By Regina Rudder
Regina went to Nepal in 2018 with Trek to Teach and spent 3 months teaching in Kliu, loving it so much that she decided to join the Peace Corps. After returning to Nepal to teach in Dhading for one year, she stayed on with TTT to help prep incoming teachers for their own journeys in Nepal.
They say variety is the spice of life and Nepali food has both variety and spice! The staple meal in Nepal is daal bhaat, which literally translates to “lentils and rice”; however, it is so much more than that. Daal bhaat is a large meal consisting of white rice (bhaat), lentil soup (daal), curried vegetables (tarkari), and spiced chutney (acchaar). It is usually eaten twice a day, once in the late morning and once in the evening. The most common dish in Nepal, it has become so popular among trekkers that it inspired the slogan “Daal Bhaat power 24 hours.”
In some communities where white rice is scarce, families will eat dhido (millet) instead of rice. Dhido is usually made from millet or, occasionally, from corn. It can be either brown or tan in color and has a soft, spongy texture. Similar to daal bhaat, dhido is often served with lentils, curried vegetables, and curried meats.
Nepal also has specialty dishes that serve as filling snacks. One of the most popular dishes is momos. A momo is like a dumpling. It can be filed with buffalo meat, chicken meat, or a variety of vegetables and is served with a spicy dipping sauce. Nepali people primarily eat momos on special occasions and enjoy making them together as a family.
Other special dishes include fried rice, chow mein (fried noodles), and chow chow (noodle soup that is similar to ramen). These dishes are not considered full meals but are often eaten as a mid-day snack called khajaa or tiffin.
For smaller meals, such as an early morning snack, Nepali people will often eat bread with tea. Roti is unleavened bread, similar to naan, that can be dipped in milk tea. Chapatti is another style of unleavened bread, similar to a tortilla, that can be dipped in tea or eaten with honey and jam. Gurung bread is a deep-fried bread that is very popular in the Annapurna area. These dishes are usually accompanied by milk tea but can be served with black tea depending on the availability of milk in the area.
Nepal is also known for having excellent street food. Most of it is fried but like all fried food, it’s insanely good! Samosas are a very popular, triangle-shaped pastry filled with curried vegetables. Although they can be baked, samosas are usually fried and tend to be very spicy.
Pakora is also a popular snack consisting of fried vegetables, like cabbage and potatoes. Pakora can be bought from street vendors or served as an appetizer in a restaurant. Sel roti, bread fried in oil that takes the shape of a large ring, is a festival food that also makes for a great street snack. It can be found year-round but is most popular during the festival season in October.
Chatpate is another snack sold by street vendors. It is made up of uncooked chow chow, bhuja (puffy rice), diced vegetables (like onions and peppers), chili powder, and other spices. Chatpate is commonly sold along the highway to travelers and can range in heat.
There is so much to try when it comes to Nepali food—especially in the snack department—and you’ll probably learn to like the variety of heat and spices. But if you’re anything like a true Nepali, you’ll discover that the best food is the comfort food; you’ll enjoy coming home every day to a large, tasty plate of daal bhaat.