Dal Bhat Power, 24 Hour
Dal Bhat is the national dish of Nepal and anyone who comes to Nepal, eats the dal bhat. For those new to the taste sensation of dal bhat, it literally means lentils and rice. The vast majority of Nepali people eat it for breakfast, again for lunch and you guessed it, again for dinner. Trekkers who come to Nepal will most certainly have it for every meal of their trek. There is saying in Nepali “Dal Bhat power 24 hour”. I am told it’s the best hangover food too!
To explain how monotonous (to a foreigner) dal bhat can be, let’s dissect it. At its core, dal bhat is a heaping of rice, side of lentil soup, cooked greens (saag) and some play on potatoes (curried or oozing with turmeric). Nicer Nepali restaurants have more options such as chana masala (spicy chickpeas), fresh yogurt, various meats (all with bones) and Nepali style pickles (not at all like US counterparts). Dal bhat is the best right after the monsoon (Oct/Nov/Dec) as the rains have produced a wide variety of vegetables options such as green beans and egg plant.
Nepal’s less affluent and rural population that survive on less than $1500 a year, about 30% of the population, exist on the most basic of dal bhat preparations. This is a meal void of frills like meat or yogurt and true to the dal bhat’s center of rice and lentil soup.
Dal Bhat does have its advantages. It’s served in every restaurant and café and it’s all you can eat! Dhai’s (younger brother in Nepali) will come around with heaping bowls and refill your plate to your heart’s content. The entire dal bhat experience will set you back anywhere from $1 to $2.50 at nicer establishments.
While its nucleus is the same, dal bhat is cooked in a variety of different ways according to the region, time of year and ‘white table cloth’ aspect of the place you are eating. No matter if you only try it once or become a local and dine on it everyday, it is always a culinary adventure eating it.