Dal Bhat- vegeterian
Food and Culture

Vegetarian’s Guide to Nepal

Nepal is an ethnically and culturally diverse country resulting it to have an impressive variety of local cuisines. If you are vegetarian and looking to visit the beautiful country Nepal, you will not have any issues fueling for your days in Nepal up with delicious Nepalese food. Vegetarians will feel at home in Nepal as meat is considered to be a Luxury item in a Nepalese Kitchen. Here is a helpful Vegetarian’s Guide to Nepal.

Vegetarian alternative:

Veg Thukpa Nepal

The concept of a Vegetarian is quite familiar to the Nepalese society. They are many vegetarian restaurants serving exclusively for the people who may not want to share the same kitchen with other non-vegetarian dishes. Even if you do not go to exclusive veg eateries, restaurants in Nepal unusually have the vegetarian alternative for the famous dishes like Momo, Thukpa,  Khana Set (Dal Bhaat), noodles etc.  These vegetarian dishes cost much less than its non-vegetarian counterparts.  Most of the vegetarian alternatives will include Mushrooms, tofu and Paneer (cottage Cheese).

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Being vegetarian while trekking in Nepal:

Rice and Gundruk
Photo Courtesy: suprememaster

Being vegetarian while trekking to the remote areas of Nepal is not just feasible but also highly recommended. The most famous trekking Region in Nepal, the Everest region (under The Sagaramatha National Park) does not allow any slaughter of animals under its territory.  Thus, all the meat items have to be carried on the back by porters or pack animals for days to be transferred to the villages inside the National Park. The meat is not refrigerated for days and the hygiene is questionable. Thus, it highly recommended for the trekkers to avoid meat items while trekking to the region to remain healthy.

Being vegetarian while going spiritual in Nepal: Going Spiritual in Nepal

If you are planning to go spiritual during your travel in Nepal, it is most likely that you will be eating vegetarian food most of the time. Many monasteries, Ashrams and meditation centers in the country serve only vegetarian food. Although the spiritual centers will restrict the meat from its menu, it is not very uncommon to see animal sacrifices in the Temples pertaining to Bhairav, Ganesh, Durga and Kali.

Your nutrition while being vegetarian in Nepal:

You do not need to worry much about your nutrition content while following the vegetarian Nepalese diet. The most famous dish, you will come across while you are in Nepal, “dal bhat”, is quite nutritious diet.  Dal or the pulse soup is high in protein, Rice or the Bhat is full of carbohydrate and Tarkari (Seasonal vegetables) and aachar provides other nutritional enzymes and vitamin C. Do include a good portion of seasonal fruits and vegetables in your diet.

For your concerns about protein in the Nepalese vegetarian diet, Pulses and beans play an important role in the Nepalese kitchen. There are a variety of Lentil soups available with your rice.  Woh or baara (fried lentil-flour patties), kwati (a soup made with 9 different types of sprouted beans), Musyapalu (roasted soya beans and ginger) and bhuti (boiled soya beans with spices and herbs). Pulses are very high in Protein and will rightfully satisfy your body’s protein requirements.

If you are over with trying dal Bhat every day, we highly recommend you to try some local dishes from the place, you are visiting. As rice is not grown in all the regions of Nepal, different regions of Nepal have their own unique crops. You may be pleasantly surprised with the unique taste of locally grown Barley, Buckwheat, Millet and Corn Rotis (Bread), if you give them a chance.  Buckwheat, Millet and barley are high in fiber and very nutritious.

Where to Eat?

Tourist restaurants in Kathmandu, Pokhara and other well visited places show an amazing ability for sensing what travelers want and simulating it with basic ingredients. Thus, to satisfy the locals and huge vegetarian tourists from India, there are plenty of vegetarian restaurants in Nepal.  There are plenty of Restaurants serving pure vegetarian Indian Cuisine.  In the Terai (The plains) you’ll also come across South Indian canteens, which serve a mainly vegetarian cuisine. The restaurants like Or2k (in Thamel) which serves vegetarian Israeli food are also getting popular in the cities.

