Vegan in Pokhara : A Quick Guide

I’ve been traveling & living in Pokhara since 2014. In the beginning I was vegetarian, then I switched to vegan. It’s easy to be a vegetarian in Nepal, but not a vegan. Why? Because they love dairy products so much, they just put them everywhere, even where you don’t expect them! Of course now for me it’s different, I’m not a tourist anymore, I have my own kitchen at home and I don’t go out for food often. But when I do, I go in the same places usually (see below this post for the good addresses around!) Here is a quick guide, if you’re a traveler in Nepal… and a vegan!

★ The Non Dairy situation ★

First of all, be careful about the bread. Or should I say the dough in general. For example, the Naan (local bread found here and also in India) is made with flour, sugar and milk! In the white bread, they also put milk. If you have the option, choose brown brown to avoid bad surprise or better multi grains, those generally don’t have milk or butter in it. In most of the pastries you will find butter or milk – but that’s common so it’s less a surprise. Chapati bread & Paratha although should be dairy free (only made from flour and water). Whatever you go for, be sure to ask “plain” naan/chapati/paratha/toast to avoid it covered by butter, or ask for oil instead.

Other thing, the pizza dough! Shame but true, most of the restaurant use a pizza dough with milk in it. It is not supposed to be like that in real Italian pizza but over here it is like that. Be sure to ask the waiter – or better the cook – before ordering a pizza. They could make it without just for you, but most of the restaurants use a “already made” dough that they store and use during the day so, it will not be possible to have it vegan. Same as other items, if they refuse to make it vegan, consider it means the thing you ask for is already made in advance.

Be aware that the Pakodas, can also contain eggs. Normally it is just vegetables and flour, fried in oil, but certain places serves it with eggs inside. Again sometimes they can make a vegan version for you easily, especially if you go in a small family restaurant which usually make everything on order, but again, not always the case.

Be also careful with the meals made with “coconut milk”, some preparations as curries and gravy (which mean “creamy sauce”) might use a mix of coconut milk and dairy cream. And as well unfortunately most of the curries gravies are not vegan… it’s usually full of cream or butter. The butter… talking about it… they use it as well in certain Dal soup… (lentilles traditional soup going with the Bhat (rice) = Dal Bhat) especially in villages, they will probably use a lot of dairy products as they often have their own little farm and animals, like chicken and buffalo or goats…

★ The Cheese situation ★

 

Ahhh the cheese… well first, you have to know that lots of people don’t even know that cheese is made with milk – like butter – they see the “final product” but ignore what’s inside. And often they don’t know the differences between the kind of cheese’s neither. Which reminds me of that funny story, during my very first trip in Pokhara, when I ordered a pizza without cheese and they bring it with Mozzarella on top; and being told by the waiter after I complained, that “it was not cheese, but Mozzarella.” Yeah right. Also, one of the cheese they use the most here is a local cheese called “Paneer” which looks like tofu, feta goat cheese and cottage cheese. They sometimes advertise “Mozza” or “goat cheese” but it’s most of the time Paneer.

★ The Drinks situation ★

Be aware that drinking tea is a very social thing here, most of the encounter you will make could lead to sharing a tea together. But their famous “Masala chai” delicious as it can be – full of tasty spices good for your health – unfortunately contains milk (and also lots of sugar). So better to ask for a black tea “black chiya” just to avoid bad surprise. Another famous drink is their “Lassi” which is basically like a milkshake but not iced and for sure there is a LOT of milk in that one. And if you want to go for a coffee, it’s never too much to ask for “black coffee” (although it means usually bad black coffee) so better to choose the “Americano” option instead (good coffee from the machine).

So that being said, when you order something vegan, don’t be shy to also mention no cheese, Mozza, butter, milk, egg, mayo, cream etc. Or even say “without anything animal” that would make it even more clear. But it’s not won for sure! Ha! It’s even better if you have a Nepali nearby with you who could translate and ask your request properly, just in case, double check, repeat, re-repeat.

Other than that, the good thing about Nepal, and Asia, is that mainly every restaurant have 2 sections in their menu, vegetarian and non-veg. So that’s already a relief, as in Belgium for example, some restaurant don’t even have 1 vegetarian alternative in their whole menu.

★ Some useful terms / Nepali word ★

“Masu” means meat,

“Dudh” means milk,

“Macha” means fish,

“Gaaiko/Gohruhko” means cow/beef,

“Kukhura” means chicken,

“Khasi” means goat,

“Sungur” means pork,

“Haas” means duck,

“Andaa” means egg,

“Dahee” means yogurt/curd,

“Cheese” for cheese, and “Paneer” means also a cheese,

“Makhan” means butter,

“Dudh chiya” means Milk Tea and “Kalo chiya” means black tea,

“Maha” means honey,

“Tarkari” means vegetables,

“Phalphul” means fruits,

“Sakahari” means vegetarian,

“Ma sakahari hun” means I’m vegetarian,

“Ma masu khandina” means I don’t eat meat,

“Ma dudh khandina” means I don’t drink milk, etc.

