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Where To Eat In Kathmandu: Cooking Class & Nepali Food Tour [Video]

*A big thanks to the Nepal Tourism Board, the Impact Travel Alliance and the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) for assisting with my trip!  Wondering where to eat in Kathmandu and what conscious Nepali food experiences exist in the city? Read on.  On May 27 at approximately 3:23pm, I had my first momo. I was in search of the best Nepali food in Thamel and found myself sitting on the patio of Thamel Cave Kitchen with some other bloggers, who were all talking about their love of this South Asian dumpling. “I’ve never heard of momos,” I told the group, who immediately went silent and looked at me in horror before springing into action, grabbing menus and ordering every type of momo possible in an effort to remedy the situation. There were steamed chicken momos. Fried buffalo momos. Steamed spicy buffalo momos. Mixed vegetable momos. Tandoori momos. Excitedly, I stabbed my fork into these plump snacks, dipping them in peanut sauces, chili sauces, and sour sauces. Not only does this afternoon meal introduce me to a delicious dish, but it whets my appetite to dive deeper into Kathmandu culinary culture, momos and more.

Video

Before reading this tasty Nepal travel guide
Watch the video above! You’ll join me for a Kathmandu cooking class as well as a Nepali breakfast food tour. Bonus: See some incredible views from my Mohare Danda Trek through the Annapurna Himalayas. Then continue reading the post. Warning: Hunger may ensue! [socialpug_tweet tweet=”What are your favorite foods to eat in #Nepal? Don’t miss these dishes + culinary experiences in #Kathmandu! ” display_tweet=”What are your favorite foods to eat in #Nepal? Don’t miss these dishes + culinary experiences in #Kathmandu! “]

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The Best Nepalese Food Experiences in Kathmandu

Coffee In Kathmandu

After gorging on momos, I take a break from eating to caffeinate at kar.ma coffee @ HUB a conscious cafe nearby. Here they serve cup-to-crop coffee made with 100% organic Arabica beans sourced directly from small cooperatives in Nepal. Not only is the coffee delicious, but the whole shop is focused on sustainability, from selling wooden housewares crafted by Nepali women to constructing furniture from local non-yielding mango trees to using all-natural plates made from leaves.
kathmandu coffee shop

My yummy iced coffee at kar.ma coffee @ HUB a

It’s beautifully-decorated, as well, making me linger and gaze longer at every Instagram-worthy detail. That’s when I notice a flyer promoting a pay-what-you-wish Kathmandu cooking class. Apparently, along with selling coffee, the cafe also has a service known as Social Tours, a company offering truly local experiences. Sipping my affogato, I decide to sign up and dive deeper into Nepali snacks and what to eat in Kathmandu.

A Delicious Kathmandu Cooking Class

When I arrive to the cooking class, Raj, one of the founders of Social Tours, greets me with a smile. He has the class sit around a low table as he shares more about what we’ll be doing for the next three hours. The group has a choice between three typical Nepali foods:
  • Dal bhat. Known as the national dish of Nepal, this features steamed rice, a side of vegetables and a side of lentil soup (dal).
  • Paratha. I’ve actually had Paratha in Delhi and loved these layered flatbreads that are baked and then shallowly fried before being filled with anything from potato to cheese and beyond.
  • Momos. Our group unanimously voted to make these Asian dumplings, with one version being stuffed with mixed vegetables and another version including chicken.
momos

Enjoying a plate of momos in Nepal.

kathmandu cooking class

See how much I love momos?

