I am inviting you to join me on my trip to Nepal that was not only eye-catching but was also very interesting on the gustative level.
It has been a week or so since I have returned from Nepal, and I still can’t get over the fact of how much the Nepali people love colors! In a way or another, colors are just part of their lives. You can find it in their buildings, prayers, clothes, streets and certainly in their food. In food, not only do I mean because of the spices. But also, the flavors of whatever food you are having just bursts into your mouth giving you many sensations such as sweetness, spiciness, and even bitterness. I went there, thinking that the local food was limited, and I could taste everything in two days maybe. BUT! little did I know, turns out Nepali cuisine is very rich and there are a lot of specialty delicacies.
First things first. Dal Bhat. The national dish of Nepal. Just like its name says it: Dal meaning lentils and Bhat meaning Rice. This dish is a mix of many combinations: of course, there is the steamed or boiled rice. From left to right, some fried potato wedges sprinkled with a few dry herbs. Then, comes the radish that lifts the whole dish by giving it a fresh taste and a lot of crunchiness. The fried omelet provides the proteins (as if Dal wasn’t enough :P) on the right a small number of scrambled eggs if I may say, with also potato and coriander. The Goblets above contain some steamed spinach (The best spinach I have ever tasted) and this one provides the bitterness to the dish; Last but not least, the Dal. It’s a lentil soup made with onions, coriander a bit of ginger and fresh herbs.
Now to the eating part: all these “side dishes” are combined in one plate, and traditionally, it is eaten with the fingers. Let’s face it. I wanted to try it the traditional way but it was too much for me as a first visit. So I stuck to the spoon and combining Dal and Bhat. I ate all the other sides…aside.
This version is an open version of the momos. These dumplings are made with wheat dough, filled with your choice of veggie, chicken or meat and steamed. On the side, a sauce is served, or in this case three sauces. The spices included depending on the recipe or the area you are tasting the momos from. I think this was the best thing I tasted in Nepal…Right after:
Naan is the amazing hand kneaded bread, baked in a hollow oven heated from underneath. True it has a plain flavor but the buttery aftertaste is unbelievable! It can be paired with pretty much anything. From Dal to apricot curry to chicken…. the choices are endless. It pretty much resembles the Lebanese Tannoor bread which by origin, comes from Iran.
Naan is not the only food that resembles a Lebanese one.
Sel – Samosas
Please do not be confused. These are two separate and very different dishes but I have combined them into the same category because of their resemblance to Lebanese dishes.
This round fried bread infused with cardamom and cloves (sometimes a bit of cinnamon) tastes like Lebanese “Zlabiya”. Not only do they look alike, the recipes are also very similar and the reason why they are made also match. They are both made for celebrations: The Zlabiya are made while celebrating the epiphany, as for Sel, they are mainly made while celebrating Tihar.
Another Lebanese lookalike dish is the Samosa. And this one not looks like “Sambousak” but they even kept the name! So Samosas are, again, veggie, chicken or meat filled small doughs, this time fried and served as snacks with a side sauce. The second dish that you can see down below, are grated vegetables that are rounded and deep fried also served as a snack with a side sauce.
Speaking of snacks, this type of meal is very important for the Nepalese because of eating Dal Bhat as a main dish before going to work and for dinner. So the variety lies in the snacks. Some fresh snacks include watery cucumbers sprinkled with some salt and spices, sliced coconuts and even peanuts from the cart.
Puri is also a snack that you can find all over Nepali corners and streets. The puffed fried bread is cracked open and filled with spices. You can eat it while wandering between the many temples of Kathmandu. I had the chance to watch the making of this small bread, the authentic way on my way to “Manthali”.