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The tradition of preserving food in Nepal

The tradition of preserving food in Nepal

Traditional ways of preserving food have been practiced for generations, and they vary across cultures. In Nepal, there are several traditional methods, and one interesting example is the technique mentioned in writer Kedar Sharma’s article. 

One method involves digging a hole in the ground and using traditional wooden containers called ‘Thekis’ to preserve curd for a year. This process likely relies on the natural coolness of the earth to keep the curd from spoiling. This technique showcases the ingenuity of preserving food using locally available resources and traditional knowledge.

Beyond this method, there are various other traditional ways in Nepal, which include sun-drying, smoking, fermenting, pickling, or using specific spices and herbs for preservation. Each method often reflects the cultural and environmental context of the region.

As a research and development chef, exploring these traditional techniques provides me with a rich source of inspiration and a deeper connection to the food culture of Nepal. It’s a way to celebrate and preserve culinary heritage while incorporating innovative ideas into my culinary creations.

Before we had our fancy fridges and modern ways of keeping food fresh, people used some clever methods to make sure they had something to eat even when fruits and veggies weren't in season. They would dry, ferment, pickle, cook in fat, use dry salt, cure, smoke, and even store food in cellars.

The main goal was to save food from the good harvest times so we could eat it later when we needed it. In Nepal, they often sun-dried extra fruits and veggies. They would spread them out under a thin cloth in the sun until they became all wrinkly and hard. If it was just a small amount, they might use something called ‘Naglo,’ and for bigger batches, they would use a ‘Mandro.’

After drying, they would hang the food in a cool storage room until it was time to eat it. When that time came, they would soak the dried food in water and cook it to make it tasty again. Fruits were easier to preserve than meat. Back in the day, people had to work hard to make sure they had enough safe and healthy food for their families all year round.

Even though we now have high-tech ways to keep our food fresh, there’s still something special about learning how to preserve food at home. It’s a skill that makes you feel proud, and it helps you understand more about what you’re eating.

Now, do you have any favorite items that you would like to preserve at home? I’ll run you through some simple methods to do that.


Sundrying is magic for preserving food. It’s used for things like drying fish, sidra, and meat for sukuti (which is sure to make your mouth water). This method is also used for radishes, spinach, cauliflower, tomatoes, and many other fruits and veggies. After they’re dried in the sun, they are stored until we want to eat them. When it’s time to enjoy them, we soak them in water and cook them up.


Pickling is another cool way to preserve food, and in Nepal, we do it a bit differently than others. Instead of using vinegar or lemon, we sun-dry the fruits and veggies to get rid of the water. Then, we mix them with roasted spices and cover them with mustard oil. The special trick here is pairing the right herbs and spices with the fruits and veggies to make a flavorful pickle. Fennel, mustard seeds, mustard powder, fenugreek leaves, jwano, and mugrelo are the key players in this delicious game.


Fermenting food is an age-old tradition in Nepal, and one well-known fermented pickle is Mula ko Achar, especially loved in the mountainous regions. It’s like kimchi, made with chunky slices of white radish marinated with mustard seeds, cumin powder, red chili, turmeric powder, and green chili. It’s a tasty treat found all across Nepal. Similarly, raw mango pickle is popular in the Tarai region. These pickles are made by marinating the main ingredient with various spices.

Other preservation techniques

Apart from pickling, there are other methods too. Smoking, drying, and making concentrated forms of food are popular. Sugarcane juice turns into ‘Khuda’, and lemon transforms into ‘Amilo’, giving them a longer shelf life.

Special treats

There are also some forgotten foods in Nepal like Siramla, Sato Khatte, Chiura, Moori, and Bhooja that are ready to eat whenever we need them.

The pandemic lockdowns made us urban folks think about traditional ways of preserving food. Techniques like sidra, sukako maachha, and sukuti involve drying, salting, and sometimes smoking fish for long-term storage. These methods have been passed down through generations and are crucial in times of need.

So, whether it’s sun-drying, pickling, fermenting, smoking, or just concentrating flavors, there’s a treasure trove of traditional food preservation techniques in Nepal that can teach us a lot about making our food last longer and taste amazing.

The author is a UK-based R&D chef