10 dishes you need to try in Nepal
Although Nepali food is not as widely spread as, let’s say, Indian or Chinese food – it is just as nice and fragrant as it’s neighbouring country’s dishes. Josh and I used to live near Woolwich, where we often visited this cute little Nepali restaurant and had so much Mo;Mo we were never able to go for desert at the ice cream parlour next-door.
I was so looking forward to eating Nepali food when we arrived in Kathmandu that I literally threw down my case in the hotel and pushed Josh out of the door so we could go to a restaurant one of my Instagram followers recommended.
Overall our trip to Kathmandu was one of food and culture – and I have now made a list of the 10 dishes you absolutely need to try when travelling to Nepal!
Mo;Mo – for those who have no idea what Mo;Mo is, are fragrant dumplings filled with chicken, pork or buffalo meat. Most Mo;Mo shops also sell dumplings with vegetable, cheese and potato (Alu) filling.
I am not going to lie: Mo;Mo has to be my absolutely favourite Nepali dish. Mo;Mo are most often served with a red (spicy) sauce or a green (mild) sauce. The mild sauce will probably include cilantro so if you are not a massive fan of the soapy taste, I would stay away from the sauce.
Mo;Mo can be steamed or steamed and fried. I personally prefer the steamed version but the fried Mo;Mo’s have a nice crunchy texture which understandably makes it a favourite for many Nepali and tourists alike.
Another amazing variation on Mo;Mo you should try is Mo;Mo in chili sauce (a favourite of Josh). The Mo;Mo can – again, be fried or steamed and comes in a rich sweet and sour tomato sauce that has a bit of a kick to it (but nothing major).
There are a lot of Mo;Mo restaurants around and I would recommend choosing a Mo;Mo spot where locals go to eat Mo;Mo. We tried a restaurant in Thamel (Newa MoMo) which was amazing, but later on found a local Mo;Mo centre which had magnificent MoMo for 1/5th of the price ($0.70 for a plate!!)
Although I would not choose Dal Baht over many other of the amazing Nepali Dishes, when doing Base Camp treks, you will eat a lot of Dal Baht. In fact: You will eat Dahl Baht every single day for every single meal. I am not joking.
Dal Baht is a lentil soup and probably one of the most famous Nepali Dishes. The lentil soup comes with rice and you are supposed to take a spoon of the Dal Baht and pour it over the rice, mix it and eat it. Dal Baht often (but not always) comes with a set of cooked or curried vegetables which is then named Dal Baht Terkari.
Dal Baht has quite a mellow but homely taste. As said before: it is not my favourite as I like bold spices and tastes, but overall the few times I did eat it in Nepal, I enjoyed it and would not mind having it again!
Oh dear god! Choila is a meat-lover’s delight! Choila is chopped buffalo cooked with loads of spices, green onion, chili’s and fat. I especially loved it because the meat is almost infused with the spices while being very tender and soft.
It is true that most of the meat in Nepal will be quite fatty (I hate fatty meat), but because of the spices and the way they prepare Choila, it was easier to eat (and to pick out).
Choila is often served with vegetables and rice. You can also order Choila with beef (most restaurants will serve buffalo due to the large amount of Hindu Nepalis, chicken, mutton (which in Nepal is often goat, not sheep) and duck in the finer restaurants.
When ordering Choila as a foreigner you might want to ask for the Choila to be made less spicy as the Choila at some of the local restaurants will literally blow your head right off.
Sel Roti is another one of my favorite dishes I ate when travelling to Nepal. It looks and a bit like a donut, but it is a lot less sweet and has the texture of a beignet. There are lots of places where you can buy Sel Roti and I would recommend buying it at a stall where there are loads of Nepali people waiting for there Sel Roti as this means the Sel Roti is nice and original. Sel Roti is also a dish many Nepali people make at home on the evening of certain festivals such as Maghe Sankranti and Tihar. I guess I don’t have to mention kids love them and that, if you want to make a cute kid on the street happy, you could always buy them a sel roti. I loved it when I tried sel roti and I am very sure you will to.