Mithai pasal or Halwai Pasal are the sweet shops selling a variety of Nepalese sweets like, Lakhamari, Sel Roti, Jeri, Swari, Haluwa, Barfi etc.  Almost all the Nepalese sweets are Eggless and dairy based. There are many Indian sweet shops offering an array of sweets.

Seasonal fruits are available in fruit shops and from the street vendors.

As mentioned earlier, you do not need to go to pure vegetarian restaurants to get a vegetarian dish. Most of the restaurant serves the palate of both the vegetarian and non- vegetarians.

What to Eat?

chatamari veg food of Nepal

Most Nepalese start their day with a warm cup of tea (Chiya) in the morning. You will find a variety of teas being consumed in different families like Tulsi (Indian Basil) Chiya, Dalchini (cinnamon) Chiya, Lemon tea, and the most famous Masala dudh Chiya (Milk) tea. In the mountain region, you can also find warm, tasty butter tea to kick start your morning.

Chatamari (Veg), Bara, Chura ( beaten rice) is famous in Newari cuisine.

Roti Tarkari and Puri tarkari (deep fried) are very famous Vegetarian food choices even among the Nepalese.

Aalu Tama, a sour soup made with bamboo shoots and potatoes, goes great with rice, beaten rice or even Dhido.

Gundruk, fermented leafy green vegetable, is also a very famous item in Nepalese Kitchen. You will regularly find spiced a gundruk achaar or spicy sour Gundruk soup with rice or dhido.

There are various vegetable mixtures that are available seasonally, including Pancha kol , which is a curry made with five vegetables.

Alu ko achaar is famous boiled potato mixed with spices, sesame powder and lime juice.

Tsampa is a staple food in the mountainous region of Nepal. The tsampa or tsamba is roasted flour usually mixed with the salty Tibetan butter tea.

Sattoo is one of the distinctive foods which is made from grains like maize, soybean, corn flour and gram is high in protein content and can be eaten in a variety of ways.

Khichadi or Jaulo is spice less rice and lentil dish, which is delicious when topped with Ghee.

Dhido, a similar to polenta, is very nutritious and fiber rich.

If you are in hilly region, Do taste Lapsi (Choerospondias axillaris) , “Nepali hog plum”, which is very sour when consumed raw, but  it is really delicious when it is made as an aachar or Pau (Titaura).

Let’s learn some Nepali word for vegetarians :

nepali words about food

I am a vegetarianMa Sakahari hu
I don’t eatMa khandina
ButterMakkhan, Nauni
CreamTar, Malai
Yogurt (curd)Dahi
Thank you! The meal is deliciousDhanyawaab! Khana mitho Chha

Things to be Noted:

  • Although the vegetarian concept is quite familiar to the Nepalese, the Vegan concept is not very familiar. Ghee is quite common ingredient in Nepalese Kitchen. Even though, you may not struggle much with the main dish, Vegan dessert are very difficult to find. Most of the sweets such as famous Juju dhau, Lakahamari, rasbari etc are all made from dairy.  To make sure you are following the animal product free diet, you can always request the waiter not to include any dairy product in your dish while ordering your food.
  • Indian cuisine in the restaurants is very spicy. Although Nepali cuisine is slightly less spicy than the Indian foods, westerners do find it to be considerably spicy. Aachar is usually soured and spicier compared to other items in the meal . Yogurt or Curds after having a spicy meal are great way to combat the burning stomach.
  • It is better to avoid a bright pink colored Puri ( Roti) displayed in shops, as these puri are mostly offered to the Gods and contains unnatural coloring and is tasteless. We would highly discourage you to try anything from street vendors that seems to have artificial coloring.
  • Beef is served only in some selected restaurants in Nepal as slaughtering a cow is illegal since the cow is the national animal of Nepal.

What foods did you try while you were in Nepal? Dis you find our Vegetarian’s guide to Nepal helpful? Please share your thoughts and experience about Nepali food. Your comments and suggestions are heartily welcomed.

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