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Newars tempt tourists’ palates

Food is very closely connected to the ritual and religious life of the Newars (indigenous group of Kathmandu) of Nepal. Be it a marriage, birthday, death anniversary, meat-eating is the central aspect of the occasion, writes Anirban Roy.

world Updated: Dec 13, 2008 23:59 IST
Anirban Roy

Food is very closely connected to the ritual and religious life of the Newars (indigenous group of Kathmandu) of Nepal. Be it a marriage, birthday, death anniversary, or any puja, meat-eating is the central aspect of the occasion.

The great meat-eating tradition of the Newars has now become one of the new attractions for the western tourists to Kathmandu. “Newari food is really delicious, and I don’t like to miss it even for a day,” Malcolm, a tourist from Ireland said.

During the last couple of months, several eating joints, specialising in Newari food, have dotted the tourist district of Kathmandu. And, because of the craze of the western tourists, all the restaurants are doing flourishing business.

Be it for lunch, dinner or afternoon snacks, a large section of western tourists prefer to take breaks from the continental eating habits, and the Newari cuisines are more and more getting popular.

Interestingly, the Newari calendar has a list of feasts which are named after the foods which are prescribed to be eaten. The mouth-watering tang of beer with tauko (boiled or fried pieces of shredded meat of buffalo head) or with bhuton (fry of the intestines of buffalo or lamb) often drag the western tourists to the eating joints every day.

In addition to maintaining the quality of the dishes, the restaurant owners also ensure cleanliness and hygiene to guarantee “good health” to the tourists. Most of them also serve packaged drinking water to all their western customers and speak English.

“The combination of bhuton and tauko fry with chilled beer is an unbelievable combination,” Malcom said, adding that he was introduced to the Newari cuisines by his trekking guide. “I love it,” he said.

In addition to beer and imported alcohol, the Newari restaurants also serve rakshi (local spirit) and thon (milky white beer made from fermented rice). However, the western tourists generally, don’t try the local spirit.

Euphoric Malcom said he would tell all his friends in Ireland who would be visiting the picturesque Himalayan nation in near future to make it a point to visit the Newari restaurants.

Over the years, the Newari cookery has created a wide range of mouth-watering meat preparations.

Like bhuton and tauko, several other Newari dishes like choyla (roasted spicy meat), jibro (buffalo tongue boiled or fried), sekuwa (grilled meat — mutton, duck, chicken or buffalo), sukuti (spicy dried meat roasted on charcoal fire), are also very popular.

“We are thrilled to find that the Newaris make the use of the animals from head to toe, and everything is just lip-smacking,” Michelle, a tourist from Israel said, adding, “I have tasted almost everything.”

Niranjan Pradhan, owner of one of the Newari restaurants said almost all the western tourists have detail knowledge about the Newari food. “They hear about the dishes from their friends, and taste them when they visit Nepal,” he said.

Like the meat dishes, the Newari desserts are also getting popular among the tourists. Juju dhau (creamy curd from Bhaktapur) and sikarni (curd mixed with dried fruits) are very popular.