best kept by the local people and at the same time, with general cooking rules. Because of the many inspirations from the Asian countries, but mainly Chinese the Nepalese cuisine tried to unite all the techniques, styles and general rules of the cooking and then added a lot of creativity to the foods to make a special cuisine.


Alou Tama Hill Region Broth of Potatoes with bamboo shoots with curry powder.
Chatamari Kathmandu Valley Flat bread made from rice flour with or without toppings (meat, vegetables, eggs, sugar). Also called Newari Pizza.(Newari Delicay)
Choyla Kathmandu Valley Barbequed or grilled and then spiced meat esp Buffalo meat. Also a Newari Delicay
Gundruk ko jhol Hill Region Curried broth made out of fermented and then dried green vegetables.
Gundruk ko achar Hill Region Spicy pickle made out of fermented and then dried green leafy vegetables(Gundruk).
Kwati Hill Region Spiced bean soup eaten at festivals



Dumplings stuffed with minced meat and spices which can be steamed or fried.



Nepali Version of BBQ
Sel Hill region Rice flour ringed crunchy roti.

Hill region+ Mountainous


spicy dried meat

Kathmandu Valley

Jello of meat soup served cold.
Wo and Bara

Kathmandu Valley

lentil flour patty which can be accompanied by a meat or egg topping.
Dal Hilly and terai Region lentil soup made with black, red or yellow lentils. Served with rice
Bhat Throughout the country steamed rice.
Saag Throughout the country green vegetables which are served with rice. Consists of spinach or mustard greens.
Tarkari Throughout the country Curried vegetable broth
Masu Throughout the country Curried meat (usually chicken, mutton, buffalo or pork) with gravy. Served with rice.Recipe vary.
Sanya Khuna KTM valley A jello relish made from a fish soup. It has a salty, spicy flavor.
Juju Dau KTM valley

Also called as King Curd which is a delicious creamy curd.

Sikarni Throughout the country curd with dried fruit added.
Dahi chamal Hill Soaked rice is added with curd ,sugar and spices.
Tongba KTM valley An alcoholic beverage where hot water is poured into a pot of fermented millet. Tongba is best drunk with a straw of bamboo.
Raksi KTM valley local liquor
Thon or Chhyang KTM valley Rice Beer
Mustang Coffee Annapurna Region Developed along Circuit Rout, its basically coffe and Raksi(Local liquor) together
Lassi Terai Due to majority of Indian immigrants or Nepali of indian origin in Terai.This Indian drink is extremely popular in those region.
Mohi Hill Frotty leftover after making a butter used to make clarified milk.
Cucumber ko achar Throughout the country Spiced cucumber salad with sesame powder.
Aloo Dum Throughout the country Fried Potatoe in Gravy
Salted Butter Tea Himalayan Region Himalayan Region has more Tibetan influence. Hence this tibetan beverage is quite popular there.