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Nepal is a country of different cultures, religions and races. They have their own food habits oriented from their ancestors since immemorial time. Traditional foods are the foods prepared by the people in their community locally available raw materials using indigenous technology. The technology used is not necessary to be old; it could be new but it should be typically representing that locality. Traditional Foods varies from locality to locality. Due to the typical taste and less time required for preparation of such foods in Nepali kitchen, these are the popular and people like to use these foods in most of the dishes.
According to the report published by Department of Food Technology and Quality Control, traditional foods with some exception are indigenous to Nepal. They are called indigenous foods of Nepal. Some of them are nutritious; some are used as appetizer; some have medicinal value, etc. Some foods are used as snack. Some food stands for special occasion such as sel-roti in tihar and furoula for maghe sankranti and is equally popular in holi and siruwa among tharu culture. Some foods are necessary to the specific ritual processes of feasts.
Mentioned in a book “a traditional technology of Nepal” by Gajurel and Baidha, some of the popular indigenous foods of Nepal are gundruk, sinki, mesu (tama), khalpi, pickles and maseura which are vegetable based. Milk based are dahi, mohi, churpi and kurauni. Similarly legume based indigenous foods are kinema and furaoula. The fruit based are melko amilo, bhakkimlo or chuk and titaura. Likewise sukuti, chhoyala, kachila are some of the meat based and sidra is the fish based indigenous to Nepal. Various cereal based indigenous foods have been consumed in the Nepalese community with a great popularity. Jand, raksi, chhyang, cheura, murai, sel-roti, bhakka etc.
Some of indigenous foods are location (region) specific like chhurpi in mountain or hilly areas; some are community specific eg, chhoyala and kachila in newar; kinema in limbu, rai; jand and raksi in so called lower caste communities; bhakka in terrain tribes whereas some food products eg, gundruk, sinki, sel roti, dahi etc are common to all geographic regions, all tribes and cultures. These indigenous foods have been prepared by traditional methods specific to the products. These traditional technologies have been following generation to generation.
Dr. Ganga Prashad Kharel, senior food scientist in Nepal agrees that many traditional foods have no recorded manuals in Nepal. The tradition of verbally handing on the skill is still extant. Such a trend will naturally lead to erosion of skill overtime, which will be to the detriment of person dependent on it. Many traditional foods are facing problems due to introduction of Western foods. In many cases traditional foods may lack good image or have a poorer perceived quality than the newer foods. A few of these foods have no doubt evolved into semi-commercial commodity but most of them are still in a primitive stage. If this trend is to continue, many of our traditional foods will soon be lost forever.
For a country like Nepal the preparation of traditional foods can be viewed as opportunity for rural development. On the other hand Nepal being a member of WTO, we have to register our indigenous products. The first step for this is to claim the “Intellectual Property Right” of our indigenous food products which necessitates the scientific study of indigenous technology.
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