Food & Cuisine in Kathmandu
The cuisine of Nepal is quietly famous and evident in the increasing number of eating places in every nook and cranny of Kathmandu Valley. The restaurants in Kathmandu serve every type of food imaginable to gratify the tastes of all types of people.
You will find various types of cuisine here from Continental, Italian, Mexican, Indian, Chinese, Thai and Japanese to Korean, alongside fast food joints, pubs and local restaurants which serve genuine and sumptuous Nepali food, also known as "Newari" or "Thakali".
In Kathmandu there are numerous places to eat at that can serve up anything under the sun for a few dollars.
After a day of shopping in Kathmandu, our Kathmandu restaurants guide below will tell you all you need to know to find a great meal in the city. Relax and enjoy the tasty Kathmandu specialities. For more general information about the food and cuisine throughout Nepal, take a look at our Nepal restaurants guide.
Food & Cuisine in Kathmandu
You can taste the local food from any one of the small restaurants called "dhabas". The staple diet of the Nepalese people is "dal bhat" which consists of rice, "dal", potatoes, yoghurt and a spicy sauce that is very delicious and nutritious at the same time.
The hot and spicy barbequed meat and fresh steaming "momos" are also a must have. You can try traditional Nepalese food at Thamel House Restaurant - it is also a good place to try Newari and Tibetan dishes.
"Momos", or the traditional Tibetan dumplings, have been adapted for tourists and resemble "tapas". These can be served either fried or steamed and are filled with buffalo meat, chicken or vegetables.
They are delicious when had with Tuborg or San Miguel Beer. For one standard plate of momos (10 pieces) at a local restaurant, the price will be about NPR 35 to NPR 50 (or 50 to 70 cents), while the price at a tourist eatery will be approximately NPR 60 to NPR 120 (90 cents to US$1.25). cents to US$1.
Apart from the momos mentioned above, Tibetan cuisine also includes a number of other dishes like "Thukpa" or noodle soup. A typical Nepali meal will usually include rice, dhal, a vegetable or meat curry, a vegetable dish, chutney and curd.
The price for such a meal will be around NPR 120-280 at a tourist place and much less at local restaurants. "Chiya", similar to the Indian "chai", is a milky spiced tea that is omnipresent and is good to calm one's nerves with.
Although the people of Nepal are prominently tea drinkers, Nepal also produces coffee. Often, coffee is served as a cup of coloured instant which tastes like dishwater; however, good coffee is also available. The important thing to keep in mind is that people who are not coffee drinkers do not identify with it.
To minimise the dishwater taste, order "strong coffee" instead of "plain coffee". Also remember that coffee shops in Nepal do not follow the thumb rule of equal espresso, milk and froth. The cappuccino that you order can vary from very little froth in a large cup, to coffee topped with whipped cream. Another point to be noted is that there is very little difference between a latte and a cappuccino.
Almost every restaurant and bar serves beer and cocktails. Try the local "raksi", Nepali wine, or "chhyang", Nepali beer, for a quick and cheap cultural know-how. Try these at local bars but remember that neither tastes like wine or beer!
Khukuri XXX Rum is the most successful alcoholic product made in Nepal and it is also available in transparent Khukuri shaped bottles - definitely worth adding to your own assortment. The main branded beers sold in Kathmandu are San Miguel, Everest and Tuborg while Hinwa is the popular name for Nepal made red and white wines.
Typical Menu Items
The following lists typical Nepalese food you'll find on a menu:
"Dal-Bhat-Tarkari" - This is the staple food of the Nepalese people.
Chatamari - Pizza made of rice flour, which is eaten either plain or with a topping of meat or egg. It is a fair compensation after a tough day of sight seeing.
Chhoyla - This all-round snack is made of diced meat which is spiced and then roasted. Gulp it down with crushed rice and homemade liquor.
Gundruk-ko Jhol - It is a soup made of dried and fermented green vegetables. Its taste is a bit sour and a bit tangy and lip-smackingly good!
Kwati - This soup, made up of different types of sprouted beans, is a good way of starting your dinner and is a speciality during festivals.
Momo-cha - These dumplings stuffed with minced meat are served either fried or steamed. This is a hugely popular appetizer which can also be eaten as an afternoon snack or evening meal.
Aloo Tama - This is a curry made of potatoes and bamboo shoots and enriched with a lot of herbs and spices.
Beans - This curry made of big beans and small beans goes well with rice in the main course.
Dal or Daal - This is a lentil soup eaten with plain rice and part of the dhal-bhat-tarkari staple diet. The most common lentils are black, green and yellow.
Green Vegetables - These are either spinach or plain and broad-leaved mustard greens. These are a common accompaniment with rice during lunch or dinner.
Meat Curries - These curries served with rice are made from meat and have a lot of gravy and spices. The meat can either be beef, mutton, chicken or fish.
Bhat or Plain Rice - This good old boiled rice is a standard Nepalese food and the main ingredient of their staple diet.
Tarkari - This is a vegetable curry made in a thick broth which is quite spicy. It is another important ingredient of the Nepalese staple food.
Takhaa - It is the Newari version of cold meat, usually prepared by solidifying strongly boiled cut pieces of buffalo meat (preferably neck and head part) in earthenware. It is a common delicacy during winter as it can be used for about a week or more, without using any synthetic preservatives. However, it can be enjoyed throughout the year, provided refrigeration is available. It is served best with Chiura (beaten rice or rice flakes), Bhat (boiled rice) or any other main course meal.
Achar - This means pickle, which is eaten to awaken your taste buds. There are numerous types of pickle available, such as those made from ground tomatoes, sliced radish, ground coriander and boiled and diced potatoes.
Gundruk - These dried and fermented green vegetables are a classic accompaniment with meals in the hilly areas of Nepal.
Sanya Khuna - (when translated into Newari, it means cooked/boiled fish). Often used like a pickle, this is a jellified pickle made of fish soup. Small dried fish is roasted and ground, and mixed with meat soup (which is typically extracted from Takhaa in the making), and the mixture is boiled and finally cooled in earthenware, whereby it ultimately jellifies. It is spicy, hot and tangy and a perfect complement to Chiura and Dal Bhat. Like Takhaa, it is also cooled in earthenware and once prepared, can be used for a week.
Juju Dhau - "Juju Dhau" literally means "king yoghurt" and is delicious yoghurt from Bhaktapur which has a creamy texture. It is a must at all feasts.
Sikarni - It is a dish made of yoghurt, which is filled with dry fruits. This leaves a sweet taste in the mouth and is a good way to end your dinner.
Home made Drinks
Rakshi/Ayla - It is distilled from rice, is colourless and tastes like fire-water. It tastes best when had neat.
Thon - Is a milky white juice made from fermented rice and is the main core of many festivals in Kathmandu. The Tibetan version of this drink is called "Chhyang".
Tongba - It is made by pouring hot water into a pot of fermented millet and is sipped with a bamboo straw. It is a popular stimulant in the hilly areas and is available in Kathmandu at selected Tibetan restaurants exclusively during winter.