Before we head to the market to get our ingredients, Raj shares more information about the importance of momos in Kathmandu and Nepal in general. He explains that momos originated in China, and came to Nepal due to its location along the Silk Road; an ancient network of trading routes connecting China and Europe through Central Asia. Actually, during an earlier visit to Bhaktapur, an ancient city within Kathmandu Valley, I was able to see a path that led to this ancient trade route.
Bhaktapur

This road in Bhaktapur once led to the Silk Road

According to Raj, the Chinese may have developed momos, but the Nepali perfected them with their many dipping sauces, which is the major difference between dumplings and momos. Plus, you can play with the stuffing and really get creative with momos. Note that while western visitors may think of momos as a meal — personally I’d enjoy a plate of 10 momos as my entire lunch or dinner — the locals eat them as a snack. In Nepal, locals typically have a brunch and a dinner, so it’s important to snack in between. For this reason, you’ll find loads of shops selling Nepali snacks, some even selling just momos. Popular Kathmandu snack shops may make 10,000 momos in just one day! [socialpug_tweet tweet=”Fun #Nepal fact: Popular #Kathmandu snack shops may make 10,000 momos in just one day! ” display_tweet=”Fun #Nepal fact: Popular #Kathmandu snack shops may make 10,000 momos in just one day! “]

Nepali Momo Recipe: How To Make Momos In Kathmandu

The Kathmandu cooking class begins with a trip to a local market to gather our ingredients. Despite the class being pay-what-you-wish, our instructors Sakuntala and Asmita purchase the groceries. First, we head to the meat shop to get some chicken, followed by a visit to a small store to get our produce and spices. There is even a special Momo Masala that is specifically for momos.
food shopping in kathmandu

Food shopping in Kathmandu for our momo cooking class.

momo masala

Momo masala. Yes, please!

Ingredients in hand, we head back to the cafe to begin cooking. At this point in my trip to Nepal, I haven’t eaten meat in 11 days, and I’ve decided to see how long I can go. I leave the chicken for some of the other participants and grab a knife to begin chopping produce for the veggie momos.
cooking in kathmandu

Learning how to make momos in Kathmandu.

group making momos

The group hard at work making momos.

The mixed vegetable Nepali momo recipe goes like this: As we’re making the flour from scratch, including some momos made with regular flour and other momos made with buckwheat, a few people begin mixing and kneading the dough. Others begin chopping cabbage, mincing red and green onion, mincing ginger and garlic, and grating carrot. These ingredients are added into a mixing bowl, where salt is also sprinkled on top. Those making the chicken momos also chop and add raw chicken.
spices for momos

The spices for our momos.

kathmandu cooking class

Mixing our momo ingredients during the Kathmandu cooking class.

Next, it’s time to add the mixture to the flour, which a few of us have rolled into balls before pin-rolling them into small flat circles. Cupping the circular dough discs on our hands, we plop a teaspoon of the momo mixture inside, gently pinching the inside shut. From there it’s a finger dance, pinch-twist-pinch-twist-pinch-twist, until the momo is completely closed and curved into a crescent shape.
making momos

Molding momos into a crescent shape.

The raw momos are then cooked in a steamer, the vegetarian momos for 15 minutes and the chicken momos for 20 minutes. When ready, our instructors bring the momos over with two dipping sauces. One is a spicy peanut sauce, and the other is a tomato sauce laced with cumin, coriander, chili powder, garlic ginger, sal, and fenugreek. As stated above, Nepalis don’t mess around when it comes to momo dipping sauces!
momos in nepal with sauces

Our finished momos — with sauces, of course!

I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve helped to make these momos myself, but they are the best I’ve had in Nepal. Within 20 minutes, I’ve gobbled down 10 momos — that’s not counting a special Snickers-filled momo our instructors made us as a surprise dessert. The sky really is the limit when it comes to getting creative with momos. [socialpug_tweet tweet=”What is your favorite type of #momo in #Nepal? @jessonajourney loves spicy buff, chicken, veg, and @Snickers! Yes, you read that right. ” display_tweet=”What is your favorite type of #momo in #Nepal? @jessonajourney loves spicy buff, chicken, veg, and Snickers! Yes, you read that right. ” remove_username=”yes”]

A Nepali Food Tour In Kathmandu

My exploration of Kathmandu doesn’t stop here, though. Next up: A Kathmandu Breakfast Tour with Backstreet Academy. A quick note on Backstreet Academy: They are a socially conscious tour company connecting travelers with locals around Asia who have special skills and knowledge. By booking an experience, you are empowering locals with your dollars while also having a truly meaningful local experience. You can click here to browse their positive impact experiences around the world, from fishing to cooking to crafting and beyond.
kathmandu food tour guides

My fearless Kathmandu food tour guides, Kanti and Sandeep.

