One of the best things about traveling is getting to “taste” different cultures. Wherever you go, each country, region, city or village is full of mouth-watering, cuisines which flavors can only truly be found in that residence. However, even if it is not exactly the same, it sure can be fun trying to bring home some of the local flavors, tastes, and spices for family and friends.
From my time in Nepal, there are definitely “go-to” dishes that can be found whether you travel north up into the chilly mountains or prefer to stay in the dustier district and explore life in Kathmandu.
Before traveling I hated what I thought was Asian food. Oh, boy was I wrong. So wrong I bought a cookbook to continue to keep my favorites in my diet when I came back to the Western Hemisphere.
Whether you’re looking to savor some of the flavors you’ve already experienced, or are looking for new dishes to embed into your meal plan, these are my favorite Nepali dishes to make but more importantly to share!
Most of the recipes below are either taken from Nepalese Cook Book written by Rabindra Dhoju (My own personal copy I purchased in Nepal). The ones not in the cookbook were given to me personally from my Nepali friends!
Make sure to purchase the book if you like my favorite recipes I've listed below!
What Is It? The most common Nepali dish eaten by all no matter wealthy or poor. Essentially rice and lentils sided often with veggies. If it can be afforded, chicken is added. A dish altered by every cook, which is slightly different dependent on spices, and flavors available in specific districts.
Time To Prepare: 25-30 minutes
Serves: 3-4 People
Ingredients: 1. Rice (any type preferred, however typical Nepali rice is white and often a little sticky. Basmati rice if can be found.) ½ kg or 1 lb
2. Lentils (Dal) 100gm or 3 ½ oz
3. Tumeric powder as required
4. Salt as required
5. Ginger, garlic (paste) 1tsp
6. Oil 2 tbsp
7. Cumin seeds 1 pinch
8. Onion (chopped) 1 tbsp
9. Tomato (Chopped) 1tbsp
10. Green coriander (Chopped) 2-3 tbsp
Instructions: 1. Begin to cook rice as instructed on package.
2. Wash lentils (Dal) in clean water and boil it in a pressure cooker by adding water, turmeric powder, salt, ginger, garlic paste, and oil until 6-7 whistles
3. Heat oil and fry cumin seeds in a separate pan.
4. Add onion after cumin seeds become brownish and add tomato after onion becomes golden brown.
5. Add turmeric powder and cumin powder after tomato is cooked well and pour it in the Dal.
6. Later, add the water as required (Approximately 500ml or until slightly soupy) and sprinkle fresh green coriander and boil it for some time.
7. Plate in a separate bowl than the rice as the eater can choose how much dal they want on their bhat! (I prefer more lentils and less rice personally, but Nepalis typically eat more rice and fewer lentils.)
If this seems like a lot of work for something you’re not quite sure you like or not, you can always taste the product first. Of course, ready-to-eat is not as authentic, you can buy dal in pre-made packets to heat in your microwave and see if it's your style or not before slaving away in the kitchen to make it yourself. When I don't have time I end up sticking a packet in the microwave and honestly some of them are just as tasty. (Just not as healthy haha)
What Is It? A type of dumpling that can be eaten as both an appetizer or entrée. Momos can be stuffed with vegetables, meat or a mix. Typically found in restaurants more often than cooking at home.
My favorite was always the Chicken Momo so that’s the recipe I’ll leave below, but if you prefer different types, make sure to check out literally any Nepali cook book for all things momo! Time To Prepare: 35- 40 minutes
Serves: 4-5 people
1. Minced chicken meat 500 gm or 18 oz
2. Onion 200gm or 7 oz
3. Spring onion 30 gm or 1 oz
4. Coriander (chopped) 3-4 tbsp
5. Garlic, ginger (paste) 1tbsp
6. Salt to taste
7. Cumin powder ½ tsp
8. Garam Masala ½ tsp
9. Butter 2 tbsp
10. Momo masala ½ tsp
Instructions: 1. Finely chop dried and spring onions.
2. Mix minced chicken meat, chopped onion, chopped coriander, ginger, garlic paste, salt, cumin powder, meat masala, momo masala, salt, and butter together in a clean bowl.
3. Prepare a fresh dough of wheat flour with water and make small round patties by filling the mixture of minced meat inside
4. Steam the filled patties of Momos with boiling water. The momos can be steamed or deep-fried.
5. It is best when eaten with tomato pickle. (Says the instructions, but this is a very acquired taste.)
What is it: Sweet, homemade dessert that can be found at street festivals all around the country. Similar to a doughnut, Sel Roti is a fried pastry popular with all ages.
Time to Prepare: 30-35 minutes
Serves: 2-3 people
1. Rice flour 200gm or 7oz
2. Oil to fry
3. Sugar 2tbsp
4. Baking Powder 2-3 Pinches
5. Water as required
Instructions: 1. Prepare a very thick mixture of rice flour, sugar, baking powder, and water.
2. Let the mixture of rice flour rest for some time.
3. Heat necessary amount of oil in a frying pan for deep frying
4. Pour the mixture slowly by making ring shapes in hot oil. (Like the shape of a bagel)
5. Take it out after it becomes brownish
Note: Sel roti is Nepali traditional bread or doughnut. It is mostly prepared during Dashain and Tihar festivals.
It’s so important to soak up a little culture before you travel-my favorite way, of course, being food. I highly recommend before your next adventure to learn a little bit about the common dishes. Impress the locals with your already knowledgeable pallet! If you liked these recipes, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy lots of other Nepali cuisines!
Have you ever tried Nepalese food before? What were your favorite (and least favorite) things? Mine was definitely any kind of pickled vegetables!
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As always, God Bless and I hope to see you somewhere around the world.