Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Top 18 Foods to Try in Nepal

Top 18 Traditional Nepalese Dishes Must-Try in Nepal

These traditional dishes have been cooked and enjoyed in Nepal for generations. A visit to Nepal means feasting on the most delicious organically grown vegetables, fresh ingredients, a minimum of cooking fat, and an artful combination of herbs and spices. Many visitors tell me they appreciate the freshness and healthy aspect of our food. I think this balanced, delicious cuisine is just waiting for discovery in the world!  Here in this blog I am posting 18 authentic and loved original dishes to experience a true "Taste of Nepal."  Please explore this blog to see if I have missed any of your favorites and write your suggestions in the comments.  I am always happy to hear from you!

Nepali food is often fused or associated with North Indian food or Tibetan food, or a combination of both.  Nepali food, however, has its own distinctive flavors and textures. In the southern Terai regions of Nepal, the cuisine has more of the neighboring influence from North India.  Commonly used spices in both cuisines are cumin, coriander, black pepper, turmeric, red and green chilies, garlic, fresh ginger and onions. Nepali spices such as jmbu (Himalayan herb) and timbur (schewan pepper) are not seen in Indian cooking. In Kathmandu the spicing is milder and subtler. Dhindo, gundruk, lentil stews, sun dried vegetables, bamboo shoots, sukuti (dried meat) are more common in hilly areas. Tibetan influence brings momo, the stuffed dumpling, fermented bamboo shoots and such. I would say Nepali food is neither Indian nor Tibetan, but a confluence of the two with a unique twist.  

1. Daal-Bhaat-Tarkaari-Achaar (lentil-rice-vegetable-pickle)
A common meal in many areas is the sdaal-bhaat-tarkaari combination.  Rice is usually boiled and accompanied by a lentil soup.  The daal is prepared from a variety of dried beans, lentils and peas.  There are at least a dozen varieties of daal dishes and each has different tastes and flavors.  Daal also accompanies the rice and is often eaten mixed together.  Vegetables are the third component of this staple meal.  A variety of fresh vegetables and many leafy greens predominate Nepali meals, and their preparation is varies based on the region and season.  Many of the vegetables are cultivated, but also gathered in the wild such as young fern tips, bamboo shoots, even nettle greens.  Nepali meals are often accompanied by a side dish of spicy pickles, which are either freshly made or preserved to enhance the flavor of the entire meal. For additional information, visit this link.

2. Dhindo - Cornmeal, Millet or Buckwheat Porridge 
Dhindo or dhido sounds like some exotic dish, but it is simply a thick porridge or mush, made by boiling the cornmeal (millet or buckwheat flour) in hot water with salt. Dhindo has been a staple food of most rural and middle mountain-area people of Nepal, especially in dry areas where rice or wheat corps are difficult to grow. This hearty and filling dish is a nutrient powerhouse and is often eaten with a dab of homemade butter, curried vegetables, or with various pickles. Gundruk-Dhindo is the most common combination served in farming communities.  It is a not to be missed traditional food of Nepal.  Don't forget to look out for it! For additional information, visit this link.

3. Khasi ko Maasu - Nepali Goat Curry
No list of foods to try in Nepal would be complete without classic goat curry.  In Nepal, goat curry symbolizes a celebratory meal.  The tender goat-meat is cooked with a generous amount of ginger-garlic (pounded in a stone mortar-pestle), cumin-coriander, shallots, and several other spices along with mustard oil to make this delicious flavored spicy dish.  Eat the goat curry with a very Nepali way -- with a generous serving of freshly steamed rice and vegetable side dish. For additional information, visit this link.

4. Aloo ko Achaar - Spicy Potato Salad with Sesame Seeds
Potato Achaar should also definitely not be missed - a very popular incredibly delicious, flavorful and refreshing potato salad dish made with dry-roasted-ground sesame seeds, and several fresh herbs and spices. Only rarely have I come across a traditional Nepali meal that is served without potato achaar. It can be served at any time of the day as a snack food with cheura (pressed rice flakes), sel-roti (fried rice bread) and poori (deep-fried puffed bread), for family gatherings, picnics and other casual functions or festive gatherings. For additional information, visit this link.

