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Nepal food & drink

Nepalese staples, dal and rice
Dal bhat, traditional meal of Nepal Alcoholic drinks popular in Nepal
Above: Nepalese staples, dal and rice
  • Nepalese staples, dal and rice
  • Dal bhat, traditional meal of Nepal
  • Alcoholic drinks popular in Nepal

Food

Nepalese Food is essentially very similar to Indian food, with a big accent on a rice and dal diet. Dal bhat is the Nepalese take on this Indian staple and it consists of a kind of lentil soup usually served with rice, vegetables and pickles.

Dal is a preparation of pulses which have been stripped of their outer shells and split. It can also refer to the thick, spicy stew prepared from these pulses.

A vast proportion of Nepalis eat a non-meat diet so vegetarians are extremely well catered for. Rice, pulses and breads are served in abundance, as are fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Newar people of Nepal also have a food culture of their own. It consists of non-vegetarian and vegetarian items as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Mustard oil and a host of spices such as cumin, sesame seeds, turmeric, garlic, ginger, methi(fenugreek), bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, chilli, mustard seeds, vinegar etc. are all used in cooking. Newari restaurants are very hospitable places to visit and meals often consist of eight or nine courses.

The local fruit juices, especially freshly squeezed juices are a true winner. Western soft-drinks are also widely available.

McDonalds, KFC and the like have not quite made it to Kathmandu yet (thankfully!) but if you're missing the comforts of ‘home' cuisine there are plenty of western style restaurants in Kathmandu and Pokhara which serve steaks, burgers, pizzas, pastas, Chinese and Indian food so these are also an option! Well worth the splurge after a tiring trek!

If you are on a rafting trip all food should be provided for throughout the trip.

Staple trekking food includes Dal, rice, breads, Apple pie, and vegetables. Meat is not commonly found while on a trek. Please bear in mind that all the food made in the trekking lodges is made to order and is usually the responsibility of just one cook. It makes sense to try and order the same food as the rest of your party; otherwise you will have a long wait as the cook will make every dish one by one. As well as holding things up, this also uses more fuel which is a precious commodity up in the mountains.

Drinks

If you are in Nepal for a relatively short-term stay, the medical profession recommends that you stick with bottled mineral water, in order to avoid gastric upsets. It takes a while for our digestive systems to adapt to even a minor change in water content, so by drinking mineral water, you'll ultimately be a happier, healthier traveller! Bisleri or Aquafina branded bottled mineral water are safe reputable brands. Just ensure that the bottle seal is not broken, and dispose of your empty bottles responsibly!

On long treks we recommend that you take one or two bottles of mineral water, and purify water after that with tablets or filters. This will reduce the number of waste water bottles left up in the mountains (these have become a real problem over the years).

Take care with fruit juice, as water may have been added. Milk should be treated with suspicion, as it is often un-pasteurised, though boiled milk is fine. Tea or coffee should also be okay, since the water will have been boiled.

Alcohol

An amazing and amusing selection of spirits is bottled in Nepal, ranging from the classic Khukuri Rum (dark and raisiny) to Ye Grand Earl Whisky (“Glasgow – London – Kathmandu). These are cheap and often rough, but tolerable when mixed with soft drinks. Imported spirits and wine are available in supermarkets and convenience stores at practically duty free prices; many tourist restaurants and bars serve wine by the glass, and make cocktails with local or imported spirits.

International visitors are entitled to bring into Nepal up to 3 bottles of alcohol (wines or spirits) for personal use. Any more than that and you may be questioned. There are no duty free facilities at Tribhumvan airport in Kathmandu so it may possibly be better to make a purchase at your departure airport or en-route where duty free shops are available. Mixers such as cola, lemonade, juices and tonic waters are widely available.

The beer industry in Nepal is booming and makes a great accompaniment to Nepali and Indian food. Foreign brands brewed by local ventures – notably San Miguel, Carlsberg and Tuborg, which are widely available and taste pretty good. All beer bottles come in 650ml bottles. Remember! Beer is a lot better for a fiery curry than water is.

Nepalis are avid home brewers – Jaar is the Nepali term for home brewed beer, but it is more commonly referred to by its Tibetan name Chhang. Most often made from rice or millet, it can often taste quite sour and be very powerful.

Raksi is something you may come across on a trek and is very similar to tequila. Both these locally brewed drinks should be viewed with caution.

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