These days, Kathmandu can rightfully be called a “Food City”. Along with diversified culture and tradition, one can also find a large variety of cuisines—whether it's local Newari, or from different parts of Nepal, or around the world. With a wide range of restaurants in the city, we can find new choices in international cuisines, such as Syrian, Spanish, Mexican, and so on, besides the already popular ones like Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Continental. In this cover story, we at ECS Nepal are sharing a selection of popular places, old and new, that serve delicious, satisfying food—and though by no means a comprehensive listing, it will give you an idea of what we mean when we say Kathmandu is a “Food City”.
1. Hot, Hot Samosa
If you ask any local in Kathmandu about where they can get the most delicious samosas, they would probably say, Tip Top. Hidden inside a small passage way leading to Indra Chowk, Tip Top serves their samosas hot. This typical triangular-shaped deep-fried snack has a filling of spiced potatoes, onions, pea, and peanuts. The outer layer is crunchy, while the filling is hot and smooth. The spicy tamarind-based dipping sauce adds a wonderful sour note to the samosa.
Available at: Tip Top, New Road (on the way to Indra Chowk)
2. Himalayan French Cheese
While this might sound like an oxymoron, it is not—delicious French style cheese has been made here in Nepal since 1997. The cheeses are made with pasteurized whole cow’s milk, and there is a wide and ever-changing selection to choose from, including tomme, Belkot, Saint Marcellin, brie, camembert, and the creamy blue, a personal favorite. And, these are only some of the many cheeses they make!
Available at: Himalayan French Cheese Shop, near Prime Minister’s Residence, Baluwatar
3. Exhilarating Nepali Coffee
We probably all remember the days when the only coffee one could get in the city was Nescafe. So much has changed since then, and now delicious Nepal-grown coffee is available at numerous outlets found in nearly every street. Not only is Nepal growing its own coffee, there are now many baristas who are experts at roasting, grinding, and brewing it, all of which is essential in producing that perfect cup. Himalayan Java, one of the pioneers, continues to be the most popular place to grab a cup of exhilarating coffee.
Available at: Himalayan Java, Tridevi Marg, Thamel, and many other outlets
4.Fresh Middle Eastern Fare
Taza, a restaurant born when a Syrian met and married a Nepali woman and decided to settle in Nepal, is the home of some of the most authentic and simple Middle Eastern food around. The hummus is especially creamy and delicious, and the baba ganoush (eggplant puree) and kebabs should not be missed.
Available at: Taza, Pulchowk (next to Himalayan Bank), Lalitpur
5.Wholesome Daal Bhaat Tarkari
Daal bhaat tarkari isn’t just the traditional meal of Nepal, but variations of it are widely eaten throughout South Asia. The taste varies from region to region, depending on the tarkari and other curries that are included in the meal. For a bit of sour zing or spicy flavor, one can also add achaar, and the many options here make all the difference. Hearty and filling, it is best enjoyed by eating with your hand, rather than using cutlery.
Available at: Nepali Chulo, Lazimpat, and many other locales
6. Crunchy Neapolitan-Style Pizza
Pizza is originally from Italy, but it is now also a much preferred dish here in Kathmandu. The thin-crust pizzas of Fire & Ice Pizzeria, especially, have caught the eye of many, both locals and expats, becoming a staple of eating out in Kathmandu. The restaurant serves a wide range of authentic, delicious Neapolitan style pizzas. The crust is crunchy, with lots of gooey cheese, herbs, and toppings of your choice. The place is usually packed with pizza lovers enjoying the mouth-watering pizzas and other Italian dishes on offer at this restaurant.
Available at: Fire & Ice Pizzeria, Sanchayakosh Bhawan, Tridevi Marg, Thamel
7. The Ultimate Cheesecake
Anyone who is a lover of cakes will know that Imago Dei is one of the best places to have the ultimate cheesecake. Every occupied table at their restaurant will probably have this particular item on their bill. Their cheesecake has a very creamy texture, and will make you wonder how on earth it can taste sooo good! Would not be surprised if you think of ordering another one with your first bite, but you might just want to take it easy right then—it’s pretty rich after all!
Available at: Imago Dei, Nagpokhari Marg, Kathmandu
8. Hearty Handmade Udon Noodles
Out on the Dhobighat side of Ring Road, in the most unlikely location, is a shiny blue building where you will find the best udon in Nepal. Handmade by a Japanese man and his well-trained staff, the noodles are just as they should be: thick, chewy, and hearty. You can choose from many variants—tofu, vegetables, or meat. The Chicken Curry Udon is just awesome, as are any of the hot pot choices. They have soba, too.