“Yo masu ho ki hoina?” means “Is this meet yes or not?”

You can also easily say “ma vegetarian ho” “ma vegan ho” or “ma dairy products khandina” (“ho” means yes and “chaina/nai” means no, you can easily add it at the end of something.)

★ What you can trust ★

In a typical Nepali restaurant, these are the common dishes you can order:

Snacks :

Vegetarian Momo’s (fried or steamed dumplings made from dough and vegetables) Usually they don’t contain Paneer (cheese) but still ask before your order, some rare places do put Paneer. Also they make a chicken version, so don’t forget to precise “VEG Momo” when ordering.

Veg Pakodas (fried patties/balls with vegetables and flour) very oily but so tasty! Again double check the egg situation.

Samosas (fried triangles filled with potatoes and spices) no doubt, it’s vegan, always!

Alu Jeera or Alu Sandheko (“Alu” or “Aloo” means potatoes, here mixed with cumin seeds, turmeric and spices)

Peanut or Badam Sandheko (“Badam” means peanuts, here mixed with tomatoes, spices, garlic, lemon juice etc. Spicy but delicious!)

Papad (kind of a big chips fried or grilled made from chickpea flour)

Dosa (kind of a big crepe made from India, served with some curries)

Pani puri (kind of a small chips served with sauce)

Jeeri (sweets made from sugar and flour fried in oil. Really sweet and a boost of sugar for sure!)

Some gravys like Rajma (red kidney beans), Chana (chickpeas), Dal (lentills), Mutter (green peas)

Meals :

The traditional “Veg Thali” set or “Dal Bhat”, comes with rice, “Papad” or “Naan”, “Tarkari” (vegetables), Dhal (lentilles soup), Achaar (spicy tomato sauce), Saag (spinach), Gundruk (fermented spinach and beans), Pickle, Alu (potatoes) which is fine. But also comes with a bowl of “Curd” (yoghurt) and sometimes “egg curry”. But as it it serves in different small little bowls, it’s easy to just don’t eat what you don’t want to have.

Veg Chowmein (fried noodles with vegetables as carrot, onion, cabbage and chili, and comes with a chutney (spicy sauce)) don’t order the egg Chowmein… obviously.

Veg fried rice (well that’s fried rice with vegetables) with normally no egg, but just in case, ask about it.

Veg Thukpa (noodles soup) with normally no egg, but just in case, ask about it.

Veg Byriani (So good! I recommend to try it!) it’s an Indian specialty made from fried rice with dried fruits, vegetables and super tasty spices. But in certain restaurant they will sprinkle cheese on top or add cubes of paneer (cheese) in it. So again… just in case, ask about it.

★ The dessert situation ★

Well… good luck! Seriously, the panel of choice in dessert is already reduce in Nepal as it is definitely NOT the country of dessert, but if you’re vegan, really, good luck for that. I mean, I had to make a big cross on my “dessert appetite” and my habit for sweets since I moved here.

First of all, they don’t like black chocolate. So everything with chocolate is for sure milk chocolate. It’s super hard to even buy black chocolate with no dairy in the supermarket here. I have to travel with mine from Europe or ask friends who visit me to bring me some from time to time, it a serious issue. And even the milk ones are not good. Second, they have no clue how to do any pastries or cake without using dairy, so it is a real situation here to get to find a vegan dessert somewhere. So after 3 years here, I don’t even bother looking at the dessert menu.

SO… here is the main purpose of this post : to know where to go for vegan food in Pokhara !

★ For a cruelty free burger & pancakes & my favorite place in Lakeside ★

  • What: Delicious vegan burger and fries, all kind of pancakes, iced lemon tea…
  • Where: Himalayan Café (Lakeside Kahare)
  • Price: $
  • Note: I recommend this small family business, they are nice and they are cooking everything on demand so you can ask whatever you want with a vegan version. Tasty and not pricy, with a nice chill atmosphere and a view of the lake in a quiet area.

★ For easy vegan options & Mediterranean/Middle East taste ★

  • What: Vegan chocolate tart, vegan carrot cake, breakfast with vegan eggs, soy milk & gluten free options, pastas, falafel, hummus, Mediterranean food, salads, fresh juice, snacks…
  • Where: Or2K (Lakeside Center point)
  • Price: $
  • Note: Vegetarian Middle East restaurant with Israeli management, with a big choice of vegan options, beautiful lake view and terrace, chill atmosphere, tasty food. Be aware that the pizza dough contains milk and that prices are not local.

