Nepalese cuisine, mostly represented across the world by momos and dal bhat tarkari has much more to offer. This was well proven on the global platform by Chef Santosh Shah through Masterchef UK. He brought the Nepalese flavors and dishes to the world on a plate, literally. From making classic dishes like Yomari to using our native herbs like Jimbu to a roasted lamb, he surprised the world with the potential of the cuisine.

Nepal is a country of diversity and there is a symphony of different cuisines within the Nepalese cuisine. Tharu, Newar, Thakali, Sherpa, and many more communities have their own unique dishes and styles of cooking. While we use common spices like asafoetida, jeera, mustard seeds, bay leaf, cinnamon sticks, red chilies, coriander, caraway seeds, etc. some spices and herbs are specific to the Nepalese cuisine.

1. Timur (Zanthoxylum Armatum):

Timur dried and fresh

It is one of the most popular and widely used spices in Nepal. Timur is used in achars, chutneys, marinades, etc. It has a unique aroma and flavor that is not hot or pungent like black or white pepper, or chili peppers. Instead, it has slight lemony overtones and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth (caused by its 3% of hydroxy-alpha-sanshool) that sets the stage for hot spices. I think it goes best in momo ko achar! Read more about Timur here.

Health benefits: It is an astringent, diaphoretic, emmenagogue. It is used in the treatment of gastralgia and dyspepsia due to cold with vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, ascariasis, and dermal diseases. It has a local anesthetic action and is a parasiticide against the pork tapeworm (Taenia solium). A decoction of the root is digestive and also used in the treatment of snakebites. The resin contained in the bark, and especially in that of the roots, is a powerful stimulant and tonic.

2. Jimbu (Nepalese Allium):

Jimbu is a very commonly used Nepalese herb. It belongs to the onion family. The taste lies between a note of onion and chives. It is a seasonal herb harvested between June and September. Post collection, it is dried and stored.

Health benefits: Cures flu, high altitude sickness, sore throat, and stomach disorders. This is rich in Vitamin C. It also promotes RBC growth and maintains healthy skin.

Siltimur (Lindera Nessiana):

Sil-Timur (Lindera Nessiana)

Siltimur is a dried seed of an herbal plant. It grows wildly in the hilly region of Nepal. The seed is equivalent to a small pea and highly aromatic. The seed is initially dark-green, turns red in maturity, and becomes black when dried. It has a citrus note. It can be used as a spice both fresh and dried. Like Timur this can also be used for making achar, chutney, and curries.

Health benefits: It is used in the treatment of diarrhea, tooth pain, headache, and gastric disorders and is also used as a stimulant.

3. Radish seeds:

Radish Seeds

Radish seeds are one of the major ingredients in Nepalese spices. The dried seeds of the plant are used. It has a pungent, sharp, and peppery taste, and a hint of radish flavor. From being used as a whole to powdered, it is used in a variety of forms. They are used in small quantities due to their overpowering taste.

Health benefits: It helps improve skin health by reducing oxidative stress. It lowers blood pressure, improves bone health, treats kidney stones, protects liver health, and aids in digestion.

4. Philinge (Niger seeds):

It also called Jhuse til in Nepal. As it suggests, it is sometimes used as an alternative to til (Sesame). It used to make chhop and achars.

Health benefits: It is rich in fibers and proteins. It boosts immunity and controls rheumatic conditions.

5. Chimphing (Nepalese Hogweed)

The Chimphing seeds are laterally winged and dorsally compressed. They are slightly bitter to taste. It has a citrusy aroma and leaves a tingling sensation on the tongue. The seeds have been used as spices from time immemorial by several ethnic and indigenous people living in the high hills and mountains of eastern and central Nepal. It is used in making achar, chutney, and especially pork meat.

Health Benefits: It is used to treat cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, inflammation, fungal infections, influenza, and convulsions.

So, the next time, you visit Nepal, do ask about these spices. You will find most of them being used in Eastern Nepalese cuisine. If you are looking for a one-stop-shop for all the ethnic Nepalese food, pay a visit to Raithane in Patan.


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