Last Updated on September 19, 2018 by Christine Kaaloa
It was 7am and Kathmandu was waking up. I met Kanti, my Kathmandu food tour guide from Backstreet Academy tours as we set off on an excursion to explore Thamel through my stomach. I was on the Breakfast tour to gain insight into Nepali breakfast foods eaten by locals. Dal baat and momos were not on the menu, so I had a new foodie adventure ahead of me!
Kathmandu Food Tours with Backstreet Academy
Taking a Nepal food tour was one of my top things to do in Kathmandu. In researching street foods of Nepal, I continually found travel and expat blogs stating travelers should not attempt Nepal street food. Even with all the food safety tips I share, I was uncertain if I could handle finding good street food on my own. I was crest-fallen. I wanted to go deeper into Nepali culture to source a greater variety of foods. So I researched food tours and found Backstreet Academy, a boutique tour company offering unique and very authentic cultural tours from Kathmandu food tours, cooking, making Nepali crafts and more. There’s many things to do in Kathmandu besides shopping and they had a local spin on it. It was right up my alley. I reached out to them. Doing a Nepal food tour through Backstreet Academy, would be safe and I knew I would not get a generic tourist street food tour of Kathmandu.
Backstreet Academy offers two walking food tours in Kathmandu, so I asked them if I could review both!
Street food safety on the streets of Kathmandu
All street stalls and vendors you’re taken to are vendors the guides know and trust with food preparation. In some cases, Kanti would boldly touch foods with the back of her hand to see if they were fresh and hot before I tried them. I was in good hands.
Our first stall to sample was spontaneous. We saw round bread being cooked and watched kachori mix being made and that drew us in.
Gwara Mari (aka Round Bread) is a popular Nepalese breakfast dish sold in sweet shops and in street alleys. It’s a mixture of flour and spices (like ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, etc…), formed into round balls and deep fried in a pan. Deep fried donuts, they’re a little crisp on the outside but bread-like and unsweetened on the inside. Nepalese will eat them either with milk tea, coffee or by itself.
We made our way down Jyatha street, past the string of street butchers, to enter Asan Market, a well-known bazaar and historical market of Kathmandu. The market goes from around 5a to 9am daily, before shops open and traffic congests the area. Wholesale produce sellers and buyers from all around Kathmandu, come to the market to buy and sell.
At a busy family-run street stall on the side of the square, a bunch of locals gathered for milk tea and sel roti. Kanti pulled up a couple of stools for us.
Milk tea is a favorite with foreign travelers as it is with Nepali. It is made from black tea or from a masala mix but grounds are boiled into the milk and the teas is poured through a strainer for filtering. You can order it with sugar or without. Note: It is not made with a tea bag.
Sel Roti is a popular deep fried ringed sweet snack eaten as breakfast, dessert or for the festival Tihar. It is made with sweetened flour and is cooked until the outer crust is brown and crunchy. Nepalese love to dip their sel roti into their milk tea before eating. This was one of my favorite tastings.
Eating Thamel and seeing it
Focusing on my time in other cities, I had a little under two days for sightseeing in Thamel. One of the many reasons I took this food tour was because it was also a walking tour. Thamel is a compact connected city with many streets and alleys. I knew I’d be led to a good handful of major sites and deep local ones too.
Kanti even led me through hidden residential courtyards, explaining things about Nepali culture I would’ve never guessed on my own. I highly recommend you watch the videos for a fuller experience!
Read 32 Things to Know before traveling Nepal
Watch Part 1 of my food tour experience
Next up we visited a local haunt, Sarita Tea Shop for a special breakfast favorite of Nepalese children, Haluwa. Semolina is a popular ingredient for Nepali food (who knew!). Haluwa is semolina, fried with butter, milk and sugar. Parents like to give this to children as a breakfast lunch. You can have it with milk, like oatmeal or with potatoes.
By this time, I was getting a little full and worried. I still had an entire half of a food tour to go and then a second Kathmandu street food tour, after that. I clearly had to pace my stomach. I had to ask Kanti to order less food for me, so as not to waste all the deliciousness!
Nepalese food can have occasional crossovers with Indian food. Puri with sabzi was one of our final dishes. Puri is like a deep fried chipati and it fills your mouth with deep-fried goodness. Sabji is a potato, chickpea and onion curry. It’s not spicy and you can fill yourself on this combo pretty quickly. This is a favorite dish, I discovered in Kolkata and now in Nepal.
Watch Part 2 of my foodie experience with Backstreet Academy
Kanti was such an amazing and an uber knowledgeable guide about street food in Nepal. I really asked her a lot of questions throughout and had a thoroughly wonderful time. While they have many guides, I would request her. This Kathmandu food tour was definitely one of my favorite street food tours (you can see a list of food tours I’ve taken).
Backstreet Academy is flexible to diets. I requested a vegetarian diet, so some of my dishes were substitutes where they might have meat dishes. Word of caution: The tour will make you full, so definitely go on an empty stomach!
Book at tour at Backstreet Academy website
32 Things to Know before traveling Nepal
Things to Do in Kathmandu
Bhaktapur: Window into the Past
Panauti: A secret jewel of Kathmandu Valley
Community Homestay: Connecting local Nepal families with travelers
Disclaimer: I researched this tour and requested sponsorship so I could share it. I received a tour in exchange. I always keep it real- all opinions are always my own. Personally, I highly recommend Backstreet Academy for the value it provides to all travelers looking to experience an authentic Nepal. I thoroughly enjoy both tours. Keep an eye out for the second tour I took with them!
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What a wonderful website…thank you for all of the fabulous information. I am going to Nepal in March and very nervous about stomach issues with the food there, I LOVE street food and always try it when traveling. Although I have been reading that there is huge issues in Nepal with sickness, Is there any advise you can give me with choices of food to stay away from?
@Tiffany: I read those articles warning about Nepal street food too and a fellow friend/blogger is living there- says the same thing: http://longestwayhome.com. My advice is to take this tour as the safest and best sampler platter of the city. It’s a great tour and they really should be charging more for it. =D
The city looks like Northern cities in Thailand of old; especially the rigshaw. Thank you, Christine
Yes @Anucha Yes, same same but different, no? lol
Thank you! Happy to hear you had such a good experience