Are you planning to visit Nepal soon? It may be a small country, but it has the highest mountain in the world, the eternal Mount Everest, along with more than half a dozen of the world’s highest peaks, making it a climber’s paradise. The country may be poor, but it is a veritable abode of the gods, with temples and monasteries and other shrines around every corner. It is also, of course, the birthplace of the Apostle of Peace, Lord Gautam Buddha. Well, welcome to this land of the high Himalayas, cascading mountain rivers, lush forests, and a thousand and one gods. You can look forward to an exciting time, lots of adventures on the challenging trekking trails that go through scenic valleys and windswept mountain passes and over sturdy suspension bridges high above the swirling rapids below. However, even as you experience such adventures, here’s a suggestion that could add spice to further enhance your trip.
Give a thought to learning about Nepali cuisine when here. More specifically, learn some Nepali cooking. After all, food is an integral part of our culture, as anywhere else; so boost your cultural experience. Nepal prides itself on its rich culture, and certainly, its unique cuisine. You know well that the country is sandwiched between the two great and diverse cultures of China and India. You also know that Chinese cuisine has carved out quite a reputation globally, and that Indian cuisine is known for its use of many exotic spices that go to make it pretty special. Well, one obviously expects such ancient cultures to have quite a bit of influence on Nepal, but, still, you should know that Nepal has developed its own unique identity, and its own exceptional cuisine.
Now, let’s see where you can learn Nepali cooking in the capital, Kathmandu. There’s such a place near Thamel, the tourist hub of Kathmandu, known as “Nepal Cooking Course”. It actually has shifted some 15 minutes away from its original location in Thamel to Goldhunga after the April 25, 2015, earthquake damaged it. You can opt for a half-day course (morning or afternoon), or full-day, two-day, three-day, five-day, six-day, and seven-day courses. All programs include one hour of Nepali language lessons.
What kind of cooking do you get to learn? Well, the full-day course teaches you how to make daal bhaat, curry, pickle, and momo (the most popular staples of Nepal), as well as sel roti (a special festival bread) and kheer (rice pudding) for celebratory occasions. Classes start at 9:00 a.m. and finish at 5:00 p.m. It will cost you about 5,000 rupees. Naturally, you’ll get to learn how to prepare other food, as well, in case you choose the longer programs; dishes such as alu daam, alu paratha, samosa, Newari snacks like bara, chatamari and yomari, as well as a variety of meat dishes. If you take the seven-day course, you also get to learn how to make chyang (local beer made from rice, millet, wheat, corn, or even some fruits). You’ll surely enjoy sharing what you cooked with friends after classes are over and done with.
Of course, there are other establishments that provide lessons in Nepali cookery, such as ECS Services in Lazimpat, which teaches household staff of expatriates mostly, but could maybe fit in a schedule for you as well. In addition, an increasing number of homestay programs include cookery lessons as part of their services. Ask you travel operator for more information regarding this. Some smart agencies even arrange for special cooking courses with some skilled Nepali housewife, a most suitable teacher to give you really good tips on homely Nepali cooking.
It’s a given that you’ll be roaming local bazaars to buy fresh food items including just-picked vegetables and newly slaughtered meat, as well as freshly-ground masala (spices). You’ll surely find this to be a very refreshing exploration. And, you may find it pretty interesting to learn about how to use the many masalas; what and how much goes into dishes that are part of a typical Nepali meal: daal (lentil soup), tarkari (vegetable curry), saag (spinach), maasu (chicken or mutton that needs a mix of at least 12 kinds of spices), achar (pickle: a popular one being a mix of potatoes, radish, and small brown beans). Except for maasu, which is taken once or twice a week, these are the usually food items that Nepalis eat every day. Therefore, expect your housewife-teacher to really good, since she probably cooks them day in and day out.
Well, all said and done, discover your culinary skills, in addition to testing your physical limits, when in Nepal. It will be a worthwhile endeavor.