Navigating the food scene in Nepal can be a challenge. With a large influence of Indian cuisine, and a catering towards Westerner’s tastebuds it can sometimes be a challenge to find food that is truly Nepalese.
To get a better grasp on navigating the authentic dishes in Kathmandu, I turned to Chef Prajel, the head chef at the new Fairfield Marriott in the heart of Kathmandu. With over 10 years of experience in the hospitality industry, he was the perfect person the help me discover Nepali dishes, specific to Kathmandu.
Here are 5 dishes that were sure to please your tastebuds, while you dive deep into authentic Nepalese food.
Phokso is the lung of a lamb. At first it can sound a bit intimidating, as it’s similar to liver. This dish is important to the Newar community in Kathmandu, and a staple of the Newar diet. Phokso is generally infused with coriander, cumin, tamarin and cardamum, then boiled before deep frying. I found it to be fluffy and delicious and without any of the harsh irony flavors found in liver.
If you are a fan of lamb, than this dish is sure to deliver. Lamb curry is famous in Kathmandu, but can be found all around Nepal. It’s made with a specific type of lamb called Khasi, flavored with garlic and mint and served with rice. Another common version of this is mutton (sheep) curry.
Chicken Sandako was my favorite dish in Nepal. For Nepali people, it’s what they have on Friday and Saturday nights with a beer, so you can consider it the burger and fries of Nepalese cuisine. Just like a good burger, chicken sandako hits the spot every time. It’s made by roasting the chicken in charcoal, and then the chicken is marinated in garlic, turmeric, salt, pepper, and green chili (according to Chef Prajel, the green chili is a must). This dish is medium to hot on the spicy scale, however, if you aren’t into spicy most restaurants will offer to tone it down. I found the flavors of the spices to remind me of Mexican food!
Kwati, also known as mixed bean soup, is a mixture of all the lentils boiled and tempered with garlic and cumin & ginger and finished with fresh coriander.
When the lentils are combined together and mixed with the spices it creates a unique flavor, is very fragrant and delicious. This dish is not unique to only Kathmandu, as it is a very Nepalese dish that can be found in all regions of the country, but mainly during the cold months.
Aloo Tama is a classic Nepali soup stemming from the Newar community. It’s made with bamboo shoots, potato, black eyed peas and a variety of spices. It has a sour taste due to the picketing of the bamboo shoots and therefore people usually either love it or hate it.
No matter where you are in Nepal, there will likely be many Western optionals available, but giving the local dishes a try is well worth the experience!