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Rice and Grains

Grain, preferably rice, provides 90% of the calories in the national diet. Rice's fundamental role is underscored by the language: daal bhaat is khaanaa, "food," and a common greeting is "Bhaat khaayo?"--literally, "Have you eaten rice?"

Rice is a high-status dish and remains the favorite food in lower regions where it's plentiful. In the dry higher Hills it's often a luxury; where it is available it must be portered in and is consequently more expensive. Roasted flour (sattu or tsampa) is the staple food here, made from local grains: maize, wheat, millet, barley, buckwheat. The main food of most Hill families is dhiro, a cooked mush of maize or millet flour eaten alone, with fried vegetables, or with a thin soup. Grinding the family's daily flour supply on a hand-operated stone mill is one of a housewife's time-consuming tasks.

Among the highland Bhotia the staple is Tibetan tsampa, ground roasted barley flour, just as in Tibet. Eminently portable, it requires no cooking--just mix with tea and perhaps a little dried cheese and eat. In highland mountain regions like the Sherpa homeland of Khumbu, the staff of life is boiled potatoes, peeled and eaten with salt and a relish of pounded chilis and garlic. This is much better than it sounds, as high-altitude potatoes are marvellously tasty. Sherpa women often make rigi kur, delicious crispy potato pancakes served with a big lump of yak butter.

Eating In Nepal
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