There is no way you wouldn’t come across Dal Bhat Tarkari and Momo when visiting Nepal. One is the staple food and the other is the most loved food item. People who do not like Momo (dumplings) are as rare as hen’s teeth. It is offered in every restaurants and café. Dal Bhat Tarkari (Steamed rice, lentil soup and any number of seasonal vegetable curries) too is served in most restaurants. When searching ‘What foods to try in Nepal?’ these two will pop up in every list.
So, here is the list of other foods you can try when in Nepal. These are not readily found and therefore, a little bit of effort might be required on your part. You could search the recipe and make it at home too!
Samay Baji is a Newari dish served as a starter during feasts and religious and family ceremonies. Its cultural importance is most apparent during the festival of Indra Jatra when it is distributed within neighborhoods. Anyone can come receive it.
Samay Baji mainly consists of Baji (beaten rice), Sya-baji (beaten puffed rice), Chhwela (boiled or grilled spiced buff meat), Tukan (Boiled and spiced mustard greens), Palu (finely chopped ginger), Wo (fried lentil patties) and Bhatmaas (roasted and salted black soybeans). Take a little of two beaten rice and eat it together with the side dishes. It is very tasty food to try in Nepal.
Gundruk is one of the most loved food in Nepal. Gundruk is fermented leafy vegetables marinated in spices, a side dish that is eaten together with main items like Chiura (Nepali for beaten rice), Roti (flat bread), Dhindo (a type of pudding) or even Bhat. During the season, when more than enough greens are harvested, the excess is made into Gundruk to save it for the off season. It becomes a good source of minerals during the seasons lacking in green leafy vegetables. It is acidic in taste and goes well with the bland main dish.
These days, one can buy packed Gundruk in some grocery stores. It is not to be eaten directly though. You can search and prepare a number of recipes with it.
Kheer or Dhakani
Kheer and Dhakani are sweet dishes. They are both rice puddings but the process of making them differs a little. Kheer is made by directly adding the soaked rice into boiling milk. It is cooked in medium heat until ready. Dry foods like cashew, raisins, almonds, etc. can be added. A pinch of saffron will give it a good aroma. Dhakani, on the other hand, is prepared by first frying the soaked rice in ghee until red. Then the boiling milk is added to it. It is boiled until rice turns soft. Dry foods can be added to Dhakani as well. Add sugar to taste in both.
Even though these are sweet to taste they cannot be considered dessert. Rice is pretty heavy and therefore Kheer and Dhakani are eaten as a part of the main meal.
Tama is fermented bamboo shoots that can be added to a range of vegetable dishes. It has a sour taste. Alu Tama is a vegetable curry that consists of potato, tama, black eyed peas and maybe a radish too. It is a delicious side dish that tastes best with plain steamed rice. It is a dish very unique to Nepal.
Tofu and Masyaura
You may be familiar with tofu. It is called bean curd as well. It originated in China and spread to other Asian countries including Nepal. Masyaura, on the other hand, is unique to Nepal. It is made from a paste of lentil and shredded vegetables. This mixture is made into small balls and dried in sun to remove moisture. This gives long shelf life to food that could, otherwise, have rotten to waste.
There are a number of ways to prepare Masyaura and Tofu. One of the most common way, in Nepal, is to fry them and add to lightly fried mixture of onions, green chili, lot of tomatoes, green peas and maybe some other vegetables. Little water is added to make it into a thick curry. It can be eaten with Bhat or Chiura and others.
Nepali cuisines are normally very healthy and balanced in terms of nutrition. They are far from being bland, but is less spicy than Indian or Chinese and less oily as well. Also, because of the ethnic diversity, there are a number special dishes that you can try. So, if you are a foodie, then that is one of the reasons to visit Nepal and when you do, you must try these delicious cuisines.