While I absolutely love momos, this Kathmandu food walk is focused on taking visitors beyond dumplings and dal baht to try local Nepali food they’ve never heard of. For this experience, the group meets early at 7am. I’ve only had time for a quick coffee at my hotel, though the energy of the streets waking up helps to fuel me. While Backstreet Academy’s Secret Food Tour is an afternoon food walk focused on local dishes, the breakfast tour focuses on unique breakfast foods, savored while exploring Kathmandu as it wakes up.
kathmandu in the morning

Seeing Kathmandu as the city wakes up.

dogs in kathmandu

Dogs in Kathmandu.

Street chickens in Kathmandu.

Led by our guides Kanti and Sandeep, our group walks down quiet streets, where milkmen on bikes sell fresh dairy and locals do their morning shopping. Outside local homes sit offerings of flowers, cookies, dried rice, beans, carrot, and broken plates for the Rato Machhindranath Jatra Festival, one of the most important festivals for Nepal’s Newar people. The festival, which is dedicated to Kathmandu Valley’s rain god, is currently going on as it’s just before monsoon season.
nepal spiritual offerings

Spiritual offerings on the streets on Kathmandu.

morning in kathmandu

Morning in Kathmandu.

Where To Eat In Kathmandu: Discovering Hidden Spots

We wander past shops selling tea, pottery, singing bowls, and soaps until finally, our guides lead us into a courtyard with homes and a temple dating back to the 12th century. It’s one of the oldest courtyards in the country, with truly gorgeous facades showcasing detailed parapet walls in bright blues and chocolate browns.
kathmandu architecture

One of the oldest courtyards in Nepal.

Bending down, we walk through a slender tunnel with a low roof — which I soon learn is common in Kathmandu — and come into an even smaller courtyard where a blue-painted eatery with no sign sits. Three men sit on cushions outside sipping tea, while a local woman, Sarina, seems to spin in circles in her small kitchen, boiling, frying, and mixing ingredients. We’re served strong black tea from boiled tea leaves and, soon after, small plates of potato (aloo) and semolina (suji) are placed in front of us.
nepal woman cooking

Sarina cooking us a delicious breakfast.

semolina and potato

Semolina and potatoes. Very delicious!

The potatoes are boiled and laced with spices before being fried, while the semolina is laced with sugar for a sweet touch. While semolina is a popular ingredient all over the world, different cultures use it in unique ways. In Nepal, semolina is used to make savory foods as well as desserts. There are so many good restaurants in Kathmandu, and this eatery is proof.
kathmandu market

Asam market in the morning.

Strolling The Morning Market In Kathmandu

Once we finish, we’re off to the morning Asan Market, which is only open from 5am to 8am. “Many guests struggle with the early meeting time,” says Sandeep. “But once they see the market they’re glad they came.” The market is chaotic, though the colors, scents, and sounds make me want to stop and linger. Each time I do, I get swallowed by the chaos, but I’m entranced by the sacks brimming with spices, piles of black and pink Himalayan salt, hooks dangling pots, pans, and housewares.
asan market in kathmandu

Asan Market in Kathmandu.

asan market in kathmandu

Local woman selling in Asan Market in Kathmandu.

Colorful garments hang loosely from shop doorways, locals race by in rainbow-colored rickshaws, and women sit on the ground stringing orange flowers together for spiritual purposes. A dog sleeps on the red steps of a temple.
dog sleeping at kathmandu temple

A dog sleeping on temple steps in Kathmandu.

