For many their time in Kathmandu is a brief pause before the adventure of a lifetime trekking in the Himalaya. It’s the city where you stock up on trekking gear, have your first taste of momo- the ubiquitous Nepali dumpling and before you know it you’re ascending into the mountains. If you spend in any time in the city after trekking you’re probably stuffing your face with pizza and burgers after countless consecutive meals of rice and dal.
But trekking isn’t all Nepal has to offer- if you’re into eating, this country has an astonishing food culture with over 100 different ethnicities and the cuisines to go with it. Here are a few of our stand-out dishes to hunt down in Kathmandu….
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1. Rildok and Rikikur at Himalayan Sherpa Food House
You cannot leave Kathmandu without a taste of traditional Sherpa food. Head out to Boudha the area which houses the famous Boudhanath Stupa and which a large Sherpa community calls home. Down a dark alley in between the cafes and tourist shops that surround Boudhanath are a handful of family run Sherpa restaurants. Listen out for the rhythmic pounding of a wooden pestle that signifies the making of rildok (potato dumplings) and you’ll know you’re in the right place.
Our pick for rildok is Himalayan Sherpa Food House this dish of mountain potato dumplings- boiled potatoes pounded into a sticky mess and served in a simple, garlic and onion broth- will blow you away. They’re ethereal in texture, dissolving as soon as they hit your mouth. Follow them up with rikikur a potato pancake smothered in yak butter and served with a spicy chilli, coriander and buttermilk sauce. The flavour of the potato is so intense and pure it’s like you’re eating a potato for the first time. You’ll fall in love with the humble spud all over again. This is one eating experience in Kathmandu you can’t miss.
Eat at: Himalayan Sherpa Food House, the first restaurant on the left down the alley next to Namaste Beads Handicrafts, बौद्ध सडक, 44602, Nepal. Open daily.
2. Newari cuisine at Kwacha
The Newar are the indigenous inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley and their cuisine is one of the most unique we have ever encountered- buffalo in countless forms, copious amounts of chyang (rice beer), beaten rice flakes and vegetables prepared in a myriad of ways form part of a delicious and utterly fascinating cuisine. Patan, one of the three cities that make up the Kathamndu Valley is the place to head for traditional Newari food.
Eat at Kwacha, a no-frills local restaurant where you will find all the classics- choila- spicy grilled buffalo, sakuti- dried buffalo cooked with fiery chillies and onions and sapu mhicha- buffalo tripe stuffed with bone marrow, boiled and then deep fried. Wash it all down with rice beer, which comes by the plastic pitcher and is brewed by the owner’s mother.
Eat at: Kwacha, Kwalakhu Rd, Lalitpur 44600, Nepal. Open daily 10:00am to 8:00pm.
3. Buffalo momo at Swadisht Mo:Mo
Nepalis are fanatical about momo. These dumplings (most commonly buffalo) can be found on every corner and they’re a go-to snack or quick lunch for many locals. Momo origins lie in Tibetan cuisine- but they’ve been transformed to become uniquely Nepali with the addition of jhol achaar- a soup-like sauce that gets poured over the top of the dumplings at the table.
Our favourite buffalo momos are from Swadisht Mo:Mo, a nondescript spot which churns out hundreds of dumplings a day. The small, round wheat flour wrappers are filled with a filling of lean and heavily spiced buffalo mince, steamed and then served ten to a plate. Help yourself to the jhol achaar on the table, and go crazy with it, the more the better. The liquid is made up of tomato, spices like fenugreek and cumin, sesame seeds and coriander and is served room temperature but you’ll find it quickly warms up once it hits the dumplings. One bite and you’ll quickly realise why these are some of the best momo in town.
Eat at: Swadisht Mo:Mo, Kunayetwa Marg, Kathmandu 44600, Nepal. Open daily from 11:00am to late afternoon.
4. Breakfast at Ason Bazaar
Skip the hotel breakfast or do as we did and have a pre-breakfast snack by making your way to Ason Bazaar around 7:00am. Early morning sees the square full of vendors selling fresh produce and it’s where you’ll find locals tucking into a traditional Nepali breakfast.
In the centre of the square are a couple of street vendors who fry up sel roti- a rice flour bread ring and gwaramari- deep fried dough. Rice batter rings are piped into a wok of hot oil and whisked out as soon as they turn golden before globs of wheat flour batter are added to make the savoury doughnuts. Served on newspaper, these breakfast snacks are perfect for dunking into piping hot chiya (tea) from the lady who sets up next door.
Eat at: Ason Bazaar, Chittadhar Marg, Kathmandu 44600, Nepal. Early morning before 9:00am.
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