5. Momos - Meat or Vegetable Filled Dumpling
When it comes to a simple, delicious, one-meal dishes of Nepal, you can't beat the famous Momos, served with a variety of dipping sauces.  Momo, also known as momo-cha, is one of the most popular and cherished dishes in Nepal.  They are bite-size dumplings made with a spoonful of stuffing wrapped in dough.  Momos are usually steamed, though they are sometimes fried or steam-fried. For additional information, visit this link.

6. Juju Dhau - The King Yogurt from Bhaktapur, Nepal
Discover the mouth-watering yogurt with an extraordinary taste.  Juju Dhau is a sweetened custard-like yogurt that comes from Bhaktapur, Nepal, and is an important component of all feasts and celebrations.  Juju Dhau literally means "king of yogurt" in the Newari language.  While cow's milk is used to make regular yogurt, fresh buffalo milk (bhaisi) is traditionally used for juju dhau because it has a richer taste and texture.  A visit to Bhaktapur is not complete without sampling a bowl of juju dhau. For additional information, visit this link.

7. Sel-Roti - Deep-Fried Rice Flour Bread 
You probably have seen this delicious bread while walking around Kathmandu passing by Haluwai pasal (sweet maker shop).  Sel-roti does not need any introduction in Nepali cuisine -- it is one of the most "uniquely Nepali" dishes, a sweet rice bread, distinct from any other breads of the world.  Sel-roti resembles a large thin puffed-up doughnut and has a crispy texture with reddish brown color.  It is prepared by grinding soaked rice to create a thick batter.  It is then mixed with sugar, clarified butter, mashed banana, water, poured into bubbling oil and deep-fried.  It is a popular as a festive bread for many different occasions. For additional information, visit this link.

8. Maas ko Baara or Woh - Lentil Patties
Maas ko Baara or Woh is made from ground split urad beans (kaalo maas ko daal).  They are light and spongy lentil patties that resemble small flat pancakes, occasionally cooked with ground meat, along with ginger, garlic and other spices.  Woh is made in a similar way as Baara, with the difference is Baara is deep-fried, whereas Woh is pan-fried with only small amounts of oil, making it a relatively healthier version.  The lentil patties is delicious on its own, but serving with other dishes makes a wonderful lunch or snack. For additional information, visit this link.

9. Kwaanti - Sprouted Bean Soup
Enjoy the mixed sprouted beans soup that are built for maximum flavor with satisfying richness -  kwaanti, quaanti or biraula in Nepal are cooked a number of ways: in soups, in vegetable stir-fries, in salads, or in combination with meats.  During the  Nepali festival of Janai Purnima, a delicious stew-like soup is prepared from a colorful array of mixed sprouted beans. Traditionally, the sprouts are prepared from a combination of nine different types of colorful beans.  This wholesome soup is highly nutritious and usually eaten with steamed rice. For additional information, visit this link.

10. Yomari or Yoh-Mari - Rice-Flour Bread
Yomari is a delicious steamed bread with mouth-watering filling made from a new harvest rice flour dough.  It is eaten warm or at room temperature, by itself or with beverage. Yomari bread has a soft delicate texture with a bit of chewiness without being sticky, and a perfect combination of sweet filling with a great flavor. The filling varies according to family preferences which includes chaaku-sesame seeds-coconut, milk fudge, spicy ground meat and bean paste. For additional information, visit this link.

11. Jhaaneko Kaalo Maas ko Daal - Black Daal
Try this classic comfort dish - maas ko daal, or black gram beans. They are among the most loved type of lentil dish, considered flavorful, satisfying, and extremely nutritious. The preferred combination of spices for maas ko daal is jimbu (Himalayan herb), whole dried red chilies, asafetida and fresh garlic to create an authentic taste. Mostly served with traditional Nepali daal-bhaat-tarkaari combination meal. For additional information, visit this link.

12. Sikarni - Yogurt, Saffron, Pistachio Dessert
One the most loved yogurt dessert of Nepal is known as sikarni, pronounced, "see-kar-nee." Simple but elegant, this savory desert is an exceptionally full-flavored, delicate, and creamy.  It is made from drained yogurt, sweetened with sugar, flavored with saffron, green cardamom and sprinkled with chopped pistachios.  Creative cooks have given innovative twist to the classic recipe by adding fresh mangoes, ground almonds and other fresh fruits. For additional information, visit this link.

