You cannot escape dal bhat when you are visiting Nepal. The same goes for the unofficial national food called momos. Anyone who has ever been to Nepal will tell you that momo is the must-try food here. Skipping the two famous Nepali foods, we give you a list of some of the underrated Nepalese food that will leave you wanting more.
A Tibetan street food with a blast of flavor in each mouthful, Laphing is a spicy cold noodle made of mung bean flour. The gelatinous texture of the noodle itself is bland on its own, but the cold soup brings it all together. The soup is a genius ensemble of soy sauce, chilli paste, garlic, a few herbs and necessary spices. You can also opt for a dry Laphing which has everything in it, besides the soup.
- Where to find it: Try Fulbaari Road in Boudha for the best laphings.
- Tip: Ask the servers to tone down the spices if you are unfamiliar with Nepali cuisine. It can be very spicy and will have you sweating profusely.
Another gift from the Tibetan cuisine, syabhale is a circular or semi-circular deep fried bigger version of momo made from dough and filled with spiced up minced meat; resulting in a crispy outside but a juicy, soft inside. Its edges are expertly pleated and best eaten hot with homemade tomato chutney.
Where to find it: Any Tibetan Restaurant will serve you a delicious plate of Shabhaley.
This ‘around the clock appropriate’ Nepali food is a must during Dashain – Nepal’s longest festival, but is also available in any traditional sweet shop. Ring-shaped in structure, it looks like a doughnut, but is made from rice flour and sugar. Deep fried in ghee, the result is a granular texture, sometimes crispy, sometimes soft.
- Where to find it: Local sweet shops.
- Tip: For best experience, pair it with warm vegetable curry and milk tea.
Samay-baji consists of several elements that can be altered according to one’s preference or the season’s offering. A traditional Newari food, it is consumed as afternoon luncheon during festivities and family gathering. The platter primarily consists of beaten rice, choela (smoked meat marinated in spices and herbs), marinated potato, mustard greens, woh (pronounced ‘wa’) or bara (pancake made from lentil paste), garlic and ginger julienne, pickle and sweetmeat.
- Where to find it: The Village Café, Patan
- Tip: Samay-baji is best taken with a peg or two of aila – a traditional home-brewed alcohol that has the reputation of a strong tequila. You can also pair it with thwon - home-brewed rice beer.
Another traditional Newari food, this rice flour pancake is also taken during auspicious occasions and festivities. You can find this easily in any Newari eatery and in different avatars. While the core of the dish is same everywhere, these are available with various toppings (optional) and rightfully has been christened the Newari pizza.
- Where to find it: The Village Café, Patan/Nandini Food Court, Swotha Square, Patan.
Yomari is primarily a confectionary, but also has savory counterparts. Cone-shaped dough made from rice flour is expertly molded to give it the form of a vessel, which is then filled with a mixture of sesame and chaaku (molasses) or desiccated coconut and khuwa (condensed milk). The same soft dough-ey vessel is expertly closed up and steamed. The result is a bite of soft and smooth dough that breaks into warm, gooey filling. The savory options of the same include mushroom, and black lentil filling.
- Where to find it: The Village Café, Patan
- Tip: Try the unconventional chocolate yomari at The Village Café.
Essentially served in the farming communities of Nepal’s hilly regions. Dhendo is a cornmeal porridge, which can also be replaced with millet, buckwheat or barley. Gundruk is a fermented and preserved leafy green which is used to prepare a soup or a pickle. Together, they make a wholesome, nutritious meal. In the urban setting, the duo is complemented by meat curry, which only elevates the overall appeal of the dish.
- Where to find it: Tukuche Thakali Kitchen, Durbarmarg.
- Tip: Use clean hands, you cannot eat dhendo with a spoon.
There is so much to try under the single heading, prepare a strong heart and an even stronger stomach. Newari cuisine is known for its creative stance on preparing meat, especially buffalo meat. From lungs, tongue, testicles, spinal cord, innards, to brains, you can try everything on the buffalo just like Andrew Zimmern. These are all well-seasoned and rather tasty.
- Where to find it: There are not many Newari restaurants that have it on their menu. So you will have to put a local spin to it and hit the local watering holes.
- Tip: A little stomach ache is expected, so embrace the food adventure with a pinch of salt. Avoid if you have a trekking planned any time soon.
T- momo is a ball of steamed dough steamed to a fluffy perfection with no fillings unlike momo. It may sound disappointing but you are wrong. The light bread is usually served with tomato chutney. Pair it with any curry or soup to turn it into a complete meal.
- Where to find it: White Dzambala Restaurant, Boudha.
A Thakali snack, Kanchemba is a wonderful treat made from dhendo – cornmeal porridge. Not many have heard about this dish, fewer have tried it. A small ball of dhendo is shaped into long fingers and deep fried in ghee until the outside wall is crispy to bite. The inside is a velvety soft surprise. The dish is paired with a spicy, taste-bud tingling sauce.
- Where to find it: Any Thakali restaurant in town.
A Few Golden Advice to Conclude:
- Carry a hand sanitizer with you. Chances are that most Nepali foods will require eating with hands.
- The portion is almost always huge, so go out with friends to try a variety of food.
- Eateries offering Nepali set or Thakali Thali (dal bhat) platter usually entertain free second and third serving, except for the meat.
Nepali food scene is a haven for those with an adventurous palate. There is so much Kathmandu has to offer, and so much more to try outside of it. Keep that voracious traveler in you alive with every dish and stay hungry!