Nepalese food is a blend of different cultures and traditions, with Chinese, Indian and Tibetan influences. Although not traditionally seen as one of the world’s foremost cuisines, Nepalese food is slowly becoming more recognised.

Vegetarians will have no problem finding a decent meal in Nepal — its Hindu and Buddhist influences mean that vegetarians are well catered for. Trekkers will find little meat available in lodges, with the ubiquitous dhal the main source of protein.

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What to eat and drink

Trekkers staying in teahouses on the major Annapurna, Langtang and Everest routes can rely entirely on hotels for their meals, which saves essential backpack space. Lodge menus are a mixed bag, with those on major routes offering a mix of local and international cuisine. Those in more remote regions will focus on four staples — potatoes, pasta, rice and noodles. Meat, if offered, is likely to be chicken or occasionally mutton, but never beef (forbidden to Hindus).

Be aware that most Nepalis have a simple breakfast of tea before eating a heavier brunch at around 10am. If you choose to wait for lunch until 12pm, you may find yourself with a long wait as the hotel-keeper cooks fresh rice for you.

The basics

By far the most common meal in Nepal is dhal bhat takari — rice with dhal soup and a side of potato or vegetable curry. Expect the occasional pickle, fresh chilli or poppadom on the side. In the border regions near Tibet, tsampa (a porridge like mix of roasted and ground barley mixed with salty butter tea) and thukpa (noodle soup) are the staples, with vegetable stews upping the nutritional value.

Dhal and pulses

While two meals of dhal bhat can get a bit monotonous over a long trek, the positive side is that each serving will be spiced differently and it is cheap and nutritious. In bigger cities, you may even get dhal served with meat or fish for added protein.

In higher regions, you may find dhindo, a paste made from buckwheat and butter that is eaten with vegetables and dhal.

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Meat dishes

Meat becomes increasingly hard to find the higher up Nepal’s ranges you progress. Chicken is the most likely option, with goat, mutton or buffalo also popping up on menus. Look out for traditional Nepalese momos, dumplings filled with meat, vegetables or cheese and then fried or steamed. A delicious snack, momos are served plain or with a chilli or curry sauce.

If visiting in winter, try Gorkhali lamb, a slow-cooked lamb curry made with spices, potatoes and onion and served with roti.

Fruit and vegetables

Nepal has plenty of vegetarian dishes, often flavoured with chilli, turmeric, cumin and other spices. Look out for tangy aloo achar (pickled potatoes), vegetable thukpa (noodle soup) and mustard green bhutuwa (stir-fried mustard greens).

As for fruits — try the tangy, sour pulp of lapsi, which can be pickled or turned into fruit tarts, and the dried flesh of bel (wood apple), which makes a refreshing drink when juiced with lime.

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Sweets and desserts

Nepali desserts are similar to Indian sweets and are often tooth-achingly sugary. Look out for bright orange jalebis, the cashew nut based barfi and the thick, rich gud pak (a porridge like mix of edible gum, nuts, sugar and flour). The most common dessert is khir, a rice pudding flavoured with cardamom and dried fruits.

What to drink

Tea is one of the best ways to stay hydrated while trekking around Nepal. From masala chiya (tea with condensed milk and spices) to soja (Tibetan butter tea) and all manner of herbal teas, this is a refreshing way to get to know your Nepalese neighbours.

Alcoholic drinks are widely available in Nepal, with local homebrews such as chang (barley beer) and rakshi (rice wine) vying with international brands of beer like Everest, Gorkha and Carlsberg.

One note of warning — avoid drinking tap or stream water. Bring iodine tablets to treat drinking water.

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