Is the flavor of food more important than the health of an individual? Does modernization mean the use of Highly processed foods, which might be fascinating to the taste buds but acts as a slow poison for Human Body? Does the standard of living mean to forget our tradition and follow the western/foreign culture rashly? If that’s not the case then why do we tend to choose highly processed food items (pizza, burger, Coke, french fries) over our Nepalese Cuisines (Samyabaji, Kuchi Bhwey, Yomari, Aalu ka paratha)?
Introduction to Nepalese Cuisines
Nepalese Cuisines have a wide range of varieties. The vast number of ethnic groups have their unique dishes, depending on the topography, climate of the region, religion, foods naturally grown in their region.
The standard Cuisines throughout Nepal is the Dal-Bhat-Tarkari. Dal is a soup composed of lentils, beans and spices, Bhat is usually rice, but sometimes another grain and Tarkari is vegetable curry. Likewise, condiments are generally small amounts of spicy pickle, which can be fresh or fermented.
Other accompaniments may be sliced lemon with fresh green chilli and fried papad. This standard meal is itself a perfect amalgam of the nutrients, in particular, carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals.
The Perfect amalgam of Nutrients
Types of Nepalese Cuisines
There are tons of Cuisines, each with their unique style, flavor, and ingredients. Furthermore, the main Cuisines are discussed below:
The ultimate combo of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Bhat (Rice, Wheat, Maize, Barley) provide carbohydrates and dietary fibres. Tarkari is composed of fresh greens or fermented and dried greens. Dal (red lentils, adzuki beans, red kidney bean), are composed of proteins and minerals.
A variety of fruits are also consumed according to the climatic season, which provides antioxidants and vitamins. Non-vegetarian items such as Egg, Fish, Chicken, Goat, and Pork are consumed, which is rich in essential amino and fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6).
Thakali Cuisines are rich in non-vegetarian dishes, hot dishes along with the standard meal. For instance, Dhindo (millet or barley cooked dough), potato curry, momo, meat (yak, goat, sheep), milk, and strong alcohol are their regular diet. Because of cold temperatures, people often prefer warm foods such as soup, Thukpa, and strong drink like Tongba (millet juice). Butter tea is made by mixing the butter/ghee and salt into a potent brew of tea.
Newari Cuisines is one of the most delicious foods with intense flavorings. They have a wide range of fermented foods in their diet, which are highly rich in minerals and vitamins. They make wide use of buffalo meat. Kwati, Kachila, Chhoyla, Pukala, Syen, Mye, and Sanya Khuna are some of the popular festival foods.
Terai Cuisines have more variety of vegetables and fruits, which provide a wide range of phytochemicals, vitamins, and dietary fibres such as Lichi, jackfruit, papaya, mango, broccoli, mushrooms, etc. The Tharu or Maithili have unique ways of preparing these staples, such as rice and lentil dumplings called Bagiya or Dhikri.
Fermented foods are filled with tons of beneficial properties, for instance, antioxidant, antimicrobial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and anti-atherosclerotic. And Nepalese Cuisines consist of many fermented foods such as Gundruk, Sinki, Kinema, Sidra, Sukuti, Khalpi, Dahi, Tama, etc. All dishes being rich in probiotics, phytochemicals, minerals, and vitamins.
Beverages and Drinks
There are different options for the refreshments in Nepalese Cuisines. However, Chiya being the favorite throughout Nepal. It can be served with varying spices like black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, etc. Moreover, herbs such as basil, mint, bay leaves, etc., are also added to tea for nutritional and sensory value. Other beverages found in Nepal are Lassi, it can be made by adding fruits as well such as mango lassi, banana lassi, etc. Many local alcoholic drinks are also available such as Chyang, Raksi, Aila, Tongba, etc.
Nepalese desserts have varieties of dishes. For instance, Juju Dhau (a mixture between yogurt and custard), Skiarni, Rashbari, Burfi, Alu Tama. The Gajar ka halwa, Suji ka halwa, Khajuriya, Khuwa, Ilam’s lollipop, Peda, Malpuwa, Doodh paak, etc., all these desserts are full of nutrients along with awesome flavors.
Spices and Herbs
The Cuisines are mainly composed of Medicinal values ingredients. Namely spices and herbs such as Ginger, Garlic, Basil, fenugreek seeds, turmeric, cumin, cilantro/coriander, asafoetida, and green chillies. Less common spices include ajwain seeds, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves, mustard seeds, and so on.
Nepalese Cuisines consist of delicious yet nutritious meals such as Pani puri, Selroti, Choila, Thukpa, Chatamari, Bara (made with ground lentil batter), Samosa, and everyone’s favourite momo (small envelopes of white flour stuffed with veggies or minced lamb or chicken).
Nepalese Beverages: Tongba and Chiya
Nepalese Dessert: Selroti and Thekua
Nepalese Snacks: Momo and Yomari
Etiquette and Religious Values
Nepalese follows tons of etiquette while having a meal, which is beneficial to our health as well. To illustrate, everyone worships God before eating, which helps to focus on the food, which further stimulates the release of digestive enzymes and aids in digestion. The use of copper utensils helps to improve the immune system and decrease wound healing time. On some occasions, everyone eats on the banana leaves, which aids to battle all the free radicals in the body and prevent diseases.
Traditional Norms of Nepalese People
Eating in copper utensils
Eating on banana leaves
Western culture influences Nepalese Cuisines. Nepalese people frequently use Western food like bread, bagels, pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, and pasta, and drinks like Coke, and Sprite. The use of these kinds of processed and high-calorie foods is leading the population to suffer from different health issues like kidney diseases, heart diseases, risk of cancer, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and many others.
As wholesome and traditional foods are not advertised or promoted by brands or people, the modern generation is rather fascinated by the taste, which will lead to tons of health issues in the longer run. Instead, the use of highly processed foods is encouraged, as those processed foods consist of addictive properties (causes release of dopamine).
Nepali food could make its place in the global arena with its lavishness in nutrition and flavour. To globalize Nepalese Cuisines, it must be embraced by all Nepalese at first. Apart from customizing our food we need to get along with the trends being followed around the world. As our daily lifestyles have modernized, we should probably be doing the same with our Cuisines.
Let’s celebrate Nepalese Cuisines rather than processed foods. Let’s choose Dahi chiura over instant noodles/ Chow-chow, Moi over coke/sprite, Ilam’s lollipop over chocolates, Dal-Bhat-Tarkari over Burger/french fries, and Nepalese Cuisines over any western Cuisines. Our tradition is our identity; let’s embrace the beauty of Nepal and Nepalese Cuisine. Good Life comes with Good Food.