Cuisine of Nepal

Nepalese cuisine refers to the food eaten in Nepal. The country's cultural and geographic diversity provides ample space for a variety of cuisines based on ethnicity and on soil and climate. Nevertheless dal-bhat-tarkari (Nepali: दाल भात तरकारी ) is eaten throughout the country. Dal is a soup made of lentils and spices. This is served over boiled grain, bhat—usually rice but sometimes another grain—with vegetable curry, tarkari. Condiments are usually small amounts of extremely spicy chutney (चटनी) or pickle (achaar, अचार) which can be fresh or fermented. The variety of these is staggering, said to number in the thousands.[1] Other accompaniments may be sliced lemon (nibuwa) or lime (kagati) and fresh green chili, hariyo khursani.

Some foods have hybrid Chinese/Tibetian and Indian origins. Momo -- Tibetian dumplings with Nepali spices -- are important in Newa cuisine. They were originally filled with buffalo meat but now also with goat or chicken as well as vegetarian preparations. Special foods such as sel roti and patre are eaten during festivals such as Tihar. New food varieties have been introduced such as taas,[2] similar to shish kebab.

Contact with europeans has introduced loaf bread, cheese, pastries and ice cream as well as restaurants serving dishes like pizza, catering originally to tourists but increasingly to local people too. Nepalis have also taken to ramen noodles as fast food that can be prepared much more quickly than traditional dhal-bhat.


Khas or Pahari cuisine

conforms to dietary restrictions of upper-caste Hindus in the Middle Hills. Dal-bhat-tarkari is the standard meal eaten twice daily. However with land suitable for irrigated rice paddies in short supply, other grains supplement or even dominate. Wheat becomes unleavened flat wheat bread (roti or chapati). Maize (makai), buckwheat (fapar), barley (jau) or millet (kodo) become porridge-like (dhido or ato). Tarkari can be spinach or greens (sag), fermented and dried greens (gundruk or sinki), daikon radish (mula), potatoes (alu), green beans (simi), tomatoes (golbeda), cauliflower (kauli), cabbage (bandakopi)), pumpkin (farsi), etc.

Fruit traditionally grown in the hills include mandarin orange (suntala), kaffir lime (kaguti), lemon (nibuwa), Asian pear (nashpati), and bayberry (kaphal). Mangoes (aap) grow up to about 800 meters elevation.

Yogurt (dahi) and curried meat (masu) or fish (machha) are served as side dishes when available. Chicken (kukhura), and fish are usually acceptable to all but the highest Brahmin (Bahun) caste, who limit meat to goat (khasi). Observant Hindus never eat beef (gaiko masu), except untouchables (dalit) possibly eating animals that have died of natural causes. They also eschew buffalo and yak meat as being too cow-like. Domestic pork (sungurko masu) was traditionally only eaten by Dalits, However bangur ko masu wild boar was traditionally hunted and eaten by Chhetris. A strain derived from wild boar is now raised in captivity and used for meat that is increasingly popular with Pahari ethnicities and castes that did not traditionally eat pork.


are an urbanized ethnic group originally living in the Kathmandu Valley, now also in bazaar towns elsewhere in the Middle Hills. Their cuisine has many fermented preparations. In the fertile Kathmandu and Pokhara valleys where cheap rice can be trucked in and many households have relatively high incomes, local market farmers find growing produce more profitable than grain. Thus this cuisine can be much more varied than Pahari cuisine in more isolated parts of the Hills where maximizing grain production is still a matter of survival. Newari cuisine makes wide use of buffalo meat. For vegetarians, meat or dried fish can be replaced by fried tofu or cottage cheese. This cuisine also has many fresh and fermented varieties of aachar including several made with lapsi fruit. Homemade rice beer is called tho in Newari; distilled liquor is called aela.

