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As a part of our ongoing Nepal Food Series, we are at Bhaktapur or the City of Devotees to explore its unique food traditions. It is named so as it has three major squares full of towering pagoda style temples that boasts of some of the finest religious architecture in the country. The remarkable structures- with exquisite wood carvings and metal craft- pervading the cityscape, transported us to ancient times. Moreover the car free city centre here is a happening spot teeming with tourists and locals. As you stroll down the lanes, you discover how art and craft occupies a significant place in the culture of Bhaktapur. The alleyways with varied shops and workshops are a testimony to its vibrant cultural heritage that is still very dynamic. Once you reach here you will find yourselves amidst friendly natives.

In our gastronomic exploration at this sleepy city we are joined by our foodie host Kamal Bhatta who is keenly familiar with the traditions of this place. The menu out here, on the streets is mostly Newari food. Come let’s see what all did we tried in this tour.

Sel Roti, Jerry, Swaari and Malpua

Before starting for Bhaktapur at morning, we relished some popular street side breakfast items at the main marketplace in Kathmandu. For this we first bought some Gwaramari(round, fried all purpose flour based sweet bread), Malpua, Sel Roti(ring-shaped, sweet rice bread), Jerry(similar to Jalebi) and Swaari(thin, soft puri) from different places and then settled down to have it with a glass of milky tea, just how the locals do. The most notable snack among these was the Sel Roti that was a ring shaped, deep fried sweet bread made with rice flour. Again Swaari and Jerry together made an interesting combination. The most delightful thing about the eating experience was witnessing them being prepared fresh. The dishes were simple, familiar but yummy and filling.

On reaching Bhaktapur, we embarked on a pleasant stroll down the alleys of this heritage city in search some quintessential food. Our first stop was a local sweet shop where we tried the Balbara and Gudpak. The first one is a sweet, crisp, deep fried, sugar glazed flatbread while the second one is a traditional fudge like sweet made with khoya, gond, ghee, nuts, etc. Its rich and dense texture reminded us of our very own Dodha Burfi.


Next we arrived at another sleepy lane where locals-kids, young and old-were relaxing or socialising on the raised verandah of the native buildings. We were here to have fresh and hot aloo chop or potato fritters. We loved the mildly spiced fritters served with a spicy chutney. From there we went to the simple looking Choila Specialist at Kamalvinayak, whose Choila, Thon and Aloo Tama are quite popular with the locals. The Choila here, which is a meat based appetizer was lip smacking and hence the name of the place stands quite justifiable. It is just small pieces of tender, perfectly grilled meat that is mixed with raw ginger garlic paste, chilli paste, salt, green garlic and dressed with heated mustard oil. The flavourful Choila effortlessly complimented the traditional rice based alcoholic drink Thon or Chyang. Another traditional Newari dish the Aloo Tama, a delicious curry made with potatoes, bamboo shoots, black eyed peas etc. was delicious too.


After those robust tastes we went to try the iconic Juju Dhau or ‘King Curd’ that is one of the must try delicacy in the region. We were bowled over by the thick, luscious, velvety and creamy texture of this buffalo milk based curd. Do notice the hint of earthiness that comes from the earthenware used to set it.


Barra Wo

Next were the turn another Newari dish Barra and Wo which are essentially savoury black lentil pancakes. Just as we entered the place we were greeted by a smiling old lady sitting behind a busy griddle full of round Barras. These delicious lentil pancakes can be customised into different forms. So you can have the plain ones, ones with just meat or just eggs and then the ones with both meat and eggs. They serve it with a spicy and tangy channa curry or dry potato sabzi. The lentils lend it a nice, soft and fluffy body while the cooked minced meat and and eggs adds to the flavours. Interacting with Ama, the genial lady running the Barra counter with such an effortless ease was a memorable experience. More than the irresistible aromas suffusing the place, the warmth exuding from Ama gave us homely vibes.


Chitwan Ka Taas



Our last food destination was Bhetghat restaurant in Kathmandu which serves a very special meat dish from the Chitwan region called Taas. It is an amazing dish consisting of crisp and tender shallow fried meat pieces served with puffed rice and radish pickles. The flavoursome taste of meat, basic spices and most importantly mustard oil conjured up nostalgia of this dish that he had tried at his birthplace Muzzafarpur, Bihar. Do come and bond over a plate of Taas. With our tummy and heart both contended, we wrapped up the tour.

