Authentic culinary traditions in Nepal make for an interesting showcase of community cultures by taste. As a visitor, you will have some intriguing adventures along the way as you travel to different regions.
Tharu Cuisine- Unique pleasures
A visit to Nepal’s Chitwan region is immensely rewarding. For one, the natural beauty of this region in the Terai will mesmerise you. The other thing is that you will also get to meet the Tharus, the local ethnic community who lives here. During your interactions with the villagers, you will enjoy some wonderful insights into their unique culture, whether it’s their music and dance, their dress code, or their eating habits. The community sources produce from the surrounding forest; it also supports this with the crops from the small holdings that it cultivates. The local water bodies provide fish, crabs, shrimp etc and the rice they cultivate also includes a variety such as the sticky andik rice they favour. They enjoy dishes cooked with field mice, pigeon and wild boar. Popular Tharu dishes you might like to help prepare and sample with your local hosts are dhikri, which is from rice flour shaped into stick-like forms, steamed and eaten with a curry or chutney. Gonghi is a curry dish made with locally sourced edible snails. They also brew a home-grown rice wine.
Bhaktapur for Newari Meals
Medieval Bhaktapur is steeped in Newari culture and when you are done with the sightseeing here, try to sample some of the local Newari/Newa dishes. Your local host is sure to have something on the dinner table to introduce you to this ancient culinary tradition of Nepal. The original inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley, the Newari people, have a rich and refreshing take on many aspects of their culture. What’s quite intriguing is that their culinary practices have been pretty inventive- they have at least 200 dishes that are intrinsic to their culinary heritage! A normal table offering includes rice flakes, spiced potatoes, pickles, soybeans cooked in a spicy sauce, and sliced raw vegetables. As the food is quite spicy, yoghurt makes for an important side dish! Wandering on the eat streets of Kathmandu, you will discover the love of the community for snacks such as the pizza-like chatamari, steamed rice cakes (yomari) and baras which are hugely popular with the locals.
Kathmandu for Thakali Cuisine
Nepal’s Sherpa community loves to eat Dhido, a popular Thakali dish which is a thick preparation of cooked millet/wheat/ maize/ buckwheat flour. You might be reminded of good porridge or polenta, but the dhido is served with a healthy dollop of butter or ghee. Lentils, stir-fried greens, non-veg curries and a variety of pickles are the basics of Thakali cuisine. The difference from other Nepalese culinary styles lies in the cooking methods and traditional community customs related to their preparation. Thakali food habits reflect the fact that food needed to be preserved because they did not grow crops all year round, so fresh food was not always available.
An excellent way to take home some learnings of this rich culinary culture is to enrol for a quick cooking course or get a hands-on experience at a local home, in preparing some dishes from these outstanding traditions.