First, it would be a good idea to see what’s in store for you when talking about Nepali cuisine, and then go on from there to see what Nepali food must feature in your list of must try foods. And, attending a traditional Newari feast (lapate bhoye) in Kathmandu could be the best way to do so. It is also perfect for tasting Newari food; Newar cuisine, in fact, is famed in the country for its range of different dishes, therefore, Newari food must be on your must try foods list.
If you are fortunate enough to be invited to a lapate bhoye, know that all guests sit on long, narrow straw mats (sukuls) facing each other. A lapate (leaf plate) is placed before each guest, accompanied by a pala (small clay bowl). The eldest are served first, and it begins with two handfuls of baji (beaten rice) followed by curries like gainda gudi (mix of different lentils), hariyo saag (green spinach), and alu tama (curry of potatoes and bamboo shoot). Alu tama has a unique aroma and you’ll surely love its taste. This makes it a must try food on your list. Spicy achaar (pickles) follows, and there may be two of those: alu kerau (a spicy mixture of radish, potatoes, and green and small brown peas) and tamatar ko achaar (ripe tomato pickle). Now that the groundwork has been prepared, the buffalo meat curry is served, and the guests start eating. The feast is on.
More dishes follow in succession. These include a dozen or so tasty morsels of meat from different parts of the animal. Hakuchoila (spiced ground meat, broiled), senla mu (liver, steamed and sautéed), swanpuka (lungs filled and fried), bhuttan (fried intestine and other abdominal parts), and mainh (tongue pieces, fried) are some that are pretty tongue tingling. So, these should also be must try foods on your list. As these delectable tidbits are being served, someone else will be busy pouring aila (homemade liquor) into your pala.
The next item on the menu is something called chhuse musse (a mix of raw carrot, radish, cucumber, onion, and tomato slices, and soaked peas). Towards the end of the feast, a handful of baji is again served, followed by yogurt and some sweetmeats. The yogurt served at such feasts will probably be from Bhaktapur, known famously as juju dhau (king curd), and it’s a really delicious yogurt. It, too, must be in your must try foods list. That’s dessert, and that signifies the end of the lapate bhoye.
So, now, you’ll have got a fair idea of what Nepali cuisine is all about, particularly Newari food. To recapitulate, here are some Newari must try foods:
- Alu tama: curry made of potatoes and bamboo shoots
- Hakuchoila: spiced ground meat, broiled
- Senla mu: liver, steamed and sautéed
- Swanpuka: lungs filled and fried
- Bhuttan: fried intestine and other abdominal parts
- Mainh: tongue pieces, fried
- Juju dhau: delicious curd made in Bhaktapur
Besides these, there are many other delicacies that should be on your list of must try foods. They include:
- Masyoura: made from black lentil and vegetable shreds that are sun dried after preparation, and used to make tasty curry
- Mamacha (Momo): meat dumplings; practically the new staple food of Nepal
- Chatamari: rice pancake which can have different toppings
- Bara: lentil based fried doughnut type snack
- Wo: another lentil based cake type snack
- Kinema: a popular dish of the eastern hills, it has a pungent smell of ammonia and is made from fermented soybean
- Khatte: a dish of the hills that is popular as breakfast food, it is made from brown rice obtained from the dhiki (a manual flaking instrument)
- Poko: another dish of the hills, It is juicy and has a sweet and sour taste with slightly alcoholic and aromatic flavor
- Dheedo gundruk: Dheedo is a porridge-like substance made from a mixture of maize and wheat while gundruk is made from dried leafy green vegetables
- Sinki: pickle of fermented root parts of carrots; goes with dheedo gundruk
Most of the above mentioned dishes are quite unique to Nepal, and that is why they should feature in your list of must try foods when visiting Nepal.