Regardless of where you are, as long as you have a T.V or a net connection you must have heard about Newari foods and how Delicious they are. Some of you know this to be true, some of you disagree. Being a Newari myself, I know that there are some foods that are not “Normal”. Some of them make even me feel weird. Regardless of that, there are a few of the foods that you must try. A lot of them are quite simple ones.
This is because the Newari culture in its core is a farming culture. Sure there are traders and businessmen here but going back, a lot of newars were farmers, and over time, farmers saturated the culture so much that other trades were few. This meant that those who did other trades were fewer than farmers but at the same time, had more importance as well. Because of the dominance in numbers, a lot of Newari cuisines that are famous today were created by the farmers and due to this reason, they are rather simple.
This does not mean that they are any less delicious though. Without any further delay, let’s talk about food.
1 Haku Chowela (हाकु च्वेला)
This is one of those popular foods that you hear about every time Newari food is mentioned. If we break down the name, the name explains what this food is in itself. Haku means Black and chowela is a combination of two words. The two words being “Chuyatau” meaning roasted and “laa” meaning meat”. Combine all of these and you get the meaning “black roasted meat”. The process is simple as well. All you have to do is roast buffalo meat till it is charred on the surface, let it cool down and mix it with spices and marinate it for a while.
This food is among the spicy foods that Newari eat and the specialty is in the spices that are mixed. There is of course salt, cumin, chilly flakes, and turmeric but after that, it all depends on where you eat this food. Each family has its own variations and as a result, it tastes different at every place.
2 Sapu Mhicha: (संपू म्हिचा:)
Now let’s talk about this tasty but weird dish. Again like many dishes, you can know what the dish is through its name. “Sapu” means “bone marrow” and “mhicha” means pocket/purse. This dish is basically bone marrow mixed with spices and stuffed into the thin skin of buffalo and deep-fried. The bone marrow becomes a jelly inside after being fried while the skin becomes crunchy. Once you bite through the skin, the insides come bursting forth with flavors that cannot be explained. It tastes soft and mellow but you can taste the spices at the same time. This is a bit of a rare dish as bone marrow is hard to find and buy in Nepal but if you do find this, be sure to taste it.
Note* it tastes way better than it looks.
3 Senla/Muula (सेंला/मू:ला)
No this is not a foul word in Newari. Commonly called Senla this dish can be said to be one of the simplest dishes in Newari cuisine. This dish is too often confused with chowela as well because of how similar they look. The difference is in the taste as this is more savory and the texture is softer as well. The word “Sen” means liver and “la” means meat. Similarly, the word “muu” also means the liver as well. The name depends on where you eat this dish but it is the same. This is a rather simple one as all you have to do is to steam livers and then saute it. The difference is again the spices that come into play. Mostly this is the earth with a bit of salt, cumin, and garlic/ginger juice and taken as a snack while drinking.
4 Chhyalcha/Panchkol (छ्याल्चा/पंच्कोल)
This food is somewhat rarely seen in the cafes and Newari food stations. The variation, Alu Tama is almost everywhere though but let’s talk about Panchkol/Chhyalcha first. As the name suggests this dish has 5 main ingredients. Them being potato, radish, beans, garlic, and ginger. It is safe to say that you can find garlic and ginger in a lot of Newari dishes. With their 5 main ingredients, this is made into a thick soup and served hot. The thing is, this is a festive dish and is not eaten a lot. Mostly this dish is eaten during parties and other cultural events. The variation. Alu Tama, however, is eaten almost all year around. The only difference is that ginger, garlic, and radish are replaced by bamboo shoots (Tama). The preparation method is the same. Throw everything into water, add spices, and let it boil for a while.
