Where to buy specialist ingredients in Kathmandu?

When we ran our Nourish & Flourish retreat, I had one rule for our chef Nic: the participants must be able to replicate the demonstrated dishes here in Kathmandu.

Not easy, when we don’t have ovens. Or electricity for large parts of the day. Or when the queue for cooking gas is nine days long.  Or when the border is embargoed, minimising import of ingredients. Or where the local meal of dal bhat is Champion (fairly sensibly too, from a nutrition perspective) and diverse tastes are still pretty niche so there is low demand for specialist ingredients. Or when the quality of the ingredients can be so dubious that even the milk packaging tells you to boil before consumption to reduce the nasties that the manufacturing leaves in. Oof…

But we did it! And when we did, the participants asked us where they could get all these goodies. So here it is. Where else do you know? What else are you looking for? Tell us and we’ll keep this list growing!

Almond flour – blitz a bag of almonds in a decent blender. Voilà: almond flour! That’s literally all it is.

Apple Cider Vinegar – for good, genuine, no-additive stuff: the Farmers’ Mart in Jamsikhel on the chowk near Soma Café. It’s not always there, but leave your name and number to let them know you’re looking.

Avocadoes – when in season, widely available. When out of season, you may be able to find them at farmers markets, the Farmers’ Mart or the greengrocers at the back of the Pulchowk Saleways. Too hard to eat? Put in a brown paper bag or wrap in newspaper – this is essential. Then leave in the sun. Depending on the fruit, this needs to be for about five days, so plan ahead…

Chickpea flour – widely available, but it turned out that many folks (including us, until we had to figure it out…) don’t know that it is most commonly called Besan flour. Look out also for the names Gram flour, or occasionally channa flour. Great gluten-free power-flour, pale yellow in colour.

Coconut milk – For the fresh stuff, with no additives, that tastes amazing? A fabulous lady called Raissa makes this, along with almond milk, and if she can will deliver it to a place near you. Let me know if you’d like her number. She sells at La Sherpa farmers’ market.

Coconut oil – the Sri Aurobindo Ashram makes this and sells it at farmers’ markets in the city. We found it at La Sherpa farmers’ market.

Dates – bags of Saudi dates used to be widely available. With the current border embargo though, these are at the back of the queue of essential imports. We tried to rehydrate the dried ones but they looked like a cocktail sausage and tasted like something bad had happened. But then we found a surprise stash of the good ones at the greengrocer at the back of Saleways in Pulchowk. Hurrah!!

Flax seeds (linseed) – look for the Sri Aurobindo Ashram stall at farmers’ markets (we found them at La Sherpa farmers’ market). Also often available at the Farmers’ Mart in Jhamsikhel, on the chowk near Soma Café.

Kale – Not always available, but if you’re determined to find it then your chances will go up at the farmers’ markets (La Sherpa certainly had it last time we were there) and the Farmers’ Mart in Jhamsikhel.

Maple syrup substitute – I know our Canadian friends will deny that anything is a substitute, but for those of us with standards low enough to accept an alternative, then use the Chiuri honey: those cute glass pots with the red top. Use this instead of the scary “Maple Syrup Flavour” sauce from the supermarkets. The honey can be found at the farmers’ markets, but I also see it in the Farmers’ Mart and Wisdom Books, both in Jhamsikhel.

Miso – behind the Saleways in Maharajganj opposite the US Embassy is a Japanese mini-mart that sells all kinds of Japanese goodies, including Miso. Also the grocery store by the ATMs on Restaurant Road in Jhamsikhel: a goldmine for this and all sorts of imported goodies.

Pumpkin seeds – I’ve only ever found them at the Farmers’ Mart in Jhamsikhel.

Quinoa – local quinoa (the only kind you can ethically eat): the Farmers’ Mart in Jhamsikhel. It’s not always there, but leave your name and number to let them know you’re looking.

Rice paper – for summer rolls: Bhatbhateni (in the Patan store, they’re in the cake-baking section. Obviously).

Spirulina – cultivated by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, who have stalls at the farmers’ markets (we found them atLa Sherpa).

Sweet potato – out of season it’s really hard to find, but we found some beauties at the small greengrocers attached to Saleways (carpark side) on Pulchowk. This store is also where we found dates, celery (broaden your ideas of what celery is though…), rocket, chard.

Sushi ingredients – behind the Saleways in Maharajganj opposite the US Embassy is a Japanese mini-martthat sells all kinds of Japanese goodies.

Tahini – available at OR2K in Thamel. Also at La Sherpa farmers’ market. Or make your own: blitz a cup or so of sesame seeds in a food processor (it’s nice to toast them first, but not essential), add a glug of oil once they’re crumbly, blitz again, bit more oil if needed – repeat until you have tahini.

Unsweetened cocoa powder – Saleways in Maharajganj opposite the US Embassy. We found it on an end-aisle near the back of the store, in a range of different richness of cocoa.

And here’s the list in PDF in to print out to keep with your recipe books: Where to buy specialist ingredients in Kathmandu

Things we’re still looking for

Do you know anyone selling:

  • Psyllium husks
  • Chia seeds
  • Sunflower seeds. I found them once in Bhatbhateni but they tasted dusty and slightly sinister. Have you found any good ones?