What is the food like in Nepal?

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ April 11th, 2012. Updated on May 30th, 2012. Published in: Travel blog » Food around the world » Nepali food.
Close up of Dal Baht in Nepal

Dal Baht in Nepal - my favorite "local food"

Traditional Nepalese food & tourist Nepalese food

I really enjoy eating in Nepal. I write that as if Nepal is a local restaurant I’m reviewing rather than a country with a national cuisine for good reason. Nepal is one of the most economically depressed countries in the world. And like many countries suffering from economic problems the real traditional local food is very basic.

Yet the irony is that due to Nepal’s number one industry, tourism, there is a huge and diverse range of international food on offer.

Welcome to a new series of Food in Nepal

Typical menu in Nepal

Typical mid-scale tourist menu in Nepal - note the spellings!

Like many things on this website I will not be bringing you the glossy shiny make-believe world of brochure tourism. I’m going to show you the real world of what food is like in Nepal from many perspectives.

I’ll be covering Traditional Nepalese food, Tibetan Nepalese food, Indian Nepalese food, and tourist Nepalese food. I’ll tag each dish with one or more of those terms so you’ll know the difference.

Understanding food in Nepal

Nepal is quite culturally diverse for a nation of its size.

Aside from the huge North Indian influence and Tibetan influence there are also variations on Nepalese cuisine within the various indigenous populations within Nepal itself. Add in international tourist food and what you once thought was a hash brown, pizza or naan bread is not quite what you might be used to.

During my time in Nepal I’ve been served the same meal in different locations and each meal has ranged from mildly different to a completely different dish altogether. So expect the unexpected with this series about what the food is like in Nepal!

What’s breakfast like in Nepal?

Banana Pancake in Nepal

Banana Pancake's very much a tourist breakfast!

For the average Nepalese person breakfast is Chai a hot milky tea that’s also common place in India. Rice or a rice porridge is also quite common place among laborers as the working day starts early.

For the average tourist breakfast can range from banana pancakes to slap up plates of bacon, eggs, baked beans, hash browns, toast, butter, juice and filtered coffee. Muesli and curd. Fresh fruit salad. Or a mix of all these things.

What do I eat for breakfast in Nepal? I usually have muesli curd as they are the two ingredients that are lacking in South East Asia that I missed the most.

What’s lunch like in Nepal

For the average Nepalese person lunch is Dal bhat. Dal is a lentil soup and bhat is rice. Generally speaking this is not the Dal bhat most tourists see or eat. This is a really simple version. And yes I’ll be covering Dal bhat very soon.

The average tourist lunch in Nepal can be anything from toasted sandwiches to hamburgers or various curries to tandoori with naan bread.

I expect some fallout and the odd jibe from many food purists during this series. Bring it on. The reality of food in Nepal is it’s now more widely diverse than many other developing countries in the world. Again, from a tourists perspective. Or, wealth Nepalese person.

What do I eat for lunch in Nepal? I usually go for either Dal bhat or chicken momo’s steamed. The Dal bhat I eat is slightly more touristy than the local kind in that I get papad, fresh vegetables and or meat if I want it.

Chicken Momo's from Nepal

Friend chicken momos ... the steamed version is probably one of the best tasting lunches in Nepal if you know where to find them!

The momos I eat are from a local restaurant that serves Neplese people and the odd stray hippie that finds their way in. They taste like tourist momo’s but are not as heavy as real local momos. And in case you haven’t guessed I’m a huge fan of momos. What’s a momo? Stay tuned.

What’s Dinner like in Nepal?

For the average Nepalese person dinner is … Dal Bhat. Yes, welcome to the stable diet of the average Nepalese person. Dal Bhat is eaten for the two main meals a day by most Nepalese people. However it must be said big city people are now diversifying their diet. But Dal Bhat still reigns supreme.

What do I eat for dinner in Nepal?

I try to eat lighter at night in Nepal as the food here can be quite heavy. Curries or paneer’s with naan are a stable. But I do like the two dollar Mexican steak in Kathmandu. Yes it’s really two US dollars. Well, actually not at the moment as it’s peak season but the waiter still charges me $2. It’s laden with cheese and comes with fries or boiled potatoes accompanied by a Nepalese version of chili sauce with vegetables. It’s not huge, but it’s good.

What is there to drink in Nepal?

Bottled water is abundant and safe. Soft drinks are everywhere. Lassi’s are very popular and exceptionally good. Fruit juices are easy to come by too however I’m not a huge fan of Nepalese fruit juices as they are very watery. Personally I enjoy the soda water with fresh lemon here.

Is the food safe to eat in Nepal?

Photograph of fresh samosas from Nepal

Fresh local samosas from Nepal ... not for weak stomachs!

This one always makes me laugh. I’ve met expats here who shudder at the mere thought of eating Nepalese food. They go berserk with the hygiene levels and have copious toilet tales. Having said that I’ve also met some locals who refuse to eat at certain popular local establishments.

Are they all paranoid?

Not really. The truth is very few people escape Nepal without having at least one or two days of dodgy stomach. I didn’t go trekking until I had at least two days of bad stomach on purpose. I went straight to the curry house and got it over with when I arrived. After that I haven’t had a bad stomach.