The Sel Roti is deep fried and often wrapped in news papers which makes it a great snack to buy and then eat when strolling through the tiny Asan streets!
I love trying new and weird stuff and I will happily tell you about me trying fermented duck egg in China, but of all the weird stuff I tried in Asia, I think Gundruk is actually one of my favourites. Gundruk is one of the most popular and loved dishes in Nepal. All the ethnic communities of Nepal from Terai Hill to Mountains Nepalese have Gundruk Soup on their menu. Gundruk is made by fermenting leafy green vegetables. Leafy green vegetables such as spinach are one of the vegetables that are easy to grow in Nepal, especially in spring and autumn. This is why you will often see spinach on the menu when travelling to Nepal. People usually put the leafy vegetables in clay pots for a week or more to ferment, and they later dry it under the sun. Afterwards, they store it for a year or more.
They commonly make it into a pickle which is also very tasty. It tastes like nothing else it can think of – I guess the closest it comes to is salty mushrooms. It perfectly balances out the Nepali curries – especially those who have quite a mellow taste.
Gundruk is also used to give taste to stir fries and in soups. I felt a bit stupid for not taking home a pack of Gundru aks I would have loved to experiment with Gundruk in the kitchen.
Bara is a typical Newari dish. Newari is a Nepali ethnic group. Newari People were the original residents of the Kathmandu Valley. Their distinctive culture, food, architecture, and language still have a strong presence in the capital. They have their dialect of the Nepalese language, their own cultural values, and foods. Newari food is Nepali food but not all Nepali food is Newari food – if you know what I mean.
Bara is a popular snack and is also known under the name Bada. It is a kind of a thick savory rice-flour pancake and can be eaten with or without vegetables. You can add chicken mince or skip the meat top the Bara with peppers and onion. You can eat a non-vegetable Bara plainly with an egg cracked on top or with chopped buffalo meat which was my favourite.
I once ordered this by accident and Josh literally hoovered up every little crumb on my plate. It is one of his favourite Nepali dishes and he often asks me to make it.
So yes, it is safe to say that Chatamari is a pretty amazing Nepali dish. It is another favorite Newari snack that is very well-liked in Kathmandu. A lot of tourists have described it as a ‘Nepali pizza’, but that is only because it is sort of round with loads of toppings. Chatamari is a rice-flour crepe thinner than the Bara I talked about before. On menus it will often be referred to as a Newari Dosa. They are often made with a variety of savory toppings such as chopped onions, fresh coriander, minced meat, egg, chilies, and diversity of spices. They cook it on the stovetop and it takes about 7 to 8 minutes which makes it an easy after work meal – trust me! I have been making Newari Dosa here in Dubai. The Newari Dosa is topped off with an egg and some cheese.
I can really recommend Chatamari for people who are vegetarians as it is very filling and tasty.
The Nepali are real foodies! So much even that yomari, a nice little sweet steamed dumpling, has its own festival! Every December, the Nepali celebrate Yomari Punhi where they celebrate the end of the rice harvest and make sweet Yomari.
These cute pointy dumplings are made out of rice flower and are stuffed with sweet molasses or coconut. It is very nice and sweet – although I could not have too much because it can become sickly sweet fast.
You can find Yomari in Patan and in about every large supermarket (but these are cold). I would recommend finding The Village Café on Pulchowk in Patan as these Yomari were especially tasty.
Chiura is another popular Nepalese dish. It is a bit of an acquired taste as it can be very dry. People of Nepal first beat the rice to flat and dry up to keep it fresher for longer. It is often eaten with Dal Baht because you can literally only eat it with wet soups or dry curries. Beware of not overeating on Chiura as it will swell up in your belly meaning that you will feel very very full after. Chiura has a unique taste and I would recommend you would try it at least once when in Nepal.
This is yet another delicious traditional Newari dish. It is a spicy Newari salad. It is usually made with potatoes or peanuts, as well as chilies (lots of them!), raw onions, fresh coriander spices. They serve it cold which makes it a perfect dish to eat in summer. Sandheko has a lot of flavor and as they often use a lot of chilis in the dish, I would recommend asking to go slow on them, especially if you are not used to spicy food.