Nepali Newari Food – Introduction to the Stimulating Flavors of Samay Baji

By Mark Wiens 4 Comments
Newari Food in Nepal
Newari Food in Nepal

Before arriving to Nepal, I had never heard of Newari food (and as you can guess, I also had NO idea what it was).

If you have never visited Nepal or known someone from Nepal, you likely haven’t heard of it either…

I’m here to tell you that Newari food is incredible, it is in my opinion a cuisine worthy of being served at restaurants throughout the world.

From the few meals I was able to eat in Nepal, I fell in love with Newari cuisine!

Newari food, and a plate of chicken momos as well
Newari food, and a plate of chicken momos as well

What is Newari Food?

Newari food is under the larger umbrella of Nepali food, but it’s from the specific Kathmandu Valley region. The indigenous Newa people, also known as Newars, are the group of people that have fine tuned this world class cuisine into some truly magical flavors.

The Newari people, just like so many other cultures throughout Asia, take food extremely seriously. That’s why I love living and traveling in Asia so much – food is such a huge part of the culture.

According to an article by We All Nepal, there are three different categories of Newari food: daily meals, snacks, and feasts. I love that, no more breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but simply meals, snacks, and feasts!

Within the Kathmandu Valley, local Newars have frequent traditional celebrations and festivals where food plays a major role. Lots of people gather together to celebrate and to partake of Newari food together.

Newari cuisine consists of many different dishes, many of which are cooked with a generous amount of spices like cumin, turmeric, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, chilies, and mustard oil and seeds.

Vegetables like potatoes, chickpeas, eggplant, cauliflower, lentils, bitter melon, and mustard greens are common. For meat, buffalo is most common and most beloved, but chicken, goat, and dried fish, are also common. The Newari staple is beaten rice, known as baji or chiura.

Newari food (video) is intensely flavored with a delicious array of spices and my taste buds rejoiced with every bite.

Newari Food - Samay Baji
Newari Food – Samay Baji

Samay Baji – Newari Meal

During my initial stay in Kathmandu, I was staying at a hotel in the Thamel backpacker district. Similar to Bangkok’s Khao San Road, the area is not my favorite, packed with tourists and services they require. I prefer to be far removed from the hostel districts of cities and focus more on local areas, and food.

But even within touristy areas there are occasional gems to be found, one of them being Shree Trishakti Newari Restaurant, located at the back of a seemingly half constructed little Jyatha Complex shopping mall, right off Amrit Marg (parallel to Thamel).

Having just arrived in Nepal, I ordered whatever the friendly lady vendor wanted to serve me, and after researching what I ate later online, I discovered it was a plate of samay baji.

Everything looked and smelled incredible, and the dishes were all prepared and displayed just like Malaysian nasi campur or Thai khao gaeng.

She prepared my plate by first adding a few handfuls of the baji (flattened beaten rice). Then from the series of prepared dishes she added a mixtures of items. Curried potatoes and other spicy vegetables, fried soybeans (bhatmas), and the highlight of my plate, a scoop of curried buffalo meat.

The beaten rice was crunchy like uncooked whole grain oats, but it was slightly crispier. At first I was a little puzzled that I was being served raw crunchy rice, but due to its thinness, it surprisingly broke down effortlessly with a few chews.

Mixing bites of baji with the variety of curries and an occasional piece of meaty buffalo was a truly memorable meal. Samay baji is loaded with exciting flavors and a unique set of dishes.

Shree Trishakti Newari Restaurant in Kathmandu, Nepal
Shree Trishakti Newari Restaurant in Kathmandu, Nepal

There are many places to eat Newari food in Kathmandu, but the first place I went, conveniently located near Thamel street, is Shree Trishakti Newari Restaurant. It’s quite a local restaurant, and you’ll find delicious food there!

The restaurant is right below Man Tang Hong Hot Pot, an excellent Chinese restaurant where I also ate numerous meals in Kathmandu.

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