[socialpug_tweet tweet=”Most tourists never get to see this incredible morning market in #Kathmandu. Here is how you can explore it like a local on your visit to #Nepal! ” display_tweet=”Most tourists never get to see this incredible morning market in #Kathmandu. Here is how you can explore it like a local on your visit to #Nepal! “]

Discovering Street Food In Kathmandu

Suddenly, our guides direct us through a seemingly hidden door, and the market chaos immediately goes quiet. Peace. We walk down an alley toward a cart stacked with a circular fried rice bread known as sel roti.
seli roti kathmandu

A street vendor selling *sel roti* in Kathmandu, Nepal

The man has a friendly smile, and he grabs a stack of newspaper and lays it down along a long cement ledge for us to sit. He uses the rest of the newspaper to wrap our roti, which he hands to us with a glass of milk tea.
nepal milk tea

Milk tea in Nepal.

“Ouch!” I shout instinctively, the hot liquid burning my fingers. Sandeep smiles, showing me the correct way to hold the glass; fingertips gently pressing the lip of the glass and on the bottom, as shown in the above photo.
kathmandu secret alleys

We ducked into many secret alleys and passageways during the Kathmandu food tour.

A Spiritual Stop At The Akash Bhairav Temple

With more carbs in our belly, we take a break from food for a cultural stop: The Akash Bhairav Temple. Akash Bhairav, “God of the Sky”, is a Hindu deity. We each take a small butter lamp from a local outside the temple, take off our shoes and walk inside, bending over to light the lamp against others on the floor.
Akash Bhairav Temple

Butter lamps at Akash Bhairav Temple.

Walking clockwise, we stop in front of the statue of Akash Bhairav, where a man takes the candle, touches it to the statue, and hands it back, allowing each person to become more connected to the god. We continue walking clockwise and place the lamp back down. Outside local men come up to us incessantly, asking us to buy everything from mini chess boards to flutes. They promise us a good price, but I can’t close my suitcase as it is. I smile and shake my head. “No thank you.” There is more food to eat.
Akash Bhairav Temple view

View looking out of the Akash Bhairav Temple.

Why You Should Feed The Pigeons, Too

But first: Pigeons. No, not to eat, but to feed and chase. In the square, around the 10th century Seto Machindranath Temple, you’ll find hundreds of pigeons, attracted by the feed thrown to them by locals and visitors, which is sold in shops right in the square.
Pigeons at Pashupatinath Temple in Nepal

Pigeons at Seto Machindranath Temple in Kathmandu.

The strategy here, which can be somewhat controversial, is to get hundreds of pigeons into one place and then run into them, getting them to scatter. When they fly away, the energy from their wings is supposed to transfer to the people underneath. “In Nepal, there is a big focus on nature,” explains Frankey. “Communities feed the street dogs and in return the dogs bark to warn us about strangers. We feed the pigeons to share their energy. ‘Nature culture’ is in every civilization in some way or another. It’s the oldest religion in the world.” Here is a quick video clip of the pigeon-feeding experience:
The temple itself is interesting, too, featuring epitaphs written in a special language only known to those who created them. Seto Machindranath is worshipped by both Hindus and Buddhists as the god of rain and prosperous harvest. On the temple facade, intricate carvings and prayer wheels add to the peace of the place. Afterward, we continue the spiritual stroll around the nearby Shree Gha Stupa, sitting to enjoy a hot lemon tea — lemon in hot water with sugar — before moving on to our next food stop.
Shree Gha Stupa

Shree Gha Stupa.

[socialpug_tweet tweet=”Here is why you *should* feed the pigeons in #Kathmandu. Hint: It’s not the reason you think! #VisitNepal” display_tweet=”Here is why you *should* feed the pigeons in #Kathmandu. Hint: It’s not the reason you think! #VisitNepal”]

Nepal’s Delicious Bread & Curry Culture

At the next food stop, a woman stands in a street-facing window stirring a pot. A plate of unleavened deep-fried puri bread sits in the window.
kathmandu food tour

This photo was taken at one of the stops on my Backstreet Academy Breakfast Tour.

