About the food of Nepal

Mount Everest, photo by Bernard Goldbach. Stupa and prayer flags at basecamp, photo by Uwe Gille.

As you fly into Nepal, the first thing you might see is Mount Everest, rising up through the clouds like the spirit of the earth stretching in greeting to the sky. Once in town you’ll find monkeys eating with the pigeons and ambling through the cobblestone streets, baby following mother. A bus, loaded up with people (even on the very roof top) might zip by on your left, British-style.

Curiously, this is the only country in the world that has a zig-zag looking flag, as opposed to a rectangle.  As my husband remarked, it looks like half of a Christmas tree. This means that, wherever the Nepali flag floats in the breeze you’ll find two two triangles decorated with the sun and moon. From the freezing mountain tops to the subtropical southern reaches of Nepal, an astounding assortment of temples, shrines, and plain ‘ol beauty awaits.

Flag of Nepal. Photo by Christopher Macsurak

The food reflects her status, tucked between China and India. There are all manner of curries, most commonly you’ll find dahl baht  [Recipe] which I like to think of as a combo platter containing two bowls – one of dahl, or soupy, aromatic split peas and another of rice. This dish can be served with chutney or vegetable pickles called achaar. Other curries include potato, chicken, or fish among many more. Pieces of Indian-style flatbread, like chapati [recipe] also make it to the table.

On the more Chinese and Tibetan side of things there are momos, or little dumplings [Recipe]. These can be made with ground beef or be totally vegetarian, in which case they might sport a cabbage filling. Inside you’ll also find ginger root (which makes its way into much of the cooking).

A Rhesus Macaque on Swayambhunath hill, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal . An ancient religious complex atop the hill in the Kathmandu Valley, west of Kathmandu city. It is also known as the Monkey Temple for the holy monkeys living in parts of the temple. Photo by Ester Inbar, available from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:ST and monkeys in courtyard by Holynow.

Dessert can be a simple piece of fruit like mango, papaya, watermelon, lychee and bananas… or it can be something from the Indian influence – Besan Burfi, a sweet ghee and chickpea flour treat which I’ve seen compared to fudge [Recipe]. Things might be finished off with a cup of hot buttered tea as we made for Bhutan [recipe].

Courtesy of CIA World Factbook.


  1. Jessica Bennett says

    A couple years ago, I saw a documentary about about a local artist who was chosen to do a painting for a village in Nepal. It was fascinating for a number of reasons, including the making of the meal for the festival (wish I could remember more detail about that part to share here).
    Here’s a link to learn more about the project: http://www.agiftforthevillage.com/index.html

    • Sasha Martin says

      What a beautiful story… I found the documentary trailer for whoever is interested. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITE0wDdLIxM It’s funny because my meal review is about the notion of creativity, so this is total apropos.. and is just the cultural connection I’m looking for. Thanks Jessica!

      • Jessica Bennett says

        Thanks for putting up the trailer. I think they showed the documentary in quite a few places, but mostly regional. I’m fortunate enough to live in Blacksburg (where the artist lives), so it was easy for me to see it. If anyone is really intrigued, you can buy a copy on DVD.

  2. NEPAL…enchanted…like the GALAPAGOS. What are the longitude and latitude?

  3. Brian S. says

    One night a few years ago I thought how neat it would be to take a time machine back to England in the Middle Ages. And then I realized that I already have, years ago when I visited the towns and villages of Nepal. A world of gay festivals and mud-brick houses and troupes of traveling actors. It would be a really good idea, I thought, for any scholar researching medieval English history to walk along the cobbled streets of a little Nepali town. He’d learn a lot, you couldn’t predict what, but maybe he’d learn that a rural housewife churning butter gets calluses on her fingers, or how the streets smell, or, on a deeper level, the kind of communal spirit that binds and enlivens village life.

    Photo of Bhaktapur, near Kathmandu. http://images.travelpod.com/users/tjb_esprit/china-nepal-ind.1122814320.suc50559.jpg

    “The wildest dreams of Kew are the facts of Khatmandhu” said Kipling, Kew being a staid suburb of London.

    • Sasha Martin says

      I love how you write. Such a vivid image in that last sentence of the first paragraph. I hadn’t realized you’ve been to Nepal!

    • Oh!…It’s about this English family – two children – boy and a girl early teens – on their way to Nepal to do research or something and on the train is a Nepalanese stow-away who turns out to be a Prince – and he falls in love with the daughter of this English couple…They have an adventure relevant to Mt Everest and some secret city there…The girl ends up having to decide between going with the Prince to his kingdom and never seeing her family again, or losing his love….ahhhh…Perfect story for a dreamy Pisces

      • Sasha Martin says

        I’ll have to look it up 🙂 I’m a cancer though. Are you a pisces?

    • Sasha Martin says

      Yay – glad you made your way here. Nepali food is wonderful and I’m so glad I had a chance to try it.

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