Food plays a very important role in every culture. It is the reflection of everything that a particular region, religion, ethnicity is all about. Food has existed from the period human race has been in existence; from just a natural instinct to fill up the stomach to become a symbol of a culture’s benevolence and beliefs, food plays a major role in our lives today. In modern times, we have so many types of dishes from the world cuisine which have made their mark in everybody’s memory and stomach. Continental, Mediterranean, Oriental, Arab, Latin American, etc. all have something or the other which is globally popular and finds its way into another cuisine in some sort of fusion or food experiment. Nepal, a landlocked Himalayan country in southeast Asia is one such country which, apart from its traditional food, has taken inspiration from cuisines around the world and developed a menu of its own. So here’s our list of 5 traditional Nepali dishes which you must try on your next visit.
SEL ROTI – the superstar of Nepali platter
No festival or special occasion in a Nepali family is complete without this round, deep-fried, crispy sweet delicacy called Sel Roti. It is the star of any traditional Nepali food platter and the elderly in every Nepali household swear by it. Its demand skyrockets around the Nepali festivals of Dashain and Tihar, two of the biggest in Nepal. The base used to prepare this dish is rice flour and other elements like sugar, cardamom powder, clove powder, semolina, etc are used as per individual choices in the batter mix which is ultimately deep fried in Ghee or vegetable oil. The rounder and crispier it is, the more it is praised. In fact, the round share of the Sel Roti sometimes becomes a prestige issue; that’s the reason the elderly women of the household are summoned to cook Sel Roti in Nepali way. Traditionally, hands are used to pour the batter into the hot oil to deep fry and give it the round shape, but only an expert hand can deliver it and others, unfortunately, find disappointment in getting that perfect round shape of the Sel Roti. Also, risking the burns due to oil splattering all around along with the messy and untidy kitchen. That is the reason behind the popularity of modern SalckoSel Roti maker, also sometimes referred to as Sel Roti banaune soli or Sel Roti machine. This product, designed with thorough research is ergonomically designed to give you that perfect round shape kaandedar/kandedarSel Roti just like the way traditional Nepali Sel Roti is supposed to be. In this Sel Roti soli flow of the batter can be controlled with a simple push of your thumb. Doesn’t matter which way you’re cooking a Sel Roti, the pure joy of eating sweet Sel Roti is out of the world, hence it is recommended that on your next trip to Nepal, don’t forget to try Sel Roti.
MOMOS – dumplings which have people drooling all the time
Ask anyone in Nepal about Momos and they will tell you a hundred places from where you can try out traditional Nepali style Momos in their city. Although it is difficult to trace back the origin of this dish, it is believed that Momos came from Tibetan kitchens to Kathmandu valley along with the travelling Newar merchants of Nepal, who used to visit Tibet and China for trade in the old days. From Kathmandu valley, this delicious dish travelled across the length and breadth of Nepal and even into India through the borders along the Northeast. Originally, the filling inside the Momos is supposed to bemeat; especially Yak meat, but as the dish travelled to different regions the fillings also kept changing and evolving. In modern times, people suit their cultural and religious beliefs and decide the filling. For e.g. the vegetarian population of India has replaced the meat filling with vegetables and cottage cheese (Paneer). No matter what the filling is, Momos for sure is one of the most liked dish in Nepal and is everyone’s favourite, especially the youngsters.
CHUKAUNI –the true taste of Nepal
Ask any Nepali to name one dish that truly reflects traditional Nepali style of cooking, easy to make, is lip-smacking and the aroma of which reminds you of your roots; the name would be Chukauni. When it comes to deciding on the best of starters or appetizers in Nepal, Chukauni wins hands down. Comparatively, a very simple dish to cook, Chukauni uses simple and healthy ingredients and can be prepared in minutes. The preparation includes boiled potatoes mixed with curd, chopped onions, green chillies, red chilli powder, fenugreek seeds and lime juice. Traditionally, chuk is used in place of lime juice, which is thickened lime concentrate which gives Chukauni its distinct aroma. It is one dish which can be a perfect side dish and can complement anything on your platter, be it Sel Roti or Fini Roti. People who crave for spice love Chukauni because of the spicy and sour punch it carries because of green chilli and chuk. The curd used in the dish helps you digest the food and negates the spices that you eat so that the dish isn’t too heavy on your digestive system, but who cares when the dish is Chukauni!
YOMARI –the pride of Newar community
In Hindu religion, deities are worshipped during the crop harvest season thanking them for putting food on their plates and such affairs are generally celebrated by the means of a festival. And during festivals, many delicacies are prepared. Yomari, is a delicacy that is prepared by the Newar community of Nepal during ‘YomariPunhi’ festival to mark the end of the rice harvest. These fish shaped steamed dumplings are made of rice flour and has sweet stuffing inside, which usually is a sweet molasses mixture. It is a must have dish during the YomariPunhi festival and a Newari platter is not complete without. Although traditionally, a mixture of sweet molasses and dried fruits is used as the filling, but Newari people keep experimenting with it. Yomari got International fame when UK based Nepali Chef Santosh Shah prepared this dish for the judges during one of the episodes at MasterChef Professionals 2020 and judges loved it. Santosh Shah ultimately achieved the first runner up position in the competition.
SUKUTI – meat lovers’ delight in Nepal
This meat delicacy finds its roots deep into the Himalayan ranges of Nepal amongst Limbu and Gurung community, where the culture of food preservation was practiced because of cold weather. Sukuti, a dried meat dish, is the topmost appetizer on the list of meat eating population in Nepal and can be eaten or prepared in many ways. Mostly marinated in indigenous spices and ginger-garlic paste, Sukuti in traditional Nepali food platter is fried and then other elements are added to it. Traditionally, to produce this dried meat, lean meat strips of goat or lamb or buffalo meat are cut and are marinated in salt, pepper, cumin powder, turmeric, chilli powder, etc. After this process, the strips of meat are hung over the wood fire stoves to get the moisture out and give the smoky flavor. The final stage includes sun-drying the meat to remove any odour and add intense Nepali traditional cuisine flavor. The cooking of Sukuti dish includes frying, then pounding with more spices and then mixing with chopped green onion, tomatoes, garlic and ginger. The result is spicy and delicious Nepali Sukuti, a reminder of the Nepali food tradition and taste.