Shey Phoksundo Trek and the Foods in Dolpo

Recently I did a trek to beautiful Shey Phoksundo Lake in Dolpo via Khalanga, Jajarkot. It is one of the most beautiful lakes you will see and a must-visit place in your lifetime. The color of the lake is unimaginably turquoise blue with bare grey mountains in the background in the north, and green forest and snow-clad mountains in the south. During the trek, I also tried to explore the food culture of the region and eat local foods as much as possible. I recommend all the trekkers/visitors to eat and promote local foods and produces rather than eating packaged foods and drinks transported from somewhere else.

Shey Phoksundo Lake, Dolpo

Beautiful Shey Phoksundo lake- located at an elevation of over 3600m and largest and only trans-Himalayan National Park in Dolpo

scary trail near Khadang

This scary trail on the way to Tripurakot from Khadang is currently under construction for making motor roads.

Fish curry bheri river

Bheri river fish curry with local whole wheat and maize roti and hemp seed chutney (at Phera Khola, Jajarkot): This is probably one of the few best fish curry dishes I had in Nepal. The varieties of freshwater fishes including Himalayan snow trout (asala machha) are sourced locally from the very river. Fishing is practiced by communities living along the Bheri river in the lower region of Dolpo. This small eatery is at Phera Khola on the way to Khalanga, Jajarkot and lies at the bank of the beautiful Bheri river. The fish curry was served with delicious whole wheat bread and locally grown maize bread, and hemp seed (bhang) chutney or achhar. Hemp seed is grown locally and widely used for making chutney in the region.

fried fish at Dolpo

Fried fish from the Bheri river (at Tripurakot): The route after few hours drive from Nepalgunj follow the Bheri river until the Shey Phoksundo lake. This is the third consecutive days I had the fish dish prepared from local fish from Bheri river.

local beans of Dolpo

Harvesting local beans (at Khadang): These locally grown beans are still widely produced and consumed in the region. Daal made from Dolpo beans is very delicious and often flavored with jimbu (wild Himalayan herb) and timur (Nepali pepper).

daal bhaat tarkari in Kagani, Dolpo

Daal Bhaat Tarkari (at Kagani): Daal bhaat tarkari (lentil/bean soup, rice, and curry) has become the daily staple in Dolpo. Marsi (white and red), a cold tolerant variety of rice, is grown in the lower region of Dolpo. However, most of the rice consumed in Dolpo areas where rice isn’t cultivated are transported from Terai or sold by the Food Corporation of the government of Nepal. Traditional nutritious grains such as kaguno (foxtail millet), chino (proso millet), buckwheat, naked barley, marsi rice, maize etc. are replaced by polished rice from the southern plains.

maize dhido with local beans daal and curry in Chhepka

Maize dhido with Dolpo beans daal and locally grown potato-cabbage curry (at Chhepka): Maize is grown widely in lower Dolpo areas- in Kagani and lower areas. Maize is ground into flour and cooked into Dhido and roti.

boiled potatoes with chili timur achaar at Kagani

Boiled potatoes with timur-chili achaar (at Kagani): Nothing better than these delicious boiled potatoes served with spicy achaar. Potato is the staple foods in the mountains and the very few crops the mountainous communities are self-sufficient in. It is grown abundantly in both lower and upper Dolpo.

chilies drying in sun in Dolpo

Freshly harvested red chilies drying in sun (on the way to Kagani): Chilies are widely produced in the lower region of Dolpo and also supplies to the upper region of Dolpo where chilies don’t grow well. Chilies are the key flavoring ingredient of Dolpo cuisines and that keeps you sane in harsh cold climate

pumpkin in Dolpo

Saving pumpkin for the winter and dry season (on the way to Tripurakot): These seasonal pumpkins are stored and eaten all year round and make nutritious fresh vegetables when greens are hard to find in winter and dry seasons.

Tsampa Su-cha in Dolpo

Tsampa with Su-cha (at Chhepka): Tsampa is roasted barely or naked barley flour and is a staple food in the higher region of Dolpo. Su-cha in the Tibetan language means salted tea, which is prepared from salt, yak butter, and tea leaves. The ingredients largely come from Tibet and su-cha is prepared in electric blender nowadays rather than churning in the traditional wooden cylinder. Tsampa is eaten generally with su-cha.

bitter buckwheat pancake in Ringmo, Dolpo

Bitter-buckwheat roti (at Ringmo): Bitter buckwheat is grown widely in between and lower and upper Dolpo. Bitter-buckwheat which is slightly bitter in taste is ground into flour and made into roti (pancake). It is believed that the batter prepared in this wooden pot made from birch or walnut wood makes better roti.

fini roti in Dunai, Dolpo

Fini roti for breakfast (at Dunai): When asked about the local foods for breakfast in Dunai, the restaurant offered fini roti (crispy layered fried bread prepared from wheat flour and ghee) for the breakfast.

making gundruk

An elderly woman making gundruk: It was the beginning of harsh cold winter and end of fresh greens. The woman is preserving the excess greens by making gundruk (fermented then dried spinach) for the winter and dry seasons.

apple from Siureni

Siureni apple (at Siureni, Dolpo): Siureni, a village on the way to Tripurakot from Tribeni, is known locally for apple. One of the delicious apples I ever had: crunchy, dense and super sweet. The other area popular for apple in Juphal but the Siureni apples were much more delicious.

apple in Juphal

A kid enjoying apple in Juphal early morning

wild walnut in Dolpo forest

Wild walnut: Between Chhepka and Raichi village, there are patches of wild walnut trees. This is the season of walnut…so wild walnuts were all over the forest floors. I collected and ate some. It was smaller in size with a thick shell and little flesh but had really good flavor. Dolpo is popular for walnut and cultivated in many areas including Juphal.

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