There are many stand-out aspects to hiking Mt. Everest. You might not have thought of the food as being among those, but that makes it an even better surprise when the food is excellent.
Food makes up an essential part of any hiking trip. A hiker must stay fueled with the right kind of food to keep them healthy and functioning in top order while on their hike. It becomes even more critical when approaching extreme conditions like you inevitably will on a hike like Everest.
Due to the many different nationalities attracted to the mountain, you will find almost any kind of food you could want present at the mountain’s base. There is a surprising variety of foods even in the base camp of one of the world’s most famous treks.
However, you shouldn’t pass up the unique food you can get from the people that call this part of the world their home. Sherpa cuisine gives you a taste of a different culture in one of the only areas that will be authentic.
Who are the Sherpas?
Sherpas are the indigenous people who settled in Solukhumbu, the mountainous area including Mt. Everest and other prominent peaks in the Himalayas. It is called Province Number 1 of Nepal in its northwest corner. They settled the area back in the middle of the 16th century after migrating westward from Eastern Tibet.
The Sherpas brought Tibetan cultures, lifestyles, and foods to northern Nepal. This has evolved throughout the centuries according to what they can buy and grow in the region.
Since it is relatively remote and the shallow mountain soils are tough to grow, the food usually is simple, filled with plenty of home-grown crops and dairy products. Anything else is often shipped using transportation like mules or even helicopters from Lukla.
Sherpa Dishes You Need to Try at the Mt. Everest Base Camp
Eating Sherpa food is not often a challenge since it is relatively straightforward. Because it is ordinarily full of vegetables, it is also quite good for stocking up on essential vitamins and healthy sources of fiber before continuing on your trip or heading back down the mountain. Here are some of the must-try recipes for travelers to Mount Everest’s base camp.
Sherpa Stew (Shyakpa)
You might see Shyakpa spelled like Shakpa and Syakpa. In English, it is known as Sherpa stew. It is a soupy noodle stew that is one of the more common and hardier meals you can find for Sherpa food. It is often served in the lodge located at the base camp since it is excellent for hikers, good at fighting against the cold, and one of the most popular Sherpa foods.
Typically, this dish is entirely homemade, typical of most Sherpa food. The noodles are the primary part of the stew and can be either thick and round or cut into large, flat squares. Other ingredients vary, usually including dried yak or sheep meat and locally grown vegetables. The vegetables are often spring onion, spinach, carrots, and spring onion.
A fascinating aspect of Shyakpa is that you can have it multiple times from various people, and it will be different each time. It is typical for each household to have its own version of the stew.
Tsampa is another staple cuisine for Sherpas and has been this way for hundreds of years. The food became popular among the people since they first moved from Tibet. It functions as a filler food that compliments the other dishes. Tsampa is a kind of porridge made from roasted barley flour. It is easy to prepare, easy to pack in your hiking bag, and a healthier option for breakfasting in the morning.
When prepared in a lodge or home, Tsampa is often done by taking the flour or porridge mixture called Cham-dur and then mixing it with butter, milk, and sometimes salt. When packed, you can get powdered Tsampa. It will stay good as long as you keep it dry.
For some, Rildok is a delicious stew, while others think of it as more of a lumpy soup. It is another traditional stew made to fill you up and warm you through in the cold elevation and months in the Himalayas. It is filled with dumplings made from mashed potatoes.
The dumplings are made by boiling potatoes and then pounding them with a pestle and mortar until they become a soft, sticky mass. Then, this is taken and squeezed into a series of small dumplings and added to a boiling soup. This process makes the dumplings so light that they often float in the soap.
There are not many spices that are cooked into this soup. However, many people recommend adding pepper and other spices into the dish if available. Unfortunately, there are not many teahouses and lodges that sell Rildok. However, if you take a stroll around local eateries, you are likely to find the delicacy.
Shaphaley will satisfy the Western tendency to eat more bready foods to fill up on carbohydrates for the day. It is simply dough stuffed with a mixture of cabbage, minced meat, and spices. The meat is ordinarily fresh yak or sheep meat, the two more commonly available varieties in Nepal.
Once the dough is stuffed, it is often shaped into a semi-circle and twisted shut along the outside. Then, it is deep-fried and either topped with or served alongside a spicy tomato dipping sauce.
Even though Sha Phaely is delicious and a beloved part of Sherpa cuisine, it isn’t frequently served in lodges. Instead, you can find these in small eateries, bazaars, or street food while hiking up to the base camp. Some people eat them for breakfast. However, they are often cooked and served for lunch and dinner.
Tingmo is another of the popular local dishes that help to fill you up during a meal that is often primarily based on vegetables. It is a fluffy steamed bread made from wheat flour dough. It is similar to momo, the following example on our list. However, it doesn’t contain fillings.
On its own, Tingmo is quite bland. However, normally it is served alongside a curry or a dipping sauce. It also commonly accompanies drinks.
As promised, sherpa momo is the next not-to-miss dish on our list. It is a bite-sized steamed dumpling filled with minced meat, vegetables, and nowadays even cheese and tofu. They are normally steamed, but you can also find them deep- or pan-fried.
These dumplings are considered one of Nepal’s favorite foods and a local delicacy. In terms of Sherpa cuisine, it is one of the most important things to try while visiting Nepal. Almost every lodge, restaurant, and teahouse will have its own slightly different variations, all of them well worth a try.
Thukpa is similar to Shyakpa. It is a traditional soup made with noodles in the Himalayas. Thyakpa is different because its noodles are almost always long and thin. It also tends to be a bit spicier. Most of the other fillings are the same in this stew. It will often have plenty of vegetables and fresh or dried yak meat.
Luckily, this piece of cuisine is a little bit easier to find, particularly in this region of Nepal. You will be able to order from almost any lodge and teahouse around the base of Mount Everest.
Rikikur is one of the more common breakfast dishes for Sherpas. It is often called a ‘Sherpa pancake’ in English since it is reminiscent of the flat cake of bread that western cultures have for breakfast.
The most significant difference is that this will not be sweet. Instead, cooks make it by missing potatoes and flour together and smashing it flat. Once cooked, it is often topped with yak cheese, butter, and sometimes spices. You can also choose to have it served with a spicy dipping sauce.
Butter Tea (Su Chya)
There aren’t only things you should eat while visiting this region of the world. You will be missing out on popular beverages if you don’t give them a try while visiting. Su-Chya is a regular part of the Sherpa lifestyle.
Its common ingredients include tea leaves, a pinch of salt, and yak butter mixed into water. It is essential for the Sherpas since it provides caloric energy essential for life in high altitudes. It also handily prevents chapped lips.
As in most cultures around the world, drinking alcohol is part of socializing in Nepal. Chang is one of those alcohols typical at a Sherpa social event. It is a rice beer that is milky in color and quite sweet. It is not only meant for socializing but is also given as an offering to the gods.