 

  • What: Tofu rice, hummus, Mediterranean plater, salads, snacks, taboule salad, pesto sandwich…
  • Where: Olive Café (Lakeside Center)
  • Price: $
  • Note: Nice balcony, good & fast service, good fresh mint lemonade, but avoid the pizzas.

 

  • What: Middle East food, falafel, hummus, babaganush, fresh mint lemonade, fries, wrap…
  • Where: Lotus Corner (Last restaurant of Lakeside Kahare)
  • Price: $
  • Note: That area of the lake is cheaper than the rest, Israeli management, nice atmosphere and garden in front of the lake, but as it’s a family restaurant it can be slow, very slow sometimes.

 

  • What: Hummus, chips, crudités, salads, fresh juices…
  • Where: Jiva café & spa (Lakeside center)
  • Price: $
  • Note: Beautiful place with gardens and relaxing atmosphere nearby the lake. Why not enjoying a massage or a spa treat with some good healthy food made by my friend Trish.

 

  • What: Falafel wrap & fries
  • Where: Chick’n’falafel (Lakeside Center)
  • Price: $
  • Note: It’s a fast food on the corner of the street with no seats, food to take away for a correct price.

 

  • What: Grilled tofu wrap, veggie wrap, chilli fries, snacks…
  • Where: Buzz Bar (Lakeside Center point)
  • Price: $
  • Note: It’s a Reggae bar, the music is too loud even after many complains, so that’s their signature thing I guess, so if you don’t like Bob Marley, avoid it. Otherwise, the decoration & atmosphere is unique, prices are correct for lakeside and the terrace in the backside is enjoyable.

 

  • What: Vegan burger and fries
  • Where: Alchemy (Lakeside Center point)
  • Price: $
  • Note: There is not much vegetarian/vegan options, but I had a very nice lentils vegan burger once with fries and salad and a delicious sauce. At least their menu is original, it’s tasty, nice decoration and good service.

 

  • What: Tofu Wrap & fries
  • Where: Mike’s Breakfast (Lakeside Center)
  • Price: $
  • Note: A nice terrace near the lake with good service but not much vegan options.

★ For coffee lovers, breakfast or for a sandwich ★

  • What: Coffee, fresh mint lemonade, iced coffee, iced tea, spinach & mushroom wrap, fruit salad, carrot apple & cinamon dried fruits salad…
  • Where: Perky Beans (Lakeside Center)
  • Price: $
  • Note: My favorite coffee place in Lakeside! Not much vegan options and very little food choice (but the paradise for milkshake and lassis lovers!) But the size of the drinks is huge and it’s worth the price, especially for a place in center Lakeside! Good coffee, super nice upstairs terrace with lake/street view and super study room downstairs.

 

  • What: Brown bread plain toast with jam, good coffee, iced peach tea (yum!), or the veggie sandwich (be careful and ask without butter and no mayo!)
  • Where: Himalayan Java (Lakeside center point)
  • Price: $
  • Note: It’s a coffee chain so nothing local here but if you’re missing the western world you will feel like home. Decent coffee choices, good service.

 

  • What: Good coffee, iced peach tea (yum!)
  • Where: Pokhara Java (Lakeside Kahare)
  • Price: $
  • Note: I don’t recommend this place for food as they don’t have vegan option, although you can just ask for plain toast… but good for coffee and drinks.

 

  • What; iced coffee, fresh juices, coffee, lemonades, hummus veg sandwish, salads,…
  • Where: AmPm Café, lakeside gaurighat
  • Price: $
  • Note: Most of the time crowded by tourists.

★ For a night out, snacks & drinks ★

  • What: Green coconut milk curry, chips chili, snacks & drinks
  • Where: Trisara (Lakeside center)
  • Price: $
  • Note: It’s expensive for what you get, it’s a trendy place with live music and sometimes a dancefloor, very quiet at the day time but crowded at night with Nepalese families and young people so It’s packed for sure on a friday night, even though the space is big. But ideal if you want some snacks and drinks with music but still being able to communicate with your friends!

 

  • What: Sweet momos (Must try!), peanut sandheko, salads, pakodas, snacks and drinks…
  • Where: Silk Road (Lakeside Kahare)
  • Price: $
  • Note: Nice terrace and garden, I prefer to go on evening time, always a good atmosphere and good live music. The sweet momos is a unique treat, so delicious! (Fried dumplings with banana, apple and cinnamon.) But it takes time to prepare so don’t go if you’re in a hurry.

