Food in Nepal is good but simple. With a low-income their diet still relies heavily on cereals as a cheap and filling part of the meal. However, their dishes are usually nutritious, though can sometimes get repetitive nutritional values (e.g.. rice with a potato curry). Their food still caters to the basic needs of the human body: to provide energy and supplements. Therefore, there is the food that locals eat (e.g.. dalh baht that fills you up and provides lentils, etc.) versus the food tourists eat (e.g.. imported chocolate, etc.). Pick wisely and listen to the local advice. They will be sure to remind you that garlic soup is good for acclimation.
The first thing you will learn is that nearly all guesthouses (tea houses) have nearly the same menu. The only difference is that prices will increase and decrease with altitude.
Personally, while out on the trail, we decided to eat a vegetarian diet. Besides that, your meal can vary – slightly.
If you want to stick to the more local cuisine, Dahl baht is the standard hiker’s “go to” food. The dish is served in partitions of lentil soup, rice, curry, papad (a small, thin chip). The common way of eating it is to pour and mix all ingredients together. If you are truly Nepali you will then shovel it into your mouth with your right hand and clean your plate within seconds. The real reason this is a hiker’s favorite: Dahl baht usually comes with endless refills, so carb up!
Another good standard, veggie momo. A steamed dumpling usually stuffed with cabbage and carrot. We highly recommend dipped in curry. Do be aware that they are labor intensive and can take a little longer to make… Not that bad, but expect around 25 to 30 minutes.
Potato momo is also good, though a little repetitive nutritionally. If you are in the mood for starch, this dish is best fried. As unhealthy as fried potato momo is, the simple fact is this deliciously hot and oily snacks fills the same craving as French fries.
The spring rolls are very similar. Again, stuffed with cabbage and carrots. They come either rolled or in a calzone style. Besides veggie momo, this is what I ordered when craving veggies. Especially at higher altitudes, ordering a plate of vegetables becomes impossible. So, this serves as a good alternative. (Due note that the spring rolls are fried. Remember that ovens are uncommon in Nepali kitchens and therefore everything must be cooked on the stove.)
Of course, curry is always a good option! Just be aware that the consistency of curry is similar to soup and usually rice is not included, but ordered as an additional side dish. The common vegetarian curries are: veg and potato. At lowered altitudes vegetable curry may include mustard greens, at higher altitudes it is usually cabbage. Of course, this all changes based on the season!
Soup is a great way to warm yourself up after an afternoon rain. Remember that garlic helps with acclimatization (according to the locals). Garlic soup is also always homemade. Sometimes the noodle soups, especially if spicy, are pre-packaged. So watch out for high sodium (if you care).
The types of bread made in Nepal and commonly eaten for breakfast are: chapati, Tibetan bread, and corn bread. Chapati looks and tastes a lot like a flour tortilla. Tibetan bread is the size of a small pan, with a light and fluffy texture it is reminiscent of a plain donut. Corn bread also comes as a round, flat, fried bread and is best with honey.
All the breads make an excellent breakfast, paired with an omelette. The other standard breakfast alternative is porridge. Though the Bob Marley, in Muktinath, does an amazing French toast with yak cheese sandwich, which we highly recommend!
Fried noodles and rice are another standard dish. It is usually possible to get with egg, veggies, and/or meat.
If you are looking for an unhealthy afternoon snack go no further than cheese pakauda. It will be served as a small plate with 8 or so pieces of fried cheese. It is excellent, especially with beer.
Along the trail you can also find the western pizza, spaghetti, and sometimes even veggie or yak burgers. (Eat meat at your own risk – especially at higher elevations.)
As for desserts, rice pudding is excellent. Especially in Phedi when you need something to warm you up. In fall, apple pie is also common as the harvest along the eastern side of the trail is usually abundant.
Keep an eye out for bakeries along the trail. The best please we found was in Manang (the first bakery as you walk into town on the right-hand side). Definitely the highlight of the city (along with the movie that comes with a pause, 20 minutes in, to hand out cups of tea and popcorn)!
As for drinks, soda and beer is readily available but expensive. If you are going to drink them, we highly recommend using them as a reward on the harder days. Coffee is also available, but commonly is Ness-cafe. Tea is the popular and the local choice. Black tea is the cheapest, ranging from 20 to 70 rps. Milk tea is also good (chia with milk), though a little more expensive.
If you are going to be buying food or chocolates, just remember that everything gets more expensive as you get higher!
The overall rule of thumb:
Always expect the most basic forms of food and remember that everything is seasonal.