Available at: Japanese Noodles Kitchen, on the Ring Road outside Dhobighat, Lalitpur
9. Juicy, Flavorful Pork Chops
Anyone who has had the pleasure of enjoying a perfectly prepared pork chop will not soon forget its taste. If you have a craving, make a beeline for BBQ Courtyard in Jhamsikhel, where you’ll get juicy pork chops deeply flavored in all the right ways, served with smooth and creamy mashed potatoes and butter-soaked seasonal vegetable. A truly satisfying meal.
Available at: BBQ Courtyard, Jhamsikhel, Lalitpur
10. Authentic Chinese Chow
In addition to being renowned for Tibetan food, the back alleys that surround Boudha are also home to some of the city’s best Chinese food. A favorite amongst locals is the Yak Restaurant (not to be confused with the one in Thamel) that dishes up large portions of authentic Chinese cooking that is rich in flavor and taste. Great things to eat here include the spare ribs, spicy cooking buff, greens, and the eggplant; among the best in the city.
Available at: Yak Restaurant, down an alley off the Boudha circle, directly opposite entrance to Boudha
11.Warm, Yummy Yomari
Yomari is a heartthrob when it comes to Newari cuisine dessert. This triangular-shaped steamed rice flour dumpling is stuffed with a filling of mainly chaku or khuwa. Nowadays, the filling may also be of maas, meat, and chocolates. We recommend you have it while it’s still hot, or warm, taking a few lingering moments dwelling on the deliciousness of its unique taste.
Available at: The Village Café, Pulchowk, Lalitpur
12. Sweet, Crusty Lakhamari
Lakhamari has been one of the traditional sweet delicacies of Kathmandu since a very long time. Before, it was primarily presented to guests by the groom during his wedding, but in recent times, it has increased in popularity and now this sweet crusty delicacy can be enjoyed anytime and anywhere with Kathamandap’s Lakhamari. These lakhamaries are smaller than usual, and stored and sold in a box.
Available at: Kasthamandap’s Lakhamari, Teku
13. Lhaphing, the Taste of Tibet
It’s been almost three years that this dish has risen from the Tibetan streets of Boudha to become a favorite for the rest of us. Lhaphing might be a cold noodle dish seasoned with spices, but this cold dish might be the best way to turn up the heat in your body this chilly season. No, it’s not as hot as jalapenos, but it still gives that hot hit of chili. Lhaphing are cut and formed into noodles, then dipped in a sauce made from dried chilies and vinegar. To add a different flavor profile, one can throw in a variety of spices and a good dose of sesame oil. Yum!
Available at: Restaurants around Boudha, Kathmandu
14. Darjeeling Momo
Momo is no doubt the most popular delicacy in Kathmandu, and found everywhere. While the ingredients remain more or less the same, the taste varies from outlet to outlet. Generally, the stuffing is buff, onion, and a variety of spices. However, Darjeeling momo is made more often with pork and less spices, but with hotter “achar” instead. The taste differs a lot from the ones commonly found elsewhere. Because it’s winter season right now, many places have also added hot and spicy Jhol Momo to their menu.
Available at: Darjeeling Mo:Mo, New Road
15.Refreshing Pop Soda
Soda used to be a popular (and still is) aerated drink before the introduction of Coke and Pepsi in Nepal. Interestingly, it is bottled with a marble ball as a lid, which makes a popping sound while opening. The drink is indeed very refreshing when served with a pinch of sea salt and lemon juice; perhaps even more so than popular brands. If you prefer your soda flavored, you get to choose from a variety too.
Available at: Ranjana Galli, New Road
16.Puffy, Fluffy Gwaramari
If you go for a morning walk around the Swayambhunath or Kathmandu Durbar Square heritage sites, you will find many people eating a round type of bread known as gwaramari. This small yet famous Newari breakfast dish is best served warm over a nice cup of tea. The outer layer is fried, which makes it crunchy on the outside, but inside, due to the addition of baking soda, it is puffed and soft. Next time you go to these places in the morning, don’t forget to grab some gwaramari for yourself.