Heartfelt thanks to Kamal for taking us to such gem of places. Till next time keep walking and keep exploring.

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Starting this week onward Delhi Food walks brings you a new series named Ethnic Food Tour series that catalogues our food explorations across the diverse and rich tribal panorama of our country and beyond.

It commences with the rustic cuisine of the Rabha tribe from Assam. The Rabhas are the indigenous tribal groups from Assam who belong to the Indo-Mongoloid group of people. In Assam they are mostly settled in Goalpara, Kamrup, Kokrajhar, Udalguri, Baksa, Bongaigaon, Chirang, Sonitpur and Karbi Anglong districts. Agriculture, forest based activities and weaving are the mainstay of their traditional economy in general. Rabha women are skilled weavers who usually make their garments on their own. However due to the lack of market opportunities and external support their exquisite skill haven’t yet transformed into a thriving livelihood opportunity.

Getting back to their cuisine, rice is the staple food of the Rabhas who are completely non vegetarians. Local herbs and edible insects are the essential components of their daily diet. The simple and rustic dishes have minimum use of spices and condiments. Home brewed rice beer is widely consumed not only during special occasions but on a daily basis. Their meal is hued with unique earthy notes because all of their ingredients are primarily sourced from the forests and local farms. To discover more about them, we visited the Ujan Rabhapara village in Kakoijana in Bongaigaon district of Assam along with our brilliant hosts Chayanika, Sishir and Risha whose insights helped us to get familiar with the new culture with ease.


En route to the village, we stopped at a local household to try Assamese Jolpan. It is the umbrella term for the traditional breakfast dishes that the locals relish daily. The Assamese word ‘Jolpan’ refers to both breakfast and evening snacks that includes different forms of the wide variety of local rice that are eaten with jaggery and curd. Typically, the base ingredient includes any one of the following-kumol saul (uncooked but soaked rice), sira (flattened rice), moori (puffed rice) etc. One can customise it with banana, sweet boondi, rasgulla etc. It also includes other preparations like Pitha and Nadu. We tried the most elementary of them i. e the Sira Doi gur and boondi laddo. It was such a comforting combination. 

After a short drive, we reached Ujan Rabhapara. Nestled amidst the green canopy of the Kakoijana forest expanse, this quaint sleepy village is home to the Rabhas. Kakoijana is the home to the endangered golden langur. Along with our hosts Chayanika, Sisir, Risha and Sanjib Sharma, we met the welcoming womenfolk from the village who had all gathered to cook a traditional Rabha meal for us. Since agriculture based activity are the mainstay of their livelihood, their cuisine is naturally dominated by the components from the same. 


Hence it isn’t a surprise that it includes rice which is the staple, various local herbs, meats, fishes and insects. Bugs and insects like the silkworm, red ants, grasshoppers etc. are the delicacies that define their cuisine. 


Another important element of the Rabha cuisine is the local rice beer called Chokoth, that is brewed in almost all households and is consumed almost daily. We tried it along with the genial locals. The taste profile of this alcoholic beverage was on the sweeter side. It is prepared by fermenting local rice along some herbs. After a period of 15 to 20 days they get ready for consumption.

The complete Rabha meal

The meal was prepared over the wood fire. Watching the herbs wilt in oil along with onions etc was a joyful experience although the addition of the silkworms or the red ants did make us apprehensive as it was our maiden attempt to try them. For the Rabhas these creatures are a nrich source of protein and so they are an important part of their regular diet. In no time with the collective efforts of the amazing womenfolks, the meal was ready. It was served in the local manner i.e. on the banana leaves. The meal comprised of the following- steamed rice, Mai Posung(steamed sticky rice with coconut) Skunkvine fritters, Silkworm with herbs, Posola di Kukura Mankho(country chicken cooked with banana stem), Taukam Bamshi(country chicken cooked with rice flour), Bakham(roasted pork), Hissa Pichi(Eggs of the red ants), Kekura bota(Crab Chutney), Guti aloo Aru Dhekiya Bhaji(baby potatoes with fiddlehead ferns) and Chokoth. Honestly some of the dishes like the silkworm and the dry fish chutney were an acquired taste that didn’t really catch our fancy although they weren’t at all weird. After finishing with the lunch we ate the Tamul and got ready for our departure. But what a humble experience it was with the simple and lively locals and of course the serene natural setting.

We are truly grateful to our amazing hosts for walking us through the fascinating landscape of the Rabha Cuisine with such enthusiasm and patience.