Types of Cuisine
Newars are an ethnic group originally living in the Kathmandu Valley, now also in bazaar towns elsewhere in the Middle Hills (Himalayan foothills, up to about 6,500 ft/2,000 m). Water buffalo meat is eaten by Newars but avoided by most observant Hindus as too cow-like. Nevertheless, less observant urbanised Hindus may in fact eat buffalo in the form of momo (potstickers) and other dishes in Newari restaurants. Newari cuisine has many fermented preparations. In the fertile Kathmandu and Pokhara valleys where cheap rice can be trucked in and local market farmers find produce more profitable than grain, the cuisine is much more varied than in more isolated parts of the Hills where maximizing grain production is still a matter of survival.
Khas (Pahari) Cuisine
Khas or Pahari cuisine conforms to dietary restrictions of upper-caste Hindus in the Middle Hills. Dal-bhat-tarkari is the standard meal eaten twice daily. Hill Bahun Chettri Have traditionally eaten goat meat (khasi) and fish. However with land suitable for irrigated rice paddies in short supply, other grains supplement or even dominate. Wheat becomes unleavened flat wheat bread (roti or chapati). Maize (makai), buckwheat (fapar), barley (jau) or millet (kodo) become porridge-like (dhiro or ato). Tarkari can be spinach or greens (sag), fermented and dried greens (gundruk), daikon radish (mula), potatoes (alu), green beans (simi), tomatoes (golbeda), cauliflower(kauli), cabbage (bandakopi)), pumpkin (pharsi), etc. Fruit traditionally grown in the hills include mandarin orange (suntala), kaffir lime (kaguti), lemon (nibuwa), asian pear (nashpati), and bayberry (kaphal). Yoghurt (dahi) and curried meat (masu) or fish (machha) are served as side dishes when available. Chicken (Kukhura), and fish are usually acceptable to all but the highest Brahmin (Bahun) caste. Bahuns, Hill Brahmins, however eat goat meat (khasi). Observant Hindus never eat beef (gaiko masu), except untouchables (dalit) possibly eating animals that have died of natural causes. In Pahari communities, pork (sungurko masu) was traditionally only eaten by Magars, Kirats and Dalits. However wild boar is traditionally hunted and eaten by Chhetris. Lately, pork (bangur ko masu) is becoming popular across the ethnicities and castes in Nepal except Castes in Terai.
Food in Outer Terai south of Sivalik Hills grades into cuisines of adjacent parts of India such as Maithili cuisine in the east, Bihari and Bhojpuri cuisine in the centre and near west. Further west there is Uttar Pradeshi and even Mughlai-influenced Awadhi cuisine – particularly eaten by the substantial Muslim population around Nepalganj and beyond. Terai diets can be more varied than in the Middle Hills because of greater variety of crops grown locally plus cash crops imported from cooler micro-climates in nearby hill regions as well as from different parts of India. Fruit commonly grown in the Terai include mango (aap), papaya (mewa), banana (kera) and jackfruit (katahar).
Inner Terai valleys between the Sivaliks and Mahabharat Range were originally severely malarial and mainly populated by genetically-resistant Tharu who made a distinctive cuisine. Tharu certainly consume large amounts of fish from local rivers and are even said to eat rats. Control of malaria starting in the late 1950s enabled immigration by land-hungry settlers from the hills and by Indian merchant families into towns, bringing their respective native cuisines with them.
Eaten by culturally Tibetan and closely related ethnic groups in the Himalaya and Trans-himalaya. Buckwheat, barley and millet are important cold-tolerant grains often processed into noodles or tsampa (toasted flour), or made into alcoholic beverages (see below). Potatoes are another important staple crop and food. Substantial amounts of rice are imported from the lowlands. The meat of yak and possibly yak-cow hybrids may be used, as well as their milk. Meat is often prepared as momo (potstickers).
Snacks include maize popped or parched called khaja (literally, “Eat and run.”); beaten rice (chyura), dry-roasted soybeans (bhatmas), samosa – turnovers stuffed with meat or vegetables, biscuits (packaged cookies) and Indian sweets. Instant noodles manufactured with Indian spices are coming into widespread use.