What is Dal Bhat?
Dal bhat is the traditional Nepali food of locals and trekkers in the Himalayas. On both of our Himalayan treks, Annapurna Base Camp and Everest Region, we ate dal bhat most days, either for lunch or dinner. The Dal Bhat recipe consists of lentil soup (the dal), and boiled rice (the bhat), with varied side dishes which may include steamed vegetables, vegetable curry, popadoms, pickle and curd.
Dal Bhat for Trekkers
The dish is great for trekkers as it is always vegetarian, often vegan (depending on what oil or fat is used and the presence/ absence of curd) and contains plenty of carbs, protein, fluid, vitamins and minerals. It’s filling and delicious and if you’re particularly hungry, dal baht almost always comes with free second helpings.
Cooking Dal Bhat
Dal isn’t quick to cook, but the Sherpa and Tibetan people of the mountains normally have pressure cookers to speed things along. Different types of lentils can be used, but we found that mixed green, red and black lentils gave the best flavour.
The dal soup, when cooked, is a thin soup, not a thick curry.
I’m a Chef, so the recipe below is a rough one and open to your own interpretation. Recipes are never exact in my kitchen and we ring the changes according to seasonality and how we feel on the day.
Other Nepali Dishes
There are plenty of other delicious and interesting dishes to try in Nepal. Below, you will find our full guide.
Chef’s Picks For Nepal
Dal Bhat Recipe
As I said above, this is a rough guide recipe, just to give you an idea of what goes into a Nepali Dal Bhat. For 2 people you will need roughly the amounts below, don’t be affraid to substitute and make the dish your own. Preparation time will be around 40 minutes
Ingredients in a Typical Dal Bhat
- 1 cup red lentils (masoor dal) , mixed, green or brown lentils.
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed.
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
- ¾ teaspoon of sea salt ( Himalayan pink salt would be extra authentic1)
- pepper to taste
- ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder, or fresh if you have it.
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon coriander seed powder
- 1 medium tomato, finely chopped
- ½ tablespoon butter or ghee
- 2 tablespoons coriander leaf and/or green onion, chopped, for garnish
- basmati, or other, rice
- Indian chutney or pickle to serve.
Dal Bhat Preparation
- Wash the lentils and rinse, historically this step is to remove stones, but most of us don’t have that problem. If you’re using larger, slower cooking lentils, you may like to soak them overnight first to speed up cooking.
- Put the rice on to cook.
- Chop your onion, garlic and ginger and tomato.
- Wash your coriander leaf and/or green onion. Chop for garnish.
- Heat oil on high in a large pan.
- Add your chopped ginger, garlic and onion, and stir on high heat until the onion is golden.
- Stir in cumin seeds, salt, pepper, turmeric, mustard seed, and coriander powder. Turn the heat down to medium (6 out of 10 on our stove), and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often. This step is important, spices must be tempered in oil, always.
- Add tomatoes and butter. Stir, cover and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add the lentils, cover and cook in the oil/butter for 5 minutes. Don’t scrimp on the oil or butter!
- Add water, and cook, allowing the water to reduce.
- When your lentils’ cooking time is up, your dal is ready to serve. Present with the rice, popadums, garnish, and pickle. The dal bhat is served in a small soup bowl as above.
As you can see, there are no chilies, this isn’t traditionally a very hot dish but you could add to taste. My kids always wolfed down their dal bhat after a morning or day of trekking in that stunning Nepali landscape. Our best dal bhat recipe always comes with a side order of delicious local greens, we’ve not yet discovered a leafy green that tastes as good. Enjoy!