In my fifty years of experience in the tourism industry, whenever I attend these kind of programs, I feel like I’m in ‘Maiti’. In fact, it gives me immense pleasure to attend these programs, as I strongly believe that tourism runs in my blood. Before being a writer or philanthropist, I’m a tourism entrepreneur, and I feel really proud about this. To be honest, this is my identity.
Thai, Malaysian, Louisiana, and other presently famous dishes had no identity during the 70s and 80s, but now these foods have become the first choice globally, and they have established their market firmly. We Nepalis have done great things both nationally and internationally. In fact, we are working in every corner of the world and we are leading in those sectors as well, but when it comes to Nepalese cuisines, we lag far behind, as we have not even given it an identity in the international market. Nepalese food usually gets lost against Indian dishes. Though we sometimes make an attempt to venture into opening Nepali restaurants, the presence of Indian food there makes our own Nepalese food meaningless.
Nepal has established her name and fame in more than eighty countries worldwide, but has failed in giving even an identity to Nepalese food. We should make an attempt to stick our food on the foreigner’s tongue. Last month, through Facebook and Twitter, I found that there are about seventy-eighty Nepalese cuisines. In fact, there are eighty-six varieties of Newari food alone, though I don’t know how they are prepared and what are the ingredients used. Whenever we go for a dinner, we either order Thai food, or Thakali/Bhoj, when it comes to Nepali dish. Newari dishes like yomari and choyila are really innovative items, but we are not being able to present them well. All my chef friends present here know it quite well that food is first tasted by the eyes, then the nose, and finally, by the tongue.
We have considered food as just a way to fulfill our hunger, but this is not the way it goes. Food is an art, and the product of a tremendous imagination. Preparing food is not a great task, but presenting them beautifully and modifying them in a way which lures people to have it just after its sight, is something else.
I want to give an example. In 1976, we organized IHO conference with the International Hotel Association. I still remember the words of Inder Sharma: “I wish the Indian government learnt something from Nepal regarding tourism.” That was the time when we were the leader in South Asia in the tourism sector, but now we lag behind even when compared to India and Srilanka. Just after Inder Sharma left Nepal, he with Karan Singh, the then tourism minister of India, organized a great campaign in the prominent capitals of the world, promoting Indian food and culture. For this, they chartered a plane to those cities, brought one hundred dancers from Karnataka, and developed fifty-six Indian signature dishes. They also promoted through the Indian embassies worldwide. After this, Indian food became the most popular food in the world, leaving behind Chinese food, which was considered a luxury dish. This shows how the efforts from a single country changed the food scenario at the global level.
We call ourselves poor, but what I think is, we are foolish, as we are not even able to manage the resources that we already have, which have been passed to us by our ancestors. We don’t want to change. We are not exploring our potential. Now, it’s high time that we change the scenario of the food industry in Nepal. Different researches can be done on our food, regarding calorie and digressiveness. For this, we as a committee have decided to identify 20 signature dishes of Nepal and advertise them globally. I believe that if we succeed in doing so, we’ll be adding a new chapter to the tourism history.