NEPAL. Kathmandu: One of the very famous sayings goes like this: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” And when applied to Nepal – it means, “Dal Bhat power, 24 hours.”
Nepalese cuisine comprises a variety of cuisines based upon ethnicity, soil, and climate relating to Nepal’s cultural diversity and geography. But, Dal Bhat is what fuels Nepal. You can have it throughout the day, and never get bored. And if you do get bored you can also try the Khaja set. Dal Bhat is truly the life savior in mountains; it’s filling, abundant, and available everywhere. Nothing can beat the delicious sumptuous flavor of Nepali Dal Bhat.
Dal Bhat does not mean plain dal and rice, but it comes with lots of other side dishes; Tarkaris. Dal normally is a soup made of lentils and spices served with boiled rice; Bhat along with other dry vegetables, potatoes, and vegetable curry; Tarkari. Freshly prepared spicy pickle, lemon slice, green chili, yogurt, and Papad are also served with the thali. At times and depending on the availability, poori or chapati is also served.
The best part of dal bhat is that every place serving you dal-bhat adds on a different flavour, taste, and style. The types of tarkari served, condiments, or supporting eatables – all differ. Also in modern-day restaurants (even though they are supposed to be traditional and authentic), you will find a menu serving you starters, drinks, before the actual dal bhat.
Various places serving Dal Bhat
At one such place, Bhojan Griha in Kathmandu, you will be served the following items; Badam Sandheko (garnished peanuts), Bhuteko Makai (Pot baked corn), Aloo Tareko (Potatoes fried Nepali style), Momocha (meat-filled dumplings), Kwatti ko Surwa (Soup) before they actually serve you dal bhat.
And the dal bhat (Sada Bhuja) comes with Jhaneko Mask o Dal (Split black dal flavoured with Jimmu), Machha Tareko (fish fry), Kukhura ko Mashu (Chicken curry), Jeera Palungo (Spinach with cumin), Mismas Tarkari (Mixed vegetable) and Moushami Tarkari (Seasonal vegetable) followed by a super delicious dessert Sikarni (Sweetened yogurt creme).
You can get all this at a mere USD20/- at Bhojan Griha in Kathmandu who are trying to showcase traditional Nepali food. Incidentally, Bhojan Griha is housed in an age-old building which is a piece of architectural beauty.
Even five-star hotels like Hotel Annapurna, Kathmandu also serve authentic Nepali food accompanied by lively Nepali folk dances. And guess what? It’s again the Dal Bhat. The servings at Hotel Annapurna are slightly more lavish, you get cocktails and other drinks along with starters and in the main course, you get Roti. Other servings are more or less the same though with slightly different tastes and flavours.
A final tryst with Dal Bhati can be had at one of the so many boutique hotels in Kathmandu. One such hotel is Truly Asia which serves a really well prepared and tasty affair. For me, it was the tastiest Dal Bhat I had in Kathmandu during my last visit.
I mentioned that if you get bored with Dal Bhat, or are not in the mood for a full meal, you can go for the Khaja, a bunch of Nepalese snacks all on one plate.
The Khaja set normally contains chewy beaten rice (chirua), Bhatmas (soybeans), Chilli Paneer, Samosa, Selroti, mini Protha, aloo ko achar (a Nepalese spicy potato salad) and a side pickle dish. And the non-veggie version has mutton/ chicken and egg (omelette or poach as per choice). And the best you can get in Kathmandu is at Origin Café, Thamel.
It won’t be a complete entree as khaja is meant for snacks only, but you will be glad to have tried it. In fact, the food eaten between two meals is khaja. Sometimes khaja refers to the snacks or casual foods eaten during a work break. Khaja is light food and most of the time it does not have regular meal items such as rice or roti in it.
We loved the Dal Bhat Tarkari sets and Khaja set so much that all the while we were at Kathmandu, we feasted on the Dal Bhat Tarkari sets and Khaja set at different places. Different types of tarkari including the leafy vegetables and the chutneys make a simple dish like Dal Bhat super delicious and absolutely a must-have for every visitor to Nepal. So if you are soon going to visit Nepal, we have only one recommendation as far as food is concerned – “Do whatever you do while you are in Nepal, but don’t miss the famous Dal Bhat Tarkari. It’s super good and tasty”. And the best sets are available at Bhojan Griha and Truly Asia Boutique Hotel in Kathmandu and Khaja set at Origin Café, Thamel.
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