Monday 11 October 2021

Vegan in Nepal: A Paradise for Travelling Vegans

vegan nepal

Is Nepal vegan friendly? Yes! Nepal is one of the many destinations where vegans need not worry about limited food choices. This is partly thanks to the location: - situated in the lap of the Himalayas, the country is blessed with fertile soil and abundant greenery, and thus the Nepalese enjoy a rich plant-based diet. It's also partly thanks to culture: - following the dictates of their religion, a portion of the Hindu and Buddhist population follow a strict vegan (or vegetarian) diet.

Being Vegan In Nepal

Nepalese Plant-Based Diet: Fit for a Vegan

vegan nepalese food

Here are some examples of vegan nepalese foods:
  • Dal, bhaat, tarkaari or lentil soup, rice, and vegetable curry are the staple of Nepalese cuisine. 
  • Green leafy vegetables like mustard greens, spinach, amaranth, bok choy, and the tender edible leaves and stems of seasonal vegetables (pumpkin, chayote, etc.) are fried or blanched with aromatic spices and herbs. 
  • Protein-rich broth made from pulses like kidney beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, etc., are quite popular and relished with gusto. 
  • Nepalese traditional cuisine has several dishes prepared from vegetables like potatoes, eggplant, French beans, cabbage, cauliflower, bitter gourd, okra, taro leaves, pumpkin, etc. 
  • Prickly nettle leaves which are found widely all over the Himalayas are picked and cooked with herbs. Nettle soup is in fact a rare Himalayan delicacy. 

Vegan Choices at Nepalese Restaurants and Stores

vegan restaurants nepal

According to HappyCow, there are only three totally vegan restaurants in the whole of Nepal - two in capital Kathmandu and one in Patan. (This doesn't necessarily mean though that there aren't other vegan restaurants in Nepal, just that they haven't been listed on HappyCow yet - if you know of any others, please let me know so I can write them in here :) ).

When it comes to vegetarianism, there are more options - there are over 100 vegetarian restaurants in Nepal. On the one hand, this doesn't mean much - we can't go into a vegetarian restaurant and order blind, like we can in vegan restaurants; but on the other hand, at least we are only dodging dairy and eggs, not meat.

As to other restaurants, most restaurants in Nepal offer a separate list of items for vegetarians on their menu. If you are up for a hearty meal, you can order a 'vegetarian thali' which includes a plate of boiled white rice, lentil soup, vegetable curry, poppadum, or crackers, and a little bit of spicy pickle or salsa on the side. Yogurt is also offered, which you may refuse. 

If you aren't into carbs, you can forego the rice and choose a flatbread (chappati or naan) instead. Vegetable noodles and dumplings (momos) are also quite popular choices. In big cities like Kathmandu and Pokhara, bakeries and restaurants are offering vegan delicacies.

At stores in Nepal, you can shop for dried fruit, nuts, dark chocolate, trail mix, oats, and fresh fruits. Most departmental stores stock up on soy milk and almond milk, a much-needed vegan item. If you are staying at a place where you can prepare your food, you can purchase fresh vegetables and other vegan items from the supermarket or the local bazaar and prepare your favourite vegan meal.

Words to avoid

In Nepal the official language is Nepali - with 78% of the population speaking it as a first or second language. Many speak English as a second or foreign language, but don't be a coloniser and expect people to speak English with you. 

I personally find it useful to have a handy lists of foods I want to avoid - so I can check in a supermarket or hand to some unfortunate waiter who is just trying to do their job (sorry). Maybe you will find it useful too! :D 

  • Meat - मासु - Māsu
  • Beef - मासु - Māsu
  • Pork - सुँगुरको मासु - Sum̐gurakō māsu 
  • Chicken - कुखुरा - Kukhurā
  • Lamb - थुमा - Thumā

  • Dairy - दुग्ध - Dugdha
  • Milk - दूध - Dūdha 
  • Cheese - पनीर - Panīra
  • Yoghut - दही - dahī
  • Cream - क्रीम - krīma

  • Eggs - अण्डा - Aṇḍā
  • Honey - मह - Maha

This is only from Google Translate though, please let me know if it needs altering! 

Vegan Food while Trekking in Nepal

Of course, the majority of people, even vegans, visit Nepal for one main reason - Everest and other treks. While trekking in the mountains of Nepal, vegans (and vegetarians) have no worries as far as food is concerned. Plant-based food is readily available while meat is in short supply. The common diet on the trail is the energy-giving 'dal-bhaat' (rice, lentil soup, and vegetable curry). At mountain teahouses, the owners offer ginger tea, black coffee, or black tea to warm up your insides and wake you up. If you get tired of dal-bhaat you can opt for other items like spaghetti, chow mein, momo, Tibetan bread, etc.

Popular trekking trails like the Everest and Annapurna have teahouses serving a variety of Nepalese, Indian and western dishes. If you book your trek with a reputed local adventure company like Nepal Hiking Team, your dietary needs will always be well looked after. You won't have to worry whether your meal is vegan. The company's staff will ensure that your food is pure vegan. You can intimate them about your dietary needs while booking your trip, and they in turn will make sure that you get served the right food. Some of the popular treks chosen by vegan trekkers are the Everest Base Camp Trek – 16 Days, Annapurna Base Camp Trek – 14 Days, Manaslu Circuit Trek – 17 days, Annapurna Circuit Trek – 14 Days, and Tsum Valley with Manaslu Trek – 21 Days etc. If you are a vegan looking for the ideal destination to spend your holiday, Nepal could be your dream destination. So, pack your bags and head to the Himalayan mountains! Also, here is a video about being vegan in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal:

[We haven't (yet) been to Nepal, so this post was kindly written by our good friend Balaram - thanks Balaram!]

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