Nepal, an ethnically and culturally diverse country, is the best place for you if you have a discerning palate for an impressive array of ethnic cuisines. One of the best things to do in Kathmandu is to savor the delicious local fare.
Nepal has been full of surprises to me. I have experienced of a lot of cultural shocks, both good and bad, since my stay here. Talking about good, it was surprising to know how a geographically small country like Nepal could be so rich with different cultures, languages, and most importantly, food! Also, Nepal is a country of diverse cultural communities with totally different cuisines to savor from. For me, as a food lover, it was a challenge, as well as a pleasure, to explore and discover more about local Nepali food.
Roaming around Boudhanath gives you a very different feeling when you hear the Buddhist hymns and see monks clad in red dresses praying and walking everywhere. It is a different world from what’s happening outside. Talking about food in Boudhanath, laphing is a much loved and most served food there. After a five minute walk towards the south of stupa in search of authentic Tibetan food, I came across a place called White Dzambala Restaurant. Their baked buns, also popular as tea momos, were light and spongy kind of baked bread that looked really attractive, as they were very well designed in flower shapes. The very tasty bread went along best with a cup of green tea. Next up, I tried fingsha, a noodle soup that had some lean cuts of buff meat and very special hot spices. The noodles were creamy and light, totally different from the noodles we eat regularly. The dish was hot and spicy, infused with spices; I could taste rich flavors of ginger, garlic, green chilies, and pepper. The dish was spicy enough to make me take a sip of my soda once for every spoon of noodle I ate. The portion of both dishes were very generous, more than enough to makes me super full. I recommend this dish to anyone who doesn’t mind a bit of spicy food.
Thakali food speaks a lot about the Nepali dining culture. The Thakali meal is a sumptuous and balanced meal that includes almost all the nutrition values, in small portions, that has to be in lunch. In a short conversation with the chef, I came to know that the origin of the word Thakali was from a very mesmerizing place in Nepal called Mustang’s Thak Khola (Thak Stream). To try this rich Thakali cuisine, I had my lunch in a restaurant named Nilgiri Thakali Delights, located inside the Tangal Wood in Naxal.
At I entered the restaurant, the table arrangements and their settings grabbed my attention; the interior was a fine combination of traditional and modern design in a beautiful bronze theme with very nice texture. Before the main dish, I was served some hot soup to start with. The soup had ripe slice of dry yak cheese that gave a savory taste to the soup, and the chewy piece of dry meat added more flavors. The only disappointment was that there were pieces of overcooked radish in the soup. My disappointment could not last long after the snacks arrived. Mustang alu and alanku were two different snacks made of potato. The first one was baked potato, crispy from the outside and soft inside, very delicious with recommended spices aside of the dish, and the second one was boiled potato with green beans and pieces of buff meat. Another snack was kanchhemba which was around 25 pieces of small crispy breads made of buckwheat, very pleasant to go with a glass of beer.
Finally, I had my Thakali khana set on my table. Their thali set included rice or dhindo, as per choice. Dhindo, one of my favorites, is made of buckwheat, which is ideal for diabetic people like me, and something also very hard to find in my country. Fish curry, which was succulent but a bit salty, four different pickles (tomato pickle, cucumber and radish pickle, a very special one, gundruk pickle, which had a strong but pleasant taste, and lapsi ko achar, which was a combination of sweet and spicy taste). The dish also had green salad, including cucumber, carrot, and radish. The lentil served with the set was the best of all, as it was thick enough and very well spiced.
The atmosphere of the restaurant was nice, with the surrounding garden, warm and welcoming waiters, and delicious food. All these things about Nilgiri Thakali Delights push me to highly recommend this place to anyone who wants to experience a typical culture of rice eating, and a memorable experience of the Nepali palate.
The last cuisine that I tried was Newari. This was not the first time I ate Newari. Their food is very rich and also very spicy. You can find Newari food quite easily in the city, as the major places of Kathmandu are inhabited by Newar communities. I chose a restaurant named Highland Newari Restaurant located at Lazimpat. All my experiences of eating Newari food include beaten rice, crispy flattened rice that go along with most curries. In the Highland Restaurant, too, I ate choila with beaten rice, which was a bit chewy for my taste, with sukuti, dry smoky meat. I tried two kinds of beans, as well; kidney beans that were boiled, spicy, and very delicious, and black soybeans that were so super hard I couldn’t risk to chew for my teeth!
All the dishes were served cold, except the alu tama, a hot soup with kidney beans, bamboo shoots, and of course, spices. Bamboo gave the soup a very soft savory taste, and the spices had very fine smell of cardamom and clove.
I had a memorable experience of eating an array of impressive Nepali food that had everything in them, just like Nepal itself as a country. I could not help but relate Nepali food to Nepal’s culture. There was so much diversity in the food, yet a special similar taste lingered every time I tried different Nepali cuisines. That is exactly what I feel about Nepal itself, so many people with so many cultures, but there is something that binds them as one.
With the Nepali New Year coming, I would definitely recommend Nepali food to everyone who want to get a closer insight to Nepali culture.