Fragrant spices, savory vegetables and delectable presentation make Nepalese cuisine just as intriguing as the culturally infused country from which it originates. But many people might have trouble defining what exactly constitutes food from Nepal.
Neerakar Uprety went back to Nepal for a three-week visit in July 2011 after living in the United States for eight years. The Washington resident's goal was to see his home country's meals in a new light. He tried several different foods and shot gorgeous photographs of their presentation.
On his blog, Uprety expresses a bit of frustration - and a lot of pride - regarding Nepal's culinary identity.
"Sometimes when a nation is surrounded by two gigantic masses of land rich in culture and food, it is very easy to forget that a small being even exists, let alone to actually see it as a place where food in its primitive form can be sublime," Uprety writes. "That is the sad story of Nepal. Surrounded by India and China, who mind you have been two giants of the culinary of world, it has always been really hard for Nepal to shine in the world of food."
Through his writing and photography, he hopes to show people the kinds of foods that Nepalese people really eat, and bring awareness of this style of cooking.
One of Uprety's breakfasts consisted of Nepali tea and pakodas, which are vegetables that have been battered and fried. Roti, an unleavened fried bread, is a typical breakfast item as well. Nepalis drink milk tea and may eat a soup made from potatoes, vegetables or legumes.
During the day, Nepalis often consume the staple meal of Dal bhat - a pairing of lentil soup and rice. The meal may also be referred to as Dal bhat tarkari when a spicy vegetable curry known as a tarkari is added. Tomato achar is a popular condiment that may be served with foods, and papad is a kind of cracker-like bread that often garnishes meals.
Uprety shared a photo of his Nepali thali, which is a platter of small amounts of foods. On his plate was a cauliflower tarkari, tomato achar, chicken kabob, rice, lentils and mustard greens. Ordering a thali is a good way to quickly get a feel for Nepali cuisine if you are a first-timer in a restaurant.
One of the most recognizable Nepali foods is the momo, a dumpling filled with minced meat from buffalo, chicken or other animals. Their iconic pursed-pouch shape is instantly recognizable, and they are similar to other kinds of dumplings served in Asia.
Fish curry and chatamari are other popular traditional dishes from Nepal. Chatamari consists of a pancake-like flatbread with toppings - similar to a pizza.
Simply thumbing through all of Uprety's photos is a good way to see the variety of foods that can be made using a few simple styles.
He said that while Nepal does take influences from its neighbors, the taste is all its own. Simple ingredients are prepared specially. He describes a well-made meal as a "miracle on a plate" dating back to his ancestors.
"We combine all the charismatic yet simple ingredients and create a wonder in a plate. It takes a lot of practice and a lot of creativity to make food taste like a Nepali food. Needless to say, my trip to Nepal after eight years showed me how magical and delicious food in Nepal really is."
Have you ever been to Nepal, or are you a fan of the country's cuisine? We'd love to hear from you. We're curious what you would recommend and what you've enjoyed. Share what you think a traveler should eat, and any food-related adventures you've had in the comments area below.
CNN's Destination Adventure series takes a look at great places for eager explorers. Each week, we'll feature favorite regional foods, secrets from the locals and the best photos and stories from readers. Have you been to Nepal? Share your story with CNN iReport. And for our final week of Destination Adventure fun, we'll take a look at the Galapagos Islands. Yes, they do have a foodie scene there.
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