Nepal’s National Dish: Nepalese Dal Bhat Facts and Recipe

Last updated on June 5th, 2024 at 09:05 am

Dal Bhat, a staple dish in Nepal, is more than just food. It’s a symbol of Nepalese culture and tradition. This hearty meal, often consumed twice daily by locals, offers a glimpse into the country’s rich culinary heritage.

Our team at Remitly created this guide as part of our series that celebrates the traditional foods of our global customers.

Continue reading to learn more about this fascinating dish and enjoy a simple recipe for you to make Dal Bhat at home.

The Ingredients of Nepalese Dal Bhat

The primary components of Dal Bhat are lentil soup (dal) and rice (bhat). However, it doesn’t stop there. A typical serving also includes vegetable curry or tarkari, pickles or achar, and sometimes meat.

The ingredients vary based on region and seasonality, but always aim to provide a balanced diet.

Lentils used for dal can be red, yellow or black depending on personal preference and regional availability.

Rice is usually white, but brown rice is also used occasionally.

Tarkari can include any seasonal vegetables like potatoes, cauliflower, spinach or green beans cooked with spices.

Nepalese Dal Bhat

A Simple Nepalese Dal Bhat Recipe

Cooking Dal Bhat at home is a rewarding experience. It allows you to explore Nepalese cuisine and create a balanced, flavorful meal. Here’s a basic recipe to get you started.

Ingredients

For the Dal:

  • 1 cup lentils (red, yellow, or black)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  •  2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste

To make the Bhat:

  • 2 cups rice (white or brown)

For the Tarkari:

  •  Mixed vegetables of your choice (potatoes, cauliflower, spinach, green beans)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Spices: cumin seeds, coriander powder and turmeric

Optional: Pickles for serving

Instructions

  1. Rinse lentils thoroughly and boil until soft.
  2. In another pan, sauté onions with cumin seeds until golden brown.
  3. Add garlic and ginger paste to the onions and cook for another minute.
  4. Mix in cooked lentils with turmeric and salt—your dal is ready.
  5. For bhat: rinse rice under cold water until water runs clear, then steam until fully cooked.
  6. For tarkari: sauté onions in a pan with spices before adding your chosen vegetables—cook until tender.
  7. Serve dal over rice with tarkari on the side—add pickles if desired.

Variations of Dal Bhat Across Nepal

While the basic elements remain consistent—lentil soup and rice—Dal Bhat varies across Nepal due to regional influences and available ingredients.

In Terai plains where agriculture thrives thanks to fertile soil, you’ll find more variety in tarkari including okra or eggplant.

In mountainous regions where farming conditions are harsher due to cold weather and rocky terrain, Dal Bhat is simpler. It often includes potatoes and leafy greens that can withstand the climate.

Serving and Eating Etiquette

Dal Bhat is traditionally served in a thali—a round metal tray with small bowls for each component. The dal is poured over rice while tarkari and pickles are placed on the side. Meat, if included, also has its own spot on the tray.

Eating etiquette involves using your right hand to mix the dal with rice before scooping it into your mouth. This method allows you to experience all flavors simultaneously—an integral part of enjoying Dal Bhat.

Historical Background of Dal Bhat

The history of Dal Bhat traces back centuries in Nepal. Its simplicity and nutritional value made it a favored meal among farmers who needed energy for long hours in fields.

Over time, it became ingrained in Nepalese culture as a symbol of hospitality and community.

While there’s no specific date marking its origin, references to lentils and rice in ancient scriptures suggest that this combination has been part of South Asian diets for millennia.

Today, Dal Bhat continues to be a culinary tradition passed down through generations.

Influence on Nepalese Daily Life

Dal Bhat plays an essential role in daily life across Nepal—from city dwellers to rural communities. It’s not uncommon for locals to consume this meal twice daily—once mid-morning and again in early evening—providing sustenance throughout their day.

Beyond nutrition, preparing and sharing Dal Bhat fosters a sense of community among families and neighbors alike. It’s more than just food—it’s an opportunity for social interaction, bonding over shared meals.

Dal Bhat in Nepalese Festivals and Celebrations

Festivals are an integral part of Nepalese culture—and so is Dal Bhat. During celebrations like Dashain and Tihar, families gather to share this meal, often with added delicacies like mutton curry or fried fish.

Even in weddings and religious ceremonies, Dal Bhat holds a special place. It’s not just about feeding guests—it’s about honoring tradition and sharing the joy of togetherness through food.

Exploring Broader Nepalese Cuisine

Nepalese cuisine offers more than just Dal Bhat—it’s an array of flavors influenced by its diverse geography and neighboring countries like India, Tibet, Bhutan, and China.

Momo: The Beloved Dumpling

A popular dish often enjoyed as a snack or meal across Nepal. These steamed dumplings are filled with minced meat or vegetables and served with a spicy tomato-based sauce.

Gundruk: Fermented Leafy Greens

It is a traditional dish made from fermented leafy greens. It’s typically used in soups or side dishes, offering a tangy flavor that complements other dishes.

Thukpa: Nourishing Noodle Soup

Thukpa, borrowed from Tibetan cuisine, is a hearty noodle soup. It’s typically made with meat, vegetables, and noodles—perfect for cold Himalayan winters.

Sel Roti: Festive Rice Bread

Sel roti is a sweet, ring-shaped rice bread prepared during festivals like Dashain and Tihar. It’s deep-fried to golden perfection and enjoyed as a snack or dessert.

Nepalese cuisine reflects the country’s rich cultural diversity and agricultural abundance. From hearty Dal Bhat to delicate momos, each dish tells a story of tradition, community and culinary ingenuity.

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