Nepali Food: 8 Delicious Dishes You Must Try

More often than not, the mention of Nepali food will conjure up an image of a plateful of Dal Bhat. But there’s so much more to the local food here. Our local insider Prathap shares his pick of the top dishes you’ve got to try.


Photo © Prathap Nair

Perhaps due to its close proximity to India, Nepal’s food carries a lot of resemblances to Indian cuisine.

Thanks to the use of rich spices and ancient cooking techniques, including open fire and charcoal, it’s also a hodgepodge of lip-smacking, delectable regional cuisines.

Various indigenous Nepali communities including the Gorkhas and Newari boast of dishes that are both feisty and bursting with flavours.

Dal Bhat

Dal Bhat. Photo credit: Prathap Nair

Dal bhat and Nepali thali meals are names interchangeably used for the same dish.

This is typically a big plate of steamed rice, served with delicious accoutrements of stir fried vegetables, meat curries, spiced potatoes, and salads.

Sometimes, dal bhat might just be dal (lentil soup) and bhat (steamed rice) with no embellishments whatsoever.

If you find dal bhat tarkari on a menu, it means vegetables are served alongside your dal bhat


Mutton Momos. Photo credit: Prathap Nair

After dal bhat, Momo is perhaps the second crown jewel in Nepali cuisine.

These meat-filled dumplings are a permanent fixture in any restaurant – regardless of what kind of cuisine they serve.

Each restaurant has its own recipe for the chutney, the spiciness of which ranges from extreme to super mild.

If your palette favours a spicy kind, notify your waiter when they take your order.

Newari specialty dishes

Choyla, an appetizer made with grilled meat, is a renowned Newari specialty. Typically, buffalo meat is used, but chicken and other forms of meat are also common.

Pair it with Tongba, a naturally fermented millet alcohol, served in long bamboo canisters and you’ll earn bragging rights to have tasted authentic Nepali cuisine.

Rakshi is a strong tasting local brew, usually homemade.

Another Newari speciality is a dense savoury pancake called Bara. This is a coarsely ground batter of moong and black lentils, cooked on a pan with toppings of meat strips and eggs. It’s often served with a watery lentil soup.

Aloo Tama. Photo credit: Prathap Nair

Other dishes to try include Sanya Khuna – a winter soup of dried fish, Aloo Tama (pictured above) – potatoes cooked with bamboo shoots, Gundruk – a salad of pickled and fermented greens, Juju Dhau – sweetened yogurt and Thukpa – a Tibetan meat noodle soup.

You’ll find Thakali kitchens in all cities and towns; they are modest places serving Nepalese cuisine alongside Tibetan specialities.

Don’t be startled by restaurants advertising ‘buff meat’. It’s not a spelling mistake of beef but the shortened version of buffalo meat.

Water buffalo is also a commonly used source of protein in Nepal.

Western food and coffee in a café in Kathmandu. Photo credit: Prathap Nair

In the unlikely event of you tiring of local cuisine and want to take a break, you can always bank on Kathmandu’s chic cafes as a fall-back option.

They serve everything from specialty Himalayan coffee to sandwiches and delicious brownies.

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