I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when it came to Nepali cuisine. All I could infer is that Nepal’s neighbors India, Tibet and China would have some role to play in it. That truly turned out to be the case.
Food in Nepal can be categorized into three main categories – Nepali, Tibetan and Indian. Most menus will carry a few dishes from all three regions. The traditional Nepali meal is called Dal-bhat meaning lentil curry and rice. In some households, it is steamed white rice, in others it is served with the husk which calls for a special technique to eat it. The meal may be served with a vegetable dish such as saag (spinach), gobi (cauliflower), potatoes or pumpkins and a side of pickle. The dishes are cooked similarly to those in India. Meat is rare in Nepali households, but some have adopted chicken and buffalo into their diet. Cow (beef) is considered a sacred animal in Hindus and never killed for meat. You do find fish in the market but it’s not part of a mainstream Nepali diet. Bread and desserts are rarely served with the meal. In the villages, people eat two large meals a day – breakfast and dinner – both are typically the same.
There are exclusive sweet shops that sell Indian style desserts such as jalebi, maal pura and mithai. Poplar Indian snacks- samosa (pastry filled with potatoes) and pakoras (vegetable fritters) are also quite common. Cakes and pastries from India have seemed to have made their way here, including the famous bakery chain Hot Breads that has a few locations spread out through Kathmandu.
Mo-mo can be proclaimed as the national food of Nepal. There is hardly a restaurant that will not serve it, be it a fast food or fine dining. Fresh steamed, pan fried or deep fried mo-mo’s can be ordered stuffed with vegetables, chicken or buffalo. It is served with a spicy sauce. Thupka or noodle soup is also a popular dish which can be enjoyed on a cold winter evening. Chowmein (noodles sautéed with veggies) and other Chinese dishes can be found at Tibetan restaurants. Indian spices are commonly used to season all of the dishes served in Nepal and the food can be quite spicy to a foreign palate.
You will find Nepali’s drinking black tea with milk and sugar throughout the day. It is slightly different from Indian chai, lacking the ginger-cardamom spiciness and a lot milkier. In Kathmandu, international restaurants are quite popular due to the heavy influx of tourists from around the world. It is not uncommon to find mo-mo’s, pizza, butter chicken and Thai curry on the same menu. Price of food is quite cheap in Nepal. One can enjoy a good meal for $3 + drinks and dessert. Alcohol is heavily taxed and can double that check. I found cappuccinos to blow my budget too, priced at $3 a cup at most coffee shops.