Other ethnic variations in the Middle Hills

buffalo meat and pork are eaten by many janajati (indigenous nationalities with customs departing from Hindu norms). In the course of the Nepalese Civil War, Magars (and perhaps other ethnicities in areas under rebel control) began eating beef to flaunt longstanding Hindu domination. More traditionally, Magars ate pork but not water buffalo while the superficially similar Gurung did the opposite. Further east, Tamang, Rai and Limbu have unique ethnic foods including Kinema (fermented soybeans), yangben (Reindeer Moss), preparations of bamboo shoots, bread made from millet or buckwheat, and traditional Limbu drink tongba (millet beer).[3][4]

Terai cuisine

Food in Outer Terai south of Sivalik Hills tend to mirror cuisines of adjacent parts of India such as Maithili[5] cuisine in the east, Bihari and Bhojpuri cuisine in the center and near west. Further west there is Uttar Pradeshi and even Mughlai-influenced Awadhi cuisine—particularly eaten by the substantial Muslim population around Nepalganj and further west. Terai diets can be more varied than in the Middle Hills because of greater variety of crops grown locally plus cash crops imported from cooler microclimates in nearby hill regions as well as from different parts of India. Fruit commonly grown in the Terai include mango (aam), litchi, papaya (armewa/papeeta), banana (kera/kela) and jackfruit (katahar/katahal).

Inner Terai valleys

between the Sivaliks and Mahabharat Range were originally severely malarial and mainly populated by genetically resistant Tharu. Rather than a single cuisine there probably are parallel cuisines in different valleys whose dialects had more in common with whatever was spoken immediately to the south (Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Bihari, Maithili etc.) than with each other.

The Tharu hunted and gathered as well as farmed. Since they were also less constrained by strict Hindu rules against eating many sources of animal protein, their cuisines exploit much wider varieties of ingredients than Pahari cuisine. They certainly caught[6] and consumed large quantities of fish from local streams and ponds, as well as freshwater crabs and snails. Fish were dried as well as eaten fresh. Rats in rice paddies were hunted with dogs and then roasted outdoors on sticks. Rice flour is ground and used in dumplings. Taro root and leaves are prepared several ways. Wheat or rice flour is used in bread fried in mustard oil. Although Tharu cuisines still need comprehensive study, some recipes are documented online.[7][8]

Control of malaria starting in the late 1950s enabled immigration by land-hungry settlers from the hills and by Indian merchant families into towns, introducing their respective cuisines to the Inner Terai.

Himalayan cuisine

eaten by culturally Tibetan and closely related ethnic groups in the Himalaya and Trans-himalaya. Buckwheat, barley and millet are important cold-tolerant grains often processed into noodles or tsampa which is flour ground from toasted grain. Butter tea is made by mixing butter or ghee and salt into strong tea. This tea preparation is commonly mixed with tsampa flour to make a kind of fast food especially eaten while traveling. Grain is also made into alcoholic beverages (see below). Potatoes are another important staple crop and food. Substantial amounts of rice are imported from the lowlands. The meat of yak and possibly yak-cow hybrids may be used, as well as their milk. Meat is often prepared as momo.

Thakali cuisine

transitional between Himalayan and lowland cuisines—is eaten by Thakali people living in Thak-Khola Valley, an ancient and relatively easy trade route through the high Himalaya. This cuisine is also served in inns (bhattis) run by Thakalis along other trade routes and in Pokhara and other towns in the hills of central Nepal, that were said to offer the best food and accommodations before the great proliferation of facilities catering to foreign trekkers.

Thakali cuisine is less vegetarian than Pahari cuisine. Yak and Yak-cow hybrids locally known as Jhopa were consumed by the lower castes. All castes eat the meat of local sheep called Bheda and Chyangra or Chiru imported from Tibet. Meat is sliced into thin slices and dried on thin poles near the cooking fire. Blood sausage is also prepared and dried. Dried meat is added to vegetable curries or sauteed in ghee and dipped into timur-ko-choup a mixture of red chili powder, Sichuan pepper, salt and local herbs. This spice mixture also seasons new potatoes, or eggs which may be boiled, fried or made into omelets.

