When you’re in Nepal, it’s likely that you’ll be eating dal bhat each and every day, so it’s a great thing that dal baht makes a wonderful well-rounded meal.
What is Dal Bhat?
Dal, which is similar to the Indian staple, is normally a lentil soup.
In Nepal it’s often thin, more of a soupy consistency than a curry. Bhat refers to a type of starch, which normally means rice, but can mean another form of starch if no rice happens to be available.
Together the combination of dal and bhat forms the most basic and widely eaten staple meal in Nepal. Locals will often eat two or even three meals of dal bhat per day.
Items like fried bread are sometimes eaten for a Nepali breakfast, but later on in the day, dal bhat is most common.
Though just rice and lentil soup is the most basic form, most of the time you’ll also be served whatever vegetable is on hand, a dish referred to as tarkari.
Sometimes I was served fresh stir fried green vegetables, other times it was potatoes and onions, or cauliflower curry.
It’s really up to the vendor and the season what kind of vegetable is served.
You don’t really request a certain vegetable, but just ask for tarkari and see what shows up on your plate – and luckily whatever it is, it will be good.
Achar sauce, a simple freshly ground chili sauce, is also a standardly served item along with any dal bhat meal.
I had many different varieties while eating in Nepal, so I think it’s just up to the particular vendor to decide which version and what ingredients to use.
Some of the chili paste sauces were tomato based and red in color while others seemed to be full of herbs and green. All of them added extra wonderful flavor to my rice and vegetables.
Along with the achar, a few raw vegetables like tomatoes, red onions, and cucumber slices are commonly served as a garnish.
If you’re in need of extra protein, you can normally order a side dish of meat curry or fried chicken.
I especially enjoyed a vegetarian dal bhat accompanied by a plate of a dish known as chilly chicken – deep fried pieces of chicken coated in marvelous tangy sauce and garnished with onions and herbs.
A dal bhat meal in Nepal is often served on a heavy metal plate, and the soup is placed in a metal cup.
I was surprised that even at some real budget street restaurants, I was still served this on top of a nice, high quality plate. I loved the presentation.
Traditionally, meals are eaten with your fingers, but if you ask for a spoon and fork, they’ll probably find one for you.
I, however, think that eating dal baht with your fingers adds to the delicious experience. You can easily mix and match bits of food with your fingers before taking a perfect bite.
Step into many hole in the wall restaurants in Nepal and you’ll be greeted by smiling faces and have an opportunity to ask for a plate of dal bhat. The vendor will be happy to serve you and reward you with a piping hot and satisfying meal.
Yet another great thing about eating dal bhat is that the vendor will normally serve you as many helpings of extra rice and vegetarian dishes as you can handle.
In Nepal you’ll eat plenty of dal bhat, so it’s a good thing it’s such a delicious and nutritious staple meal!