You may well be an adventure buff when it comes to discovering new cultural landscapes and culinary narratives here. And Nepal will not disappoint. This lovely gem, set amidst the majesty of the Central Himalayas, has a food culture that has long been shaped by neighbours India, Tibet, and China. Visitors will discover rich evidence of how all these influences have shaped Nepal’s foodways.
It’s easy to forget that Nepal was once mostly closed to the rest of the world until the late 1940s, when with the opening of its borders, inflexions of the culinary traditions started seeping in, especially in Kathmandu. The food habits of Sherpas, Gurung and Thakali communities have also been shaped by Tibetan traditions. The culinary pursuits of the Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have left their mark on the Terai region. At the same time, the Newar community from the Kathmandu Valley offers reflections of cuisine from the southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
At the same time, because of its long isolation, it has also managed to preserve its traditional cuisines. Nepal has also been a stronghold for Hindu and Buddhist traditions, and regional diversities have played a pivotal role in the largesse of its culinary landscape.
Indian influences are mirrored in the Nepali hot favourite dal-bhat (rice and lentils), now the national dish. Served along with tarkari (curried veggies), with a side helping of pickle, this meal is par for the course in Nepali homes. Spicy curried meats are tempered with a side dish of yoghurt.
That popular Tibetan import, the momo, brought in by Newari traders, is available everywhere. The Tibetan yak meat filling was tweaked with buffalo meat for the Nepali palate. Momos are so popular you can learn how to make them when you visit a local home in Kathmandu, where the hostess treats you to a cooking demo of this yummy snack. The Tibetan influences are also evident in the delicious and popular yak cheese, butter tea and noodles.
All said and done, all over Nepal, in homes and restaurants, you will have joyful experiences tracing the culinary factors that define its foodways to this day.