Much more than dal bhat

Time for Masterchef Nepal to spotlight the country’s diverse, delicious food culture


With so many Nepalis living outside of the country, those of us who remain are often asked what keeps us here. The standard answer is: home food. Which is why it is sad to see many menus featuring the same momos, chowmein and fried rice, when we have so much culinary heritage on offer.

We live a country where food is regarded as sustenance, and not a luxury. We eat to live. We eat when we arrive at a place where food is being served, not necessarily when we are hungry.

Nepal is synonymous with the Himalaya, and more recently the world has woken up to the fact that we also have plains in the south and a plateau to the north. It is our unique location the gives Nepal its ethnic and culinary diversity. Which is why we must position our food as a product, service and a true lifetime experience.

Read also:

Exploring Nepal’s culinary diversity, Kedar Sharma and Kiran Sharma

Tharu escargots, Sewa Bhattarai

We have so much more than dal bhat -- why have we kept all those dishes hidden from the world? Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Thai and Vietnamese food are now served all over the world why have we not  branded Nepali cuisine? Thakali and Newari restaurants are doing well, others should follow.

At Lakeside in Pokhara, there is a restaurant called Fresh Elements that sources local ingredients to create world-class meals. At Dhakhwa House in Patan visitors prepare, cook and enjoy a great meal as part of the homestay package. Bhojan Griha in Dillibazar has been serving Nepali food with local music and folk dances for many years now.

At the award-winning Dwarika's Hotel, the Krishnarpan 18-course dinner (pictured above) is now a global brand and a lifetime experience. The yogurt of Bhaktapur, the sisno (nettle) soup on trek routes, millet, buckwheat and Tibetan bread, are all part of many menus now.

We need to involve creative chefs who will help transform these and many more local ingredients into world-class dining experiences. We could develop our own Nepali version of Masterchef Australia.

Read also:

The superfoods of the Andes and the Himalaya, Sonia Awale

We want to see Nepal’s globally unique culinary heritage featured as a separate and stand-alone tourism offering. It can be done with a bit of creativity and entrepreneurial skills from tour operators, such as the growing trend of cooking classes for tourists.

Read also:

Exploring Nepal’s culinary diversity, Kedar Sharma and Kiran Sharma

Tharu escargots, Sewa Bhattarai

Dal bhat is all well and good but Nepal can offer so much more. We have some of the most unique spices and ingredients found nowhere else in the world. In Humla, for example, you can walk a whole morning across a meadow where thyme grows as far as the eye can see. Jhimbu gives Nepali dal the aroma and taste that Indian lentil cannot match. Mustang potatoes and lapsi are now much sought after.

Global and domestic visitors travel to experiment, learn, have new and unique experiences, take photos, show off to friends and family back home, and then tell stories for the rest of their lives. A few may even write articles, or even a book, depending on how the experiences impacts them. Let us make Nepali food one of their ‘unforgettables’.

Read also:

Satisfying trekker appetite for adventure, Sanghamitra Subba

Could Nepali cuisine go global?, Thomas Heaten

Branding Nepal as a culinary destination will create new jobs, help our farmers grow high-value ingredients, keep tourists here longer longer and spend more. It will also give Chainpur and Palpa brass dishes a boost, along with dhaka napkins and tablecloth.

Many local ingredients will find their way to the global marketplace along with the handcrafted serving plates and pans, ranging from clay to silverware. Everyone has to eat, why not make it a very unique truly Nepali experience?

Anil Chitrakar is the President of Siddharthinc

Anil Chitrakar


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