5 Lakhmari / Chakumari (लाख्मरी /चकुमरी)
Taking a break from spicy dishes for a while, let’s talk about the Lakhmari. Lakhmari/ Chakumari is a Newari sweet that is famous in the entire Kathmandu Valley. The name says it again, “Chaku” means “sweet” and “Mari” means “bread”. This sweet is prepared by deep-frying a dough of rice flour, butter, and sugar and then lightly dipping it in sugar syrup. The sizes can vary and you can even find one as big as a human’s face. Do note that it can be a bit hard to bite as the sugar coating will be hardened. Despite being deep-fried and having butter, this is not as fatty as you might think because the oil is not really absorbed into the flour due to the sugar mixture. This does have heavy cholesterol so be a bit careful while eating this.
6 Chatamari (चतांमरी)
Sticking to “Mari”s let’s talk about the most famous dishes of Newari culture. Also known as “Newari Pizza” the dish is quite famous and varies in the recipe. The base is the same regardless. All you have to do is mix water and rice flour till it is a thick liquid, heat up a pan and rub a bit of oil, and then pour the mix while thinning it out with a cup or anything. Just like pizza, you can add whatever toppings you want, be it beans, egg or meat. You can even add pepperoni and pickles if you want as well as there are virtually no rules in this dish besides the base. Traditional toppings are keema (minced meat) and egg but as mentioned before, there are virtually no rules here.
7. Yomari (यमरी)
One of the most famous dishes of Newari culture, you most likely know what Yomari is. It is a dumpling of rice flour inside which has different fillings. The most common fillings are Chaku (sugar molasses) and “khuwa”. The recipe is quite simple as well just like all of the mentioned dishes. All you have to do is make a dough and turn it into a specific shape before filling in the fillings.
Having a peculiar shape that resembles a “Sankha” this dish is considered as a sign of good luck. One lesser-known fact is the name of the dish. Originally eaten during “Matina Paaru” which is known as the valentines of Newari, the name shares the same concept. The name is a combination of two words “Ya:” being a synonym of “Matina” meaning “love” and “Mari” meaning “bread”.
8. Wo (Wa:) (व:)
A dish often mistaken for another similar dish “baara”, wo is again, one of the simplest dishes and the most delicious dish as well. To put it simply this dish is a lentil patty. Pulses like “Musur” or “mugh beans” are minced, mixed with water, and a bit of spice and lightly fried. Among the spices, ginger and garlic juice is a must. You can add other spices according to your wish but do not add pepper or chilly. This dish is not meant to be spicy. Additionally, there are other variations like “khen wo” (egg wo), “laa: wa” (meat wo”. The only difference is that these ingredients like meat and eggs are mixed while making this dish.
Note* wa is not bara. Bara is a deep-fried lentil dish while wo is lightly fried. Additionally, Bara has a hole in between but wo is just a patty.
9. Ta:kha/Nyakhuna (त:खा /न्याखुना)
Going back to the meat, Takha and Nyakhuna are some of the delicacies in Newari cuisine. It is safe to say that this is simply spicy meat jelly. To make it clear what this dish is, it is a meat soup that has coagulated into a jelly. The buffalo meat is boiled with spices till it is as thick as it can get while still being watery and then left overnight to coagulate until it is a jelly. The coagulating agent varies but mostly it is “Jhamsi” which is something like a hybrid between “mosam/mosambi” and lemon. The soup is left overnight and once it is jellified, it is served. The only difference between Nyakhuna and takha is that of soup. The meat is buffalo meat but in Nyakhuna the soup is a fish soup with small dried fishes.
Note*Takha also has one other variation “Palu takha” which is basically a hotter version of Takha with more chilly flakes and redder in color.
10. Samaybaji (समय्बजी)
This is one of those Newari foods that have a lot of cultural importance. For one, it is considered as a “prasad” regardless of where you eat this. The name also has a big significance as well. “Samay” means “time” and “Baji” means “beaten rice”. With these two having a huge impact on a person’s life, this is taken as a sign of good luck. The receipt is as with every cuisine here, rather simple. Like with Panchkol this dish has a few key ingredients. They are beaten rice, black beans, fried and spiced spinach, chowela, boiled and spiced potato, and a small piece of ginger. There are variations of this as well and they depend on which occasion this food is taken.
If you want to learn more about Newari culture, why don’t you check out our list of “10 Newari cultures I bet you didn’t knew before” as well.