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Chhaang

Two cups of chhaang, an alcoholic fermented beverage in Nepal, from a Kathmandu eatery.

A popular alcoholic drink across Nepal and Tibet, chhaang is widely available in Kathmandu in its Newari form. It’s made from partially fermented barley, millet or rice grains that are boiled and cooled before yeast is added. It is similar to another Nepali alcoholic drink called raksi, but chhaang is usually cloudy while raksi is clear. Chhaang can be drunk hot or cold, much like Japanese sake. It’s slighty fizzy, usually comes with a bit of “texture” (that is, floating remnants of rice or grain), and is both sweet and tart in taste. It’s not incredibly alcoholic—it’s difficult to determine exactly how much so—but it can leave you feeling a little buzzed. Chaang is usually served at Newari communal meals that are held for some kind of celebration, or, of course, at home.   

Where: We found our chhaang at Thamel House Restaurant (Thamel Marg 1, Kathmandu 44600, map), a restaurant serving a wide range of Newari (and other Nepali) dishes. The chhaang is a great accompaniment to an evening meal here—an atmospheric place for a special dinner, as it’s located inside a traditional old brick building of the type that are increasingly rare around busy, developed Thamel.   

When: Daily, 11:30am-10pm

Order: This chhaang was served as part of the full-course non-veg set meal (Rs 1090), which included a wide range of dishes such as momos, dal, mutton curry, spinach curry, and sweetened yoghurt to finish.

Alternatively: Unmarked bottles of chhaang can be bought from many hole-in-the-wall places in the Newari parts of town. Hygiene cannot be guaranteed, but a good taste generally can. A reliable vendor selling plastic bottles of chhaang for around Rs 100 per bottle is on the right-hand side of Pimbahal Road in Patan, between the bike shop on the corner and the Pimbahal Tank, a short walk from Patan Dhoka (map).


 

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