So yes those samosas sitting on the side of the road in glass boxes really should be avoided by all but the most sadistic of individuals. Whilst generally speaking unless you have a very vulnerable digestive system you should be okay so long as you take basic precautions and eat in popular places.

I did write this up which might help a few people What happens when you get food poisoning in Asia?

What’s the food like in Nepal?

Curious about some of the food I mentioned above? Don’t worry I’ll be covering them all soon!

Nepal is one of my favorite places in the world to eat. Nepalese chefs are extremely talented and can cook some incredible dishes. I’ve met with many of them and quite honestly all you have to do is hand them a photo of a dish and they can make it. The more experienced will want to know the ingredients. But yes, many are that good and I expect the issue of not all food being the same is down to literacy and not capability.

Nepalese food is generally heavy food that’s extremely fresh. Go into the villages and the food you will be eating wasn’t just picked that morning but rather less than an hour ago.

In this series I hope to show you what you can really expect to be eating should you ever visit Nepal.

From traditional dishes to great attempts at international cuisine. Get ready for some great food from Nepal!

This is an additional post featuring food from Nepal

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19 Great responses to What is the food like in Nepal?

  1. Nate says:

    I think Samosas in glass boxes should be given the award “food most likely to give you food poisoning, no matter what country you are in” ;)

    Interesting article, to me, Nepalese food sounds fantastic.

  2. hayadeen says:

    to read this article in the morning with empty stomach is not helping. thank you.. :p

  3. Claudia says:

    Lovely article! I loved the food in Nepal. The dahl bat tasted different every time we had it, and it felt never like ‘oohhh dahl bat again..?’. I loved the momos and samosas as well. Great afternoon snacks ;-)

  4. Michael says:

    People who say they want to experience “local cuisine” of the places they visit should really do as you do, Dave: Look at the total picture and not just what tourist brochures and fancy food blogs say about the “local cuisine” of a destination.

    • I can’t argue with you on that one Michael. I’ve met quite a few tourists who never eat out of their hotel and then think what’s being served to them is what everyone else in eating. In Nepal, that might mean pizza made from ketchup and pita bread!!!

  5. Janice says:

    Hi, i truly enjoyed your blog and i can literally ‘see’ how much u love Nepal – a place i considered my 2nd home (although i only visit her once every 3 years).

    I totally enjoyed dal bhat, momos and masala tea. A must-eat! A trip to my friend’s (used to be my trekking guide) house for home-cook local Nepali food is also something i looked forward to in every visit. Looking forward to my visit in oct this year.

    Keep up the posts and keep on loving Nepal!

    • Hi Janice,

      Thanks for stopping by. Dal bhat and momos are the staples here as you know. The good news is that they haven’t changed a all since you’ve been gone. So when you come back they’ll be just as good as before!!

      Hopefully the up coming food series here will keep your appetite going!

  6. Audrey says:

    Love it when you talk food Dave…. Looking forward to more of your Nepalese installment!

    I am very interested in International Cuisine. If you can manage some recipes of the more interesting ones that would be wonderful!

    • Glad you are looking forward to seeing some more Nepalese food Audrey!

      Did you ask for recipes before? I know someone has in the past here. I don’t often get to cook a lot of what I write about here. But in the case of Nepalese food I will try my best at getting some recipes!

      Only thing is I’m not sure he ingredients will be universally available.

      • Audrey says:

        Hi Dave

        You know, I may have can’t remember now. But we are very lucky here in Melbourne. We are such a diverse culture you can pretty much find anything you want if you know where to go and who to ask. :)

        Looking forward to your next post. Opening up an email from The Longest way home is like opening up a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get except to know that what every it is, it will be a very good read. Thank you.

  7. Audrey says:

    Love it when you talk food Dave…. Looking forward to more of your Nepalese instalment!

    I am very interested in International Cuisine. If you can manage some recipes of the more interesting ones that would be wonderful!

  8. Anis says:

    The Dal Baht looks lovely! And a US$2 steak?? Amazing :) Great post, Dave. Looking forward to more food pix :)

  9. Mary says:

    I would like to try samosas :))))

  10. Ok, steamed veggie momos are my #1 and dhaal bhat was my #2. My #3 was a simple bowl of tomato soup that my guesthouse in Chobhar Village made. Loved the food so much, when I got home, I learned how to make them! That’s saying a lot bc I don’t like to cook.

  11. Great.. just what I need. ANOTHER reason to want to visit Nepal! Haha. Thanks for the info. I’ve never read anything about Nepalese food before.

  12. Samir Rai says:

    I am a Nepali here living in England now, one thing i always miss here is Nepali food, not just for the taste but also for nutritional value. Back home(until i left Nepal in 2009), in our daily meal (two meals a day), it consisted of Daal – is lentil or pulses or beans(protein), Bhaat – is Rice(carbohydrate), vegetables (vitamins), raw carrot/raddish, tomatoes n lemon as salad (minerals), pickles(appetiser) and so on. This nutritional food is what i miss here! Its not that you cant find the ingredients here but its expensive to buy fresh vegetables here(in a telly programme, this woman said it was aFASHIONABLE thing to eat vegetable in England cos of its cost), also it is time consuming to make all these varities here in this busy lifestyle of England and no MOTHER to cook and make those ready for me!
    Good thing is going home this May for three weeks! Whoooppp whooop gangnam style