Want to travel vegan in Nepal? No worries, we got you.
Nepal is one of the most beautiful and friendliest countries in the world. We’d go back there again and again if we could! It was our the first stop on our travels so it holds a special place in our hearts. This wonderful country offers amazing scenery, wildlife, treks, friendly people and most importantly, delicious food! If you want to know if it is possible to travel vegan in Nepal, read on.
Some facts about Nepal
Officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, this small country borders China in the North and India in the South. It also contains a large part of the Himalaya Mountains, which is why it is a popular destination for hiking, trekking and mountaineering. The capital city is the busy and chaotic Kathmandu, home to over 1.5 million people. The country is predominantly Hindu, but is also home to many Buddhists and Muslims.
Nepal hit the headlines in 2015 when it was rocked by a series of earthquakes in which around 8500 people died and many many more were injured. Many of the popular spots in Nepal rely on tourism for their income, so these places were hit doubly hard by a drop in visitor numbers after the earthquakes. Luckily, numbers are on the increase again now – Nepal and its people are bouncing back quickly and keen for the world to know that they are still open for business.
National dishes which are vegan friendly
Seriously, we cannot stress this enough. If you haven’t tried these delicious little dumplings you are missing out. Found in Tibet and Nepal, they are similar to Japanese Gyoza. They are made from a vegan-friendly dough of flour and water. The fillings are traditionally meaty, but don’t worry, we found veggie momos available as well, pretty much everywhere we went. They do occasionally contain cheese, so you may wish to double check before ordering. The veggie options are usually filled with finely chopped vegetables such as carrot and cabbage. They can be fried or steamed, and are mostly served with a really tasty spicy tomato dipping sauce.
It’s little wonder that shops in Pokhara and Nepal sell T-Shirts emblazoned with the phrase “Dal Bhat Power 24 Hour” – this amazing dish keeps Nepalis and trekkers alike fuelled up. You might be familiar with the humble lentil dal, but this takes it to a whole new level. Usually a platter of dal bhat comprises a thick dal, a mountain of fluffy rice and a dish of spicy pickles. You’ll often get a portion or two of different vegetable curries included too, and sometimes a flatbread or poppadom. Just ask for no dairy and they’ll hold off on the yoghurt dip. Most places will even come round and top your plate up with seconds, so this filling and nutritious dish really will keep you going for hours.
This vegetable noodle soup is served almost everywhere. It’s simply a spicy broth with mixed veggies and noodles, but its tasty and filling, and will warm you up of an evening when you’re halfway up a mountainside in a chilly lodge! You can pretty much always get vegetable soup without noodles as well. Further up the mountain trails these are quite likely to be instant noodle soups rather than homemade so don’t go expecting gourmet, but it does the job.
Yes, OK, this has ‘Tibetan’ in the name and so probably isn’t a national dish, but hey, it’s available all over Nepal too. More to the point, it’s delicious. They make this flatbread with flour, water, baking powder and salt. Then it is cooked in a frying pan with a dash of oil. We ate it with jam for breakfast, which was amazing.
What about trekking?
If you’re trekking, you’ll either be doing a teahouse trek or a camping trek. For the former, you will be staying in teahouses or lodges along the way. These have warm beds and hot food, which are so welcome after a day of hiking. If you’re braving the latter, then you’ll have to carry all your food and cook it yourself (rather you than us!). The teahouses usually sell dal bhat, noodle soups and veggie curry, so you’re pretty much sorted. You will need to bring snacks for along the way though. Larger towns (such as the trekker & backpacker hotspot of Pokhara) have plenty of shops where you can load up on things like granola bars, nuts, dried fruit and crackers.
Some of our favourite vegan friendly places
Kathmandu is full of cute, family run places selling fresh momos or huge platters of dal bhat. Our favourite place was Thakali Kitchen. Just take our advice and go for places which are busy with locals and families.
Pokhara is something of a backpacker haven – perfect if you are trying to travel vegan in Nepal! Our absolute favourite place though is a tiny local joint called Asian Tea House. They have a huge menu, but everyone goes there for the gigantic portions of amazing home cooked dal bhat, served up by the friendly owner and his family. We also recommend OR2K for healthy salads, wraps, breakfasts and great falafel (they also have a branch in Kathmandu).
As always, the Happy Cow website/app is a fantastic source of info on veggie/vegan restaurants.
Useful phrases if you are trying to travel vegan in Nepal
Vegan: शाकाहारी (pronounced Śākāhārī)
I am vegan: म शाकाहारी हुँ (pronounced Ma śākāhārī hum̐)
I do not eat: म खान छैन (pronounced Ma khāna chaina)
Meat: मासु (Māsu)
Fish: माछा (Māchā)
Milk: दूध (Dūdha)
Butter: मक्खन (Makkhana)
Yoghurt: दही (Dahī)
Eggs: अन्डा (Anḍā)
A note on tap water
It is not safe to drink the tap water in Nepal. Trust us, we speak from experience! (David got a three day tummy bug just from using tap water to brush his teeth on a trek in Nepal several years ago!) You can buy bottled water sure, but there is a more environmental solution, one which will not only help save the planet but also save you money in the long run. We swear by our Water-to-Go filter bottles which have saved us both money and a huge pile of unwanted plastic bottles. Using technology originally designed for NASA, these awesome bottles can filter out 99.9% of bacteria, making the tap water on your travels safe to drink again, wherever you are! If this sounds cool to you, you can visit the Water-to-Go website and enter the code NOFIXEDHOME at the checkout to get a 15% discount on your own Water-to-Go bottle!
Infographic – travel vegan in Nepal
You can pin our handy infographic of useful tips on how to travel vegan in Nepal. Yay!
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