Is vegetarian food available on a trek in Nepal?
Is vegetarian food available on a trek in Nepal?! The answer is a resounding yes – it is very easy to trek and travel in Nepal as a vegetarian. Daal-Bhat, our national food, is the best source of calories that are essential for the daily grind of trekking. Most Nepalis eat Daal-Bhat at least once a day. After all, the saying goes “Daal-Bhat power, 24 hour”. Daal-Bhat can be served either with or without meat.
Restaurants in Kathmandu and Pokhara have many vegetarian options. Fresh salad greens were once popular with expatriates and tourists only. But they are now very popular even among youngsters and are available in the swanky restaurants around town. Note, the local ‘low-end” restaurants will serve sliced carrots, onions and raddish if you ask for a salad. While fresh salad greens may not be available at all places at high altitude, most places will serve cooked Saag as tarkari (literal translation – vegetable) along with Daal-Bhat (Rice and lentils). Saag in Nepal can be mustard greens, kale collard greens, spinach, amaranth and other greens and is either cooked alone or along with potatoes.
On the trek in the Everest and Annapurna region:
In the Everest region, the abbot of Tengboche monastery has decreed that animals must not be slaughtered near the monastery. Thus, the Sherpas will not allow animal slaughter above Namche Bazaar. Similarly the Annapurna Sanctuary area (beyond Chomrong) on the Annapurna Base Camp Trek is considered a sanctuary for the Gurung gods and ancestors and here too animal slaughter is forbidden. Hence, all meat available in the higher regions on these treks are from animals that have been slaughtered at a village lower and then brought over. The meat is thus days old and in some cases weeks old. This is why we discourage our trekkers from eating meat on these treks unless the meat is canned. Anyways, there are a lot of vegetarian food available on a trek in Nepal. Here’s a list:
- Oatmeal Porridge
- Tsampa Porridge
- Eggs: hard boiled, omelet, sunny side up etc. (Some places will serve omelets with cheese, mushroom, onions, tomatoes etc.)
- Tibetan bread
Lunch and Dinner:
- Daal-Bhat-Tarkari (Lentils, Rice and Vegetables with pickles)
- Different kinds of soup (vegetable, mushroom, garlic etc). Most are from a packet but some such as garlic are fresh.
- Sandwich (Egg, Cheese and Tomato)
- Vegetarian Momo (stuffing could include cabbage, cheese, carrots, onions etc)
- Vegetarian Sherpa Stew (With saag, carrots and cabbage)
- Vegetarian Thukpa
- Vegetarian Pizza (mushroom, tomatoes, cheese)
- Fried or boiled potatoes. Or hash brown potatoes.
- Vegetarian noodles (With saag, carrots, onions and cabbage)
- Vegetarian macaroni (With saag, carrots, tomatoes and cabbage)
- Vegetarian spring roll (With saag, carrots and cabbage)
- Vegetarian Pakora
- Anything from the breakfast menu
The above diet will also work for Vegans – obviously eggs will have to be removed. Note, most milk available at high altitudes is NOT fresh milk but instead processed powdered milk.
Other specific diets:
Those on a gluten-free diet will also have a difficult time on a lodge trek. They can however be easily accommodated on a camping trek which will have its own cook crew. The cook crew can bring and prepare rice and different types of bread from rice and corn/millet/buckwheat flour. Nowadays noodles made from millet/buckwheat flour are also available in Kathmandu. While on a trek, do try the dhindo, another Nepali staple that’s prepared by adding flour (usually millet or buckwheat) to boiling water while stirring continuously.
Those on a strict Keto, Paleo, Dukan etc diet will have a harder time on treks in Nepal as our staples include either grains (rice, barley etc) or potatoes. Also, ours is not a heavy meat-eating culture. We recently had a client who trekked the Ultimate Everest Trek and who was on a Keto diet. He tried hard to stay on a strict Keto diet eating lots of eggs (about 6 a day), cheese, vegetables and meat but soon did switch to eating Daal Bhat (but mostly without the bhat – rice) and vegetarian momos.
Intermittent fasting too may not be a great idea while trekking at high altitude. The energy demands of the body on a rigorous trek may just be too high to sustain a fast without a negative effects especially at altitude.