 

  • What: Snacks (alu jeera, peanut sandheko, papad…)
  • Where: Phat kat (Lakeside Kahare)
  • Price: $
  • Note: One of a kind atmosphere, enjoyable peaceful back side garden.

★ For traditional Nepali food ★

I personally go into small local places in the street, not big branded restaurants, it is better, cheaper and made on order, but mostly wayyy cheaper. Don’t be afraid to try small local places – with 1 table and 2 chairs and no customer – they know what they do! (Some famous local names you will find: “Naan House”, “Punjabi” (“People who lives in Pujab, an area in India”), “Thakali” (“People who is good at Nepali traditional food”), “Marwadi” (“Community of pure vegetarians and vegans”), “Bhancha Ghar” (litteraly means “Kitchen House” aka diner place), “Khaja Ghar” (litteraly means “Snacks House” aka all day food)

 

  • What: Veg thali, veg momos, veg byriani, snacks
  • Where: Takhali Kitchen (on top of Crossroad restaurant, Lakeside Center)
  • Price: $
  • Note: To me, one of the best traditional veg thali set in town (Dal Bhat) and very good veg momos! Not that much seats and place so can be crowded. Enjoyable terrace upstairs with street view and street atmosphere. Avoid the pizzas or European food though.

 

  • What: Samosas, pakodas, veg thali set, veg byriani, kachauri…
  • Where: Marwadi (Pokhara city, Chippledunga)
  • Price: $
  • Note: Super traditional and local place, cheap restaurant but not in Lakeside. 10 to 15 min drive by cab or a bit longer by bus from Lakeside. Very local so none of the waiter understand English and the menu is in Nepali/Hindi as well. Don’t be surprise if all eyes are on you, not a touristic area, you eat with the locals. It can be slow so take your time (and if even better, enjoy a walk around the busy area with local markets and shops!)

 

  • What: chili french fries, peant sandheko, alu sandheko, snacks, veg byriani, veg momo, dal bhat (nepali veg set)…
  • Where: Almond’s Café
  • Price: $
  • Note: Traditionnal local restaurant,  cheap eats considering it’s in Lakeside center. Tasty traditional Nepali food and big selection of meals.

 

  • What: Veg thali, Veg byriani…
  • Where: Aankhi Jhyal & Thakali Kitchen (Lakeside Gaurighat)
  • Price: $
  • Note: Service in Thakali can be a pain, slow and not reactive, be sure to have time ahead but the garden is nice. Nice upstairs terrace with street view & atmosphere in Ankh Jial, especially at night time.

 

  • What: C momo’s, peanut sandheko, snacks, aloo bhat, good coffee and vegan cookies in the café beside
  • Where: Peace Eye Guest House & Taal Lounge Café (Lakeside Gaurighat)
  • Price: $
  • Note: Good atmosphere and good vibes. I used to stay in Peace Eye Guest House and I definitely recommend it! Bring your drum or guitar to jam and say hello to my friend Rishi from me!

★ For Japanese food ★

  • What: Japanese food, Spinach with sesame, Maki avocado & Miso soup, Tofu noodle soup…
  • Where: Azaora (Dihikopathan)
  • Price: $
  • Note: Small place with not much seats, ideal for fast eats. They used to make delicious plum soda, the fries are good too.

 

  • What: Japanese food, Spinach with sesame, Maki avocado & Miso soup, Tofu noodle soup…
  • Where: Momotaru (Lakeside Kahare)
  • Price: $

★ For Italian Food & Pizza ★

  • What: Vegetable pizza (pasta, brushetta… are also good although portions are less generous, so I prefer a pizza if I go there!)
  • Where: Café Concerto (Lakeside Gaurighat)
  • Price: $
  • Note: Ask “Make your own pizza” à la carte, choose tomato base without mozza and choose a lot of other vegetables as toppings. They have ruccola (Arugula), sun dried tomatoes, and others typical Italian items. The best pizzeria in town since long time, excellent service & food, real Italian management & best quality products, good jazz music atmosphere, nice balcony and view.

 

  • What: vegan pizza
  • Where: Roadhouse Café, Lakeside center
  • Price: $
  • Note:  Nice atmosphere in this big new restaurant with cool balcony terrace with view of the street. Great service, great taste, fast and delicious.

 

  • What: Vegetable pizza
  • Where: Godfather pizza (Lakeside Dihikopatan)
  • Price: $
  • Note: The kitchen is open so it’s easy to ask the cook to not put cheese on top of your pizza, they make it in front of you. Fast service and good price, just avoid diner time and football match events, it can be too crowded and noisy when they decide to play football on the big screen (sorry not sorry, not a football fan here!)

 

Welcome in Pokhara & Enjoy your trip!