Monday, November 12, 2012

Ordering food in Nepal

According to one guide I talked with, 95% of Nepal's population eats Dal Baht for two meals a day. It's the only meal I ever saw a guide or porter eating while trekking. It was good everywhere I tried it and usually not too spicy for me.  Since it's mostly rice you would think it would be dirt cheap; and it is if you are Nepali. However, the lodges must have realized at some point that trekkers would pay more for the authentic local food experience. Now Dal Baht is usually one of the more expensive things on the menu. 
Dal Baht - All the rice you can eat. 
If you don't want to pay 2 or 3 times the local price for Dal Baht or if you're just looking for a change of pace the lodges all serve exactly the same western options. At least that's what the menus offer... Almost every place had reasonably good food and I really appreciate that the menus were in English. However, the wide variety of definitions for the same menu items really amused me.
"Apple Pie" - "You keep using that wordI do not think it means what you think it means."
A few of the more random definitions:

A "Large" pot of tea - Any where form a pot containing 4-5 small cups to a half gallon thermos. 
A "Small" pot of tea - Any where from 2 small cups to a quart of tea. 
*Note: Price is not a good indicator of size. Elevation seemed to be, but ironically the pots got larger rather than smaller with higher elevation. 
"Apple Pie" - Anything from excellent deep dish apple pie to something that resembled a hotpocket apple pastry. Even the one pictured above tasted good, but i was really hungry and that's been known to skew my taste buds. 
"Hash Browns" - Anything involving potatoes served at breakfast. Once there were bell peppers and curry in my hash browns... It was surprisingly good, but not at all what I was picturing when I ordered them. 
"Lasagna" - Usually involves noodles of some kind and usually baking it is involved, may include tomato sause. The best one came served in a sizzling cast iron pan like you might expect a steak in. The most surprising one did not include noodles, but was really good anyway.
"Macaroni" - See lasagna but without the baking. 
"Spagetti" - See macaroni, but it's safe to assume spagetti noodles will be used. 
*Note sometimes a menu will include all three pastas with exactly the same options. 
"Cheese Burger" - Okay, this one actually makes sense. A cheese burger is based on patty of random mixed stuff and cheese and does not involve a hamburger patty at all.
"Fried Rice" - This is a safe bet, it will include rice, whatever vegetables are available, and which ever protein option you ask for. 
"Tuna" - I'm 17000 feet high in the Himalaya... Why is the one source of protein guaranteed to be available an ocean dwelling fish? Every lodge offered tuna.
"Mo:mos" - Another local dish, these are a kind of dumpling filled with whatever is offered. They might be either steamed or fried and usually you can request one or the other. But in either case you might get between 8 and 12 depending on the lodge. Eight is really disappointing when you are really hungry... 
"Porridge" - The higher you climb the more water and less oatmeal there is in a bowl. Yesterday I tried some that had lots of salt and black pepper in it. That was really strange. 
"Garlic Pepper Yak Steak" - Cook/server, "no yak now, so I make you chicken... this okay for you?" Me, "um, sure that looks good." To be fair, it did look excellent and it tasted great... But I never would have guessed you could just substitute chicken for yak on a whim...

I can't really complain about the food; on the whole it's pretty good and reasonably cheap. Most of the time I found the random surprises more amusing than anything else. Also, there is a place here Kathmandu called K-too that serves awesome steaks for 5 dollars. I think I'll go have one tonight. Probably it won't be chicken...


  1. Are their foods pretty heavily spiced normally?
    Which one has been your favorite food?
    What type of tea?- it seems that the tea should be really good there. Still no butter tea?
    Garlic pepper Yak sounds awesome...
    What else is in the Dal Baht?
    What is that on the apple pie? It looks like Nacho cheese...

  2. Dal Baht is their food here... Well there are Mo:mos and Chapati which is a kind of bread for breakfast. Most things have some spice, it's usually been within limits I can eat.

    Favorite meal has definitely been the two steaks I've had at K-too. Favorite local food would have to be the mo:mos.

    Mostly I drink plain black tea, it's cheap and I like it, but I've also had tea with lemon, milk, mint, ginger, and various spices in it. I have yet to see anything about butter in tea.

    Garlic pepper yak is awesome when they have it.

    Dal Baht is a large pile of plain rice plus several different dishes of various levels of spice to flavor it. One of them usually contains some beans and sometimes there are potatoes.

    It was some kind of pudding on the apple pie. It would have been good with some cheddar cheese on it...