Nepali cuisine consists of a wide variety of regional and traditional cuisines. Given the range of diversity in soil type, climate, culture, ethnic groups, and occupations, these cuisines vary substantially from each other, using locally available spices, herbs, vegetables, and fruit.The Columbian exchange had brought the potato, the tomato, maize, peanuts, cashew nuts, pineapples, guavas, and most notably, chilli peppers, to South Asia. Each became staples of use.The cereals grown in Nepal, their choice, times, and regions of planting, correspond strongly to the timing of Nepal’s monsoons, and the variations in altitude. Rice and wheat are mostly cultivated in the terai plains and well-irrigated valleys, and maize, millet, barley and buckwheat in the lesser fertile and drier hills.
The foundation of a typical Nepali meal is a cereal cooked in plain fashion, and complemented with flavourful savoury dishes. The latter includes lentils, pulses and vegetables spiced commonly with ginger and garlic, but also more discerningly with a combination of spices that may include coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamon, jimbu and others as informed by culinary conventions. In an actual meal, this mental representation takes the form of a platter, or thali, with a central place for the cooked cereal, peripheral ones, often in small bowls, for the flavourful accompaniments, and the simultaneous, rather than piecemeal, ingestion of the two in each act of eating, whether by actual mixing—for example of rice and lentils—or in the folding of one—such as bread—around the other, such as cooked vegetables. Dal-bhat, centred around steamed rice is the most common example. as well as dairy and sometimes meat, is the most common and prominent example. The unleavened flat bread made from wheat flour called chapati occasionally replaces the steamed rice, particularly in the Terai, while Dhindo, prepared by boiling corn, millet or buckwheat flour in water, continuously stirring and adding flour until thick, almost solid consistency is reached, is the main substitute in the hills and mountains. Tsampa, flour made from roasted barley or naked barley, is the main staple in the high himalayas. Throughout Nepal, fermented, then sun-dried, leafy greens called Gundruk, are both a delicacy and a vital substitute for fresh vegetables in the winter.