With its rich geographical, ecological and ethnic diversity, Nepal has a plethora of unique dishes to offer. The food here is not just a basic need or for the taste, it is an integral part of the lifestyle. People of different backgrounds enjoy varieties of food as a celebration of life and culture. The capital Kathmandu, which is a melting pot of people from all over the country, provides a huge and diverse menu for people to choose from. Being a business and trade hub of the country, Kathmandu also is a home to individuals of diverse culture, race, and ethnicities. Regardless of the distinctions, assimilating them into a single roof, Kathmandu also innovates and improvises their lifestyle and food culture. Hence, a multitudinous array of food! Here are the top five dishes one must try in the capital Kathmandu:
Nepali Dal Bhat
Dal Bhat is love, Dal Bhat is life! Dal Bhat- Rice and lentils with a variety of veggies and meat plus other sweet/sour/spicy pickles- is the go-to food for the Nepali people. Most families in the country consume this delicacy twice a day almost every day of their lives. Dal Bhat might sound redundant to foreigners but as all the elements of the dish can be made in a variety of ways it can be a unique experience every time. Dhal Bhat costs anywhere around Rs 200 (~US$ 2) in the capital depending on the choice of food you choose and the place. This kind of meal usually comes with the opportunity to add further rice, lentils, veggies, and pickles. Plus, many places offer extras such as papad- a thin disc-shaped crispy food or mohi- which is a thin mixture of yogurt and water. These extras not only sooth the taste buds but also have dietary and digestive benefits.
Momo is hands down the unofficial national food of the country. Momo is a type of dumpling i.e. it is a meat or vegetable filling wrapped in a dough. This Nepali dumpling is like no other and has developed a unique identity of its own with its exquisite flavors. It is bite-sized and served with a dipping sauce. Countless Momo shops in Kathmandu serve hundreds of thousands of hungry city dwellers every day. Momo can be found in various shapes, sizes, styles, and even colors. The most common form of momo is the steamed momo. Fried momo, which is deeply fried steam momo is also a favorite of the people in the capital. Other varieties of momo include kothey- base fried crispy momo, chilly- momo made with a spicy mix of capsicum, onions, peppers etc. and jhol- momo in a flavored soup. The average cost of a plate of momo (which usually contains ten bite sized dumplings) is around Rs 100 (~US$1).
Newari Khaja Set
The Newar are the natives of the Kathmandu Valley and have their own unique identity, culture, and food within the capital. The best representation of the Newari food culture is probably the Newari Khaja (Snack) set, which includes a bunch of different snacks which have been consumed by the people of Kathmandu for generations. Newari Kitchens are usually family run and delightful to experience. The ingredients in the set might differ from place to place but some core ingredients are as follows:
Chiura: beaten rice
Alu Tama: curry made of potatoes and bamboo shoots
Hakuchoila: spiced ground meat
Bhuttan: fried intestine and other abdominal parts
Gundruk: fermented leafy veggies
Thukpa is a traditional Tibetan style noodle which is popular in Kathmandu and the mountainous regions of Nepal. It is boiled noodles with veggies and choice of meat in a soup. Thick rice noodles along with veggies and species are simmered in water to give the soup its delightful flavors. This dish is consumed regularly during the winter as the soup keeps the body warm. Despite being Tibetan in style the Nepali Thukpa has its own twist and flavors. A bowl of Thukpa usually costs around Rs 150 (~US$ 1.5) depending on the ingredients chosen.
Sel Roti is a food for special occasions and religious celebrations in Nepal. But it is also consumed on a day to day basis. It is around Nepali bread which is rich in sugar and carbohydrates. It is usually served with another kind of Nepali bread known as Puri and hot beverages. Sel Roti is made using a mix of flour, rice, sugar, and ghee. It is a great snack and goes to dish to munch on during as morning starters or evening hangouts. Sel Roti is very cheap and costs a mere Rs 20 (~20 cents) and can be found pretty much everywhere in the capital.
Food is a way of life in Nepal and Kathmandu is probably the best place to experience it to the fullest. With a great many options comes great dilemma. However, you can find plenty of diners, restaurants and food stalls in the valley to offer you different taste and experience. The street way of eating to lavish dining, nevertheless all aimed at ensuring that your introduction to Nepali food culture is never bland. Make sure you give your taste buds a treat by trying out the above-mentioned delicacies and much more next time you’re in Kathmandu.