Available at: Alleys of Kathmandu Durbar Square or Swayambhunath (mornings only)
17. Tasty Chatamari
Sometimes called Newari pizza, this delicious local specialty has found its place in the hearts of food lovers in Kathmandu. Vegetarians and omnivores alike can enjoy this one, as you can order it with your choice of toppings—meat, veggies, and often an egg. Slices are usually dipped in a tangy tomato achaar for a satisfying tasty treat.
Available at: Jheegu Bhwoychhen Restaurant, Jyatha, Thamel
18. Butter Chicken Masala
There are, of course, countless places one can go to all around the valley for tasty and varied Indian food. Whatever your preference, there’s probably a place that makes it. One cozy little restaurant that’s made a name for itself with its rich curries and light, flavorful biryanis is Tasneem’s. The food here is authentic and delicious. The Butter Chicken Masala is amazing, with tender pieces of chicken melding seamlessly with the rich, creamy sauce. Pair with naan for a delicious eating experience.
Available at: Tasneem’s Kings Kitchen, by the Patan Fire Brigade, Jhamsikhel Road, Lalitpur
19.Heartwarming Duck Choila
This hot, spicy, and mouth-watering Newari dish has captured the hearts of many. Usually, choila is grilled water buffalo meat mixed with a range of spices, including generous sprinklings of chili, but here, it is made with duck meat instead. The dish might taste the same due to the spices, but the meat makes the difference. Have it with chiura (beaten rice) and aila (homemade liquor) to make it more delicious and heartwarming.
Available at: Eateries around Godawari, Lalitpur
20. Down-to-earth Mexican Food
There are numerous outlets providing tasty Mexican food around the valley. A particular favorite is the Lazy Gringo, an unpretentious little upstairs place in Jawalakhel. There are lots of menu choices, with the soft shell tacos being particularly good. You can even mix and match with different meat fillings, and the sour cream and salsa sides are just great. There are free refills of lemonade, too!
Available at: Lazy Gringo, Jawalakhel, Lalitpur
21. Standout Vietnamese Food
Food from Vietnam, and particularly its tasty noodle soup, pho, is becoming increasingly popular all over the world. We are lucky to have Saigon Pho representing this delicious cuisine in Nepal. Their pho is definitely a standout, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you order. Fresh-tasting Vietnamese curries are something completely different than what you’d expect. Particularly refreshing are the unusual salads, containing noodles, veggies, and meat, that are full of fresh herbs and nuts, and topped with a zingy dressing…so good.
Available at: Saigon Pho, Lazimpat, and other outlets
22. Delightful Doughnuts
If there is one ultimate place to try out sweet delicacies in Kathmandu, it is definitely at Café Hessed. Though this place is known for its sweet offerings like cupcakes and cakes, it is more popular for its doughnuts. The prices of these doughnuts are also reasonable, and one can just sit down for a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy the variety of doughnuts. The place is also ideal for coffee dates, or simply to bring your laptop and work without the distraction of restro-bar tastes in music.
Available at: Café Hessed, Jhamsikhel, Lalitpur
23. Savory Shabaley and Spicy Achaar
These delicious fried meat pies are wonderful as either a snack with beer, or as part of a Tibetan meal. Usually stuffed with chicken or buff, they retain a soft, juicy, flavorful inside that provides a perfect counterbalance to the crunchy exterior. With some spicy achaar to dip it in, and a cold beer close at hand, it’s a taste that’s hard to top.
Available at: Yak Restaurant, Thamel
24. Delicious Spanish Cuisine
While Spanish dishes occasionally pop up on menus around the city, at El Mediterraneo they are the full focus. Popular dishes we’ve enjoyed include the Tortilla de Patata, a rich omelet with potatoes and onions, Fideos, and possibly the best-known Spanish dish of all, Paella. For dessert, don’t miss Natillas: similar to a crème brûlée, it’s a Spanish delicacy that is creamy and light in texture, with hints of cinnamon and cardamom.
Available at: El Mediterraneo, Jhamsikhel, Lalitupur
25. Succulent Sekuwa at the Square
Imagine enjoying sekuwa—small pieces of meat mixed with natural spices and herbs and skewered and grilled over natural wood fire—on a fine evening near Kathmandu Durbar Square. Seems like a nice plan to enjoy street food, isn’t it? The sekuwa here is tender, and you can feel the succulent taste of juicy meat and spices in every bite. Puffed rice and a wedge of lemon come with the sekuwa to make it a spicy-sour appetizer.
Available at: Maru Ganeshthan, Kathmandu