Vegan in Nepal: Yasmina Redbod’s Experience + Recipe

“I spent eight months last year in Nepal on an English Language Teaching Scholarship Program. The first month – trainings in Kathmandu, the remaining seven – a small village 2 hours from the capital, where I taught at a local school.

The host family I stayed with was incredibly generous and hospitable. My “Nepalese father” worked as a civil servant, and my mother was a housewife who looked after two charming daughters and an elderly grandmother. I’m very lucky that I ended up in a family that eats very little meat! Despite the fact that the cow is a sacred animal here, its milk is considered essential for both adults and children. Most Nepalese families have at least one bull and one cow on their farm. This family, however, did not have any livestock, and bought milk and yogurt from suppliers.

My Nepalese parents were very understanding when I explained the meaning of the word “vegan” to them, although relatives, neighbors and an older grandmother regarded my diet as extremely unhealthy. Vegetarians are ubiquitous here, but the exclusion of a dairy product is a fantasy for many. My “mom” tried to convince me that cow’s milk is necessary for development (calcium and all), the same belief is ubiquitous among Americans.

In the morning and in the evening I ate a traditional dish (lentil stew, spicy side dish, vegetable curry and white rice), and took lunch with me to school. The hostess is very traditional and did not allow me not only to cook, but even to touch anything in the kitchen. A vegetable curry usually consisted of sautéed lettuce, potatoes, green beans, beans, cauliflower, mushrooms, and many other vegetables. Almost everything is grown in this country, so a wide variety of vegetables is always available here. Once I was allowed to cook for the whole family: it happened when the owner harvested avocados, but did not know how to cook them. I treated the whole family to guacamole made from avocados! Some of my vegan colleagues were not so lucky: their families ate chicken, buffalo or goat at every meal!

Kathmandu was within walking distance of us and that really mattered, especially when I had food poisoning (three times) and gastroenteritis. Kathmandu has 1905 Restaurant serving organic fruits and vegetables, falafel, roasted soybeans, hummus and vegan German bread. Brown, red and purple rice are also available.

There is also Green Organic Café – quite expensive, it offers everything fresh and organic, you can order vegan pizza without cheese. Soups, brown rice, buckwheat momo (dumplings), vegetable and tofu cutlets. Although the alternative to cow’s milk is rare in Nepal, there are a couple of places in Thameli (a tourist area in Kathmandu) that do offer soy milk.

Now I would like to share a recipe for a simple and fun Nepalese snack – roasted corn or popcorn. This dish is popular among the Nepalese especially in September-October, during the harvest season. To prepare bhuteko makai, brush the sides of a pot with oil and pour the bottom with oil. Lay the corn kernels, salt. When the grains begin to crack, stir with a spoon, cover tightly with a lid. After a few minutes, mix with soybeans or nuts, serve as a snack.

Usually, Americans do not cook lettuce, but only add it to sandwiches or other dishes raw. Nepalese people often prepare a salad and serve it hot or cold with bread or rice.

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