Behind her is another woman with a soft smile holding a sleeping baby, and a young girl of about six stands near her. I can see a garden out the backdoor. Our group crams inside the small eatery, though once seated it feels more cozy than confined. The woman has a huge grin as she passes around various breads for dipping into a spicy dal (chickpea) curry. We’re told this eatery is known for its soups and curries, and after just one bite I can definitely see why.
veggie curry

Spicy dal (chickpea) curry.

Is The Best Nepali Food Sweet?

Nearby, we once again duck into a hidden alley and are taken to our final stop: Shree Kumari, a bakery that has been in the same family for three generations and is 100 years old.
Shree Kumari Bakery

Treats inside Shree Kumari Bakery.

This is where we satisfy that sweet tooth with what I would describe as the Nepalese version of funnel cake. The snack contains three pieces:
  • Jeri (or Jalebi). A deep-fried web-shaped cake dipped in sweet syrup. It is the color of the sugar that’s cooked in for a long time that gives it a yellowish color.
  • Swari. A soft fried flatbread that is used as a tasty vessel to transport the jeri and haluwa to your mouth.
  • Haluwa. A sugar-laced semolina with a soft cookie dough consistency.
These treats come together to create a sweet explosion on the palate. For the first time all morning, our group is silent as we savor the delicious burst of sugar. I’m not sure if I’d eat this for breakfast myself, but it certainly makes for an out-of-this-world dessert. If you’re wondering what to eat in Kathmandu, this treat is a must!
jeri swari haluwa

Jeri swari haluwa — it’s like the Nepali version of funnel cake!

What has been incredible about this tour is it is truly one you wouldn’t be able to do on your own. We dipped into so many hidden alleys and secret doorways I’d never be able to give you accurate directions. We passed chickens pecking atop piles of broken concrete, locals selling their wares around intricate temples and throngs of people, before dipping away from the chaos again and again to make delicious discoveries. Luckily, the Kathmandu Breakfast Tour with Backstreet Academy is extremely budget-friendly, and worth a lot more than the cost of the experience.
kathmandu in the morning

Kathmandu in the morning.

[socialpug_tweet tweet=”This treat is proof #Nepal knows how to do sweets right. Don’t miss it when visiting #Kathmandu! ” display_tweet=”This treat is proof #Nepal knows how to do sweets right. Don’t miss it when visiting #Kathmandu! “]

Why I Love Nepali Food

What I love about exploring a place through food is that it’s an enriching experience in more ways than one. You can satisfy your hunger and ignite your taste buds while also learning about a culture. Every single chef who makes your food, each dish placed in front of you and every ingredient in that dish has a story and can give you deeper insight into the place you’re visiting. Through the above Kathmandu experiences, you will gain a deeper understanding of Nepal culture. And just in case you haven’t watched my Nepali food video yet:

When it comes to where to eat in Kathmandu, what are your top spots?

Do you have a favorite Nepali food tour or cooking class, too?

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The Best Cooking Class and Dishes to try in Kathmandu

About Jessie Festa

Jessie Festa is an New York-based travel content creator who is passionate about empowering her audience to experience new places and live a life of adventure. She is the founder of the solo female travel blog, Jessie on a Journey, and is editor-in-chief of Epicure & Culture, an online conscious tourism magazine. Along with writing, Jessie is a professional photographer and is the owner of NYC Photo Journeys, which offers New York photo tours, photo shoots, and wedding photography. Her work has appeared in publications like USA Today, CNN, Business Insider, Thrillist, and WestJet Magazine.

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4 Comments

  1. Wai on at 7:21 am

    Those Momos look delicious. Did they taste as good as they look?

  2. Valentina Greene on at 7:24 am

    I love your blog. I love reading your posts. They are so good. Your pictures are the best. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Alex Smith on at 7:18 pm

    Very valuable information. Thanks a lot for sharing it

  4. Tash M on at 4:35 am

    I love doing cooking classes and food tour wherever I visit. I’ve had momos in Australia, but would love to try them in Nepal, as well as all the other delicious looking food in this article. Cheers!

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