Thakali cuisine uses locally grown buckwheat, barley, millet and dal as well as rice, maize and dal imported from lower regions to the south. Grain may be ground and boiled into a thick porridge that is eaten in place of rice with dal. A kind of dal is even made from dried, ground buckweat leaves. Grain can be roasted or popped in hot sand (which is then sieved off) as a snack food. Thakalis also follow the Tibetan customs of preparing tsampa and tea with butter and salt. Ghee is used in this tea preparation and as a cooking oil otherwise.

Since most Thakali people were engaged in trade, they could import vegetables, fruits and eggs from lower regions. A large variety of vegetables were consumed daily, some—especially daikon radish and beetroot—dried and often prepared with mutton. Soup prepared from spinach known as gyang-to was served with a pinch of timur-ko-choup. Apples were introduced following the arrival of foreign horticulturists [9] and are now widely enjoyed.


include maize popped or parched called khaja (literally, "Eat and run."); beaten rice (baji or chiura), dry-roasted soybeans (bhatmas Nepali: भटमास), lapsi (dried fruit candy), and Indian foods like samosa and Indian sweets. International snacks like biscuits (packaged cookies), potato chips and wai wai (Nepali: वाइ वाइ) (Instant noodles) are all coming into widespread use.


tea (chiya) usually taken with milk and sugar, juice of sugarcane (sarbat) and buttermilk (mahi). Alcoholic beverages include raksi, spirits made in rustic distilleries, and jard, homemade beer made from rice. At higher elevations there is millet beer (tongba or Chhaang).


Meals are traditionally eaten seated or squatting on the floor although urban restaurants have tables and chairs. A large mound of bhat (boiled rice or other grain such as cornmeal or barley) or a pile of roti (rounds of thin unleavened bread) is served on a thali—a rimmed brass or stainless steel plate about 12"/30 cm. diameter. The rice is surrounded by smaller mounds of prepared vegetables, fresh chutney or preserved pickles, and sometimes curd / yoghurt, fish or meat. Soup-like dal and vegetables cooked in sauce may be served in separate small bowls, to be poured over the rice. Food is brought to the mouth with the fingers of the right hand. The left hand—traditionally used for certain toilet purposes—should never touch food but may hold cups and glasses. The right hand should be rinsed before and after eating.

Although Nepali society is moving away from caste-based discrimination and becoming less mindful of ritual pollution, these concepts can still hold sway in traditionally minded upper caste households. In such contexts water itself is highly subject to pollution, affecting containers as well. Clay or wooden containers must then be discarded while metal containers require ritual scouring. You will often find people drinking water by pouring it into their mouths rather than touching their lips to the container to avoid polluting the container and contents.

Dry-cooked grains—including beaten rice and roasted soybeans or corn—also rice pudding cooked in milk rather than water (khir) and raw fruit are less subject to ritual pollution. These foods can be accepted from any clean caste but not from untouchables. However water and foods cooked with water can be problematic. Traditionally they are not to be cooked or touched by a person of lower caste than the recipient. For this reason even in a polygamous household the first wife should not be of lower caste than the husband.

Foreigners and members of many partially Hinduized janajati ethnic groups may occupy an ambiguous space, neither fully untouchable nor fully "clean". They may not be welcome inside upper-caste homes and should not presume to enter without being invited (and not just invited to sit outside on the porch). Upper-caste Hindus may decline to eat with them at all, or may avoid eating foods that most subject to ritual pollution.

Breaches of dietary etiquette were made criminal offences in Muluki Ain — the main corpus of civil law — in 1854 and not decriminalized until 1962. Since 1962 discriminatory customs have been falling into disuse among educated and urban Nepalis, yet they often prevail in the countryside. Guests and visitors should try to conform to tradition until clearly instructed otherwise by their hosts.

See also

Nepal portal
Food portal


External links

  • Guide to Nepali food l
  • Saidi, Nicole. "CNN. October 14, 2011.
  • Nepali food recipes
  • Nepali food
  • Authentic Nepali food
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