13. Pharsi ko Munta - Garden Fresh Pumpkin Shoots 
Once you taste this delicious vegetable, you will come back looking for it more! Pumpkin Shoots are the young, uppermost tender shoots, tendrils, leaves, and delicate stems from pumpkin plants. They are considered a delicacy in Nepal. The shoots are harvested from the growing end of the vine (the top 3 to 4 inches) by pinching off the tender ends. The plants will put out a new shoot or growth after the vine has been harvested. Pumpkin shoots have a distinct light flavor that can be described as a cross between squash and spinach. They should be cooked within a day of picking or they will lose their freshness and flavor. For additional information, visit this link.

14. Khalpi Achaar - Pickled Cucumber
The spicy and crunchy pickled cucumbers that we call "khalpi ko achaar" plays a very important part of meals in most Nepali households. It is eaten frequently with traditional Nepali meal of daal-bhaat-tarkaari combination, or it is just perfect to serve paired with bland afternoon snacks.  It is so addicting, both in flavor, texture and color. Nepalese have been making this pickle for centuries using the same natural fermentation process.  They believe that any kind of fermented pickles are associated with great health benefits especially to improve digestive issues. After eating a spicy Nepali meals, the pickles are reported to help support proper digestion. For additional information, visit this link.

15. Phaapar ko Roti - Buckwheat Bread
Phaapar ko roti  is a delicious light-gray colored bread prepared from buckwheat flour. It is prepared with a very simple technique. The flour is made into a smooth batter, spiced, and griddle cooked until light golden brown. The bread is delicious by itself, or with Nepali seasoned salt, which is chili-salt-timbur (Nepali szechwan pepper) powder, or can be served accompanied with a combinations of vegetables, yogurt, and buttermilk. For additional information, visit this link.

16. Karkalo-Gaava-Pidhaalu - Taro Vegetables 
Another well-loved classic vegetable dish made out of fresh young taro leaves, stalks, and young shoots.  They are are boiled-simmered in a small amount of water until taro softens, excess water evaporates, and reduces to silky textured smooth paste like consistency.  It is then tempered with mustard oil, turmeric powder, dried red chili and fenugreek seeds. It is delicious served with freshly steamed rice with freshly squeezed lemon  juice before serving.  For additional information, visit this link.

17. Taamaa-Alu-Bodi ko Tarkaari - Bamboo Shoots, Potatoes, and Black-Eyed Peas Medley
Must try these savory dish that has exotic bamboo flavor dominating the whole dish and usually accompanied with freshly boiled rice as a part of everyday Nepali traditional meal of daal-bhaat-tarkaari. Bamboo shoots are the underdeveloped, young, edible shoots of the bamboo plant known as taama in Nepali.  They have a unique flavor and texture, are considered a delicacy in traditional Nepali cuisine and are a favorite wild vegetable for many. The young and tender shoots are mild-flavored and mix well with most ingredients. In fact, the shoots can be pickled, fermented, dried, or cooked with any combination of vegetables and other ingredients.  They are made into a popular stew-like dish combined with black-eyed peas, potatoes and several other herbs and spices and the Nepalese call this medley, alu- taamaa. For additional information, visit this link.

18. Ek Raate Dahi - Homemade Yogurt
Yogurt is considered one of the country's most important dairy products.  It is consumed throughout the day in different forms. We called the yogurt "ek raate dahi" which translates to  "yogurt made overnight" or "one-night yogurt." Most Nepali households make a small amount of yogurt on a daily basis with just two ingredients: fresh milk and live and active yogurt cultures (usually from a previous batch).   A warm place to rest for the culture to incubate and a "do not disturb sign" are also important. The delicious yogurt will be ready in 6-8 hours.  Yogurt made this way is typically consumed within a day or two before it starts to acidify and turn sour. The yogurt should definitely not missed if you want to have a true "taste of Nepal." For additional information, visit this link.

Discover the most delicious, traditional meal of Nepal -  daal-bhaat-tarkaari, (lentil-rice-vegetable) combination.  There is nothing more comforting than a plate full of rice, lentils and vegetables for many Nepalese.  For additional information, visit this link.

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