As a South Asian country nestled between India and China, Nepal is as famous for its unique culture and delicious food as it is for its majestic Himalayan peaks. Many travelers visit the country just to taste Nepali cuisine’s world-renowned flavors.
And contrary to what many Americans believe, Nepali cuisine is not the same as Indian cuisine.
As a short-term exchange student in Seattle from Nepal, I initially faced challenges of finding real Nepali food here. When I asked around, I also discovered that very few Seattle people were aware about the existence of Nepali food, let alone aware of its availability in their city.
Though it might not be as popular as Indian cuisine is in Seattle, Nepali food has a distinct taste and flavor that is spread over a plethora of lip-smacking dishes.
Take it from Ang Dawa Sherpa, owner and chef of Seattle’s Himalayan Sherpa House located on North Fifty-sixth Street in Green Lake.
“The Nepali cuisine stands very different from the Indian cuisine in ways that, one, it is less spicier than the latter, it is cooked with oil rather than butter, and moreover, it is always served in a traditional way,” Angdawa Sherpa explains proudly. “These differences give Nepali dishes a completely different taste, too.”
New to Nepali cuisine like many Seattleites? Sherpa recommends trying these three delectable Nepali dishes:
1. Aloo Tama Bodi
With potatoes, lentils and bamboo shoots boiled and cooked in a saucy tomato curry, Aloo tama bodi gives you an indulgent experience you would never forget.
What makes this dish different from a typical Indian curry dish is that its taste is embellished by bamboo shoots, for which Nepal is known for. Served with hot, steaming rice over a tiny fire stove, this tops the list of the best Nepali dishes for vegetarians, and even vegans, as the cooking tutorial above demonstrates.
2. Khasi (mutton) Masu
Being one of the most sought-after dishes in Nepal, Khasi Masu hits the highest standards of the aura and flavor of Nepali food. The mutton, after being cooked in a delicious gravy, is topped off with traditional Nepali spices such as coriander, cardamon and turmeric, then served with boiled rice. A perfectly balanced blend of all these spices, Khasi Masu brings you a slice of Nepal on your plate.
3. Nepalese momo
Though momos originated as dumplings in China, Nepalese momos come with — you guessed it — a Nepali twist! Minced chicken is mixed with onion and garlic paste, stuffed into the momo dough and either steamed or fried. Accompanied by a spicy pickle or a hot soup, these Nepali momos would leave you craving for more. If you visit the Himalayan Sherpa House, you’ll be able to order four different varieties of momo stuffing, including beef, pork, chicken and veggie options.
Despite the scarcity of Nepali restaurants in the city of Seattle, what little there is available seems to be very popular, especially among international students like me visiting Seattle.
Gena Fazel, an exchange student from India, says she likes Nepali food very much, as she found a bit of unique and delicious flavor in all of the dishes she’s tried.
Alissa Mustre, a student at the University of Washington from Mexico, says she absolutely devours Nepali food, and was pleasantly surprised by the spicy flavors and palate of diverse ingredients she has tried in Nepali cuisine.
In addition to Himalayan Sherpa House, other authentic Nepali restaurants in Seattle include downtown-based Kastoori Grill and Capitol Hill’s Annapurna Cafe. With very reasonable prices and wonderful ambiences, one can access not only a variety of dishes, but also be served an unforgettable experience.
Though the pickings may be slim, Seattle’s Nepali restaurants are delicious and authentic enough for even a native Nepali like me to recommend them.
With this in mind, I urge you to go have a taste of Nepal in Seattle!
This story was produced by a student in the “Study of the U.S. Institute (SUSI)” program, a collaboration between The Seattle Globalist and FIUTS, supported by the U.S. Department of State. The program brings 20 undergraduates from Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh and Nepal to Seattle. Participants study journalism and new media, and participate in volunteer and service activities, leadership workshops, and cultural excursions.