Tickle Your Taste Buds with These 6 Top Nepali Traditional Foods

Nepal, the quintessential country located Himalayan terrain, is a trekkers’ paradise. Surrounded by towering mountains and stunning dynamic landscapes, the entire country is endowed with breathtaking beauty. But, that’s not all.  

Nepal is also well known for its mélange of cuisines. From traditional staple Daal Bhaat Tarkaari to pearly white Momos (dumplings) – the Nepali traditional food is heavily inspired by the Indian and Tibetan staples. However, Nepal has its distinctive dishes that are made from local ingredients.

Nepalese food has a deep connection with the socio-cultural heritage of Nepal. Here are some traditional Nepali cuisines that showcase the beauty of this mesmerizing country. The list contains not only the usual Nepalese staples like Daal Bhaat Tarkaari and Momos, but some unheard dishes as well.

1. Daal Bhaat Tarkari

Eaten as: lunch or dinner

Best found in every area has its version of the dish, it’s the Nepalese staple after all. But, the authentic taste of this homely Nepali traditional food can be found in the tiny homestays while trekking in the Nepali landscape.

Daal Bhaat Tarkaari is the Nepalese staple. The meal contains a lentil soup (daal), plain white rice (bhaat), and mildly spiced curried vegetables. Served in a metal platter, the items are beautifully arranged and presented with love. Since it’s ‘all you can eat’ style of the course - never feel shy to get an extra helping of rice or curry.

The Daal Bhaat Tarkaari is usually a vegetarian platter. However, you might find additional side dishes containing masu (meat or fish) at some establishment. Pickled vegetables, salads, and papad (Indian appetizer) are also served.  

2. Gundruk

Eaten as: a relish to the entrée or appetizer    

Similar to Kimchi, the Nepalese Gundruk is made from fermented saag (leafy vegetables). A Nepali traditional food list is never complete without the helping of Gundruk. During the early harvest season, the leaves of broad mustard, cauliflower, and radish leaves are collected. Next, the leaves are left for wilting for two or three days and then stored in a tight earthen jar.    

The acidity or sourness of Gundruk adds an extra texture to the entire meal, giving it a different appeal.

3. Momos

Eaten as: snack

Momos or stuffed dumplings is one of Nepali traditional foods inspired by the Tibetan influences. It is believed that the dish came to Nepal with the Tibetan Diaspora. Made from white multi-purpose flour, Momos are stuffed with different fillings including chicken, vegetables, or both. These dumplings are either steamed or fried and served with a broth and a dipping sauce also known as aachar.

Usually, Momos look like leaves or circular disks – the shape usually depends on the area it is made, but they all taste great! The piping hot Momos on a chilly day is a comfort for many Nepalese.      


4. Samya Bhaji or Newari Khaja Set

Eaten as: snack / starter   

Samya Bhaji is a popular Nepali traditional food and Nepali gourmet dish originating in the Newari community. The dish contains a filling platter of Chiura or beaten rice, spiced buffalo meat cooked in barbeque style, fried egg, spicy potatoes, and other additional ingredients. Served with a special Newari drink called Aila, the dish reflects the quintessential eating habits of the Newari’s.    

According to legends, the ancient Newari’s were farmers. While working in the fields they needed snacks, which did not require reheating. Ingredients like beaten rice or barbequed meat were pre-cooked and only required mixing for dishing up a filling snack. Many restaurants have Samya Bhaji in their menu as ‘Newari Khaja Set’.

5. Chatamari

Eaten as: Snack

Another popular Nepali traditional food is Chatamari – the Nepali equivalent of pizza. Made from rice flour, the crepe is topped with fried eggs, ground meat, and seasonal vegetables. However, locals are now experimenting with different toppings including mozzarella cheese.

You need to have a special skill for making Chatamari, where the crepe batter is poured into a hot pan and cooked till golden brown. Interestingly, the pan is never flipped while baking the dish, unlike other flatbreads found in the Indian subcontinent.

6. Sel Roti

Eaten as: Snack / Dessert / Breakfast  

The heavenly combination of bagel and doughnut is Sel Roti. The circular disk-shaped rice flour bread has a crunchy texture and soft dough inside. One of the preferred Nepali breakfast items, locals like their Sel Roti with some yogurt and tea or some other hot beverages.

Sel Roti has a longer shelf life and made in huge batches during the festive season. However, you can find them at several roadside stalls around Nepali cities.  

P.S: If you are buying Sel Roti from a roadside stall, make sure they are fresh. Also, head for those hole-in-the-wall establishments where locals congregate.     

Some honorable mentions include:

• Dhido – It’s made from cornmeal or buckwheat, and traditionally made in the hilly and mountainous regions of Nepal. Dhido is usually served with Kukhura Ko Jhol (spiced chicken curry), pickles, Gundruk, and leafy vegetables
• Kwati – Made from a variety of sprouted beans, Kwati is very tasty and healthy. The beans are pre-soaked for a couple of days until they have sprouted and then cooked with a variety of spices. A ritualistic dish, it usually made during important festivals Raksha Bandhan or Janai Purnima.
• Thukpa – The warm noodle soup is a delight during cold winter nights. Believed to be brought in by Tibetans, Thukpa is made with noodles, vegetables, and choicest meats like chicken, pork, or ground buffalo meat.  
• Laphing – Also referred to as Liangfen, it is a cold noodle soup made with soy sauce, ginger and garlic paste, and a heavy helping of the peeper. Popular among Tibetans, the spicy dish is not meant for feeble-hearted.

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