The Samaya Baji symbolizes good luck, fortune, health, longevity, and prosperity.
One of the 125 ethnic groups in Nepal is Newar – the indigenous group of the Kathmandu valley. The long-lived traditions and values of the Newar people make their culture a unique one. From their language – the Nepal Bhasa, the ethnic dress, occupations, festivals to their cuisines, the rich Newar culture is fascinating and worth diving into.
The variety of delicacies in the Newari culture is something that people crave as it consists of mouth-watering dishes providing a feast to the taste buds. The Newari cuisines are pervasively served as lunch, festival food, dinner, occasions' attractions, offering to God, and many more.
Among all of the finger-licking dishes in the Newar culture, the most beloved is the Samaya Baji (Newari Khaja set). The colorful flavorsome plate of the Khaja set is served with several delicious foods. All the dishes together represent celebration and festivity to the Newar people. The Samaya Baji symbolizes good luck, fortune, health, longevity, and prosperity. Especially prepared and eaten in family celebrations and festivals, the food is first served to God and, after receiving the blessing, eaten by the people.
During the special traditional occasion of the Newari feast (known as lapate bhwoye), a unique sitting arrangement, placing narrow straw mats for the guests to sit face to face. Then, the lapate (leaf plate) is placed in front of each guest with a paala (small clay bowl) alongside. The serving starts from the elder members, and slowly everyone is served. Starting with two hand-full of the beaten rice (the baji), turn-wise, all the delicacies are served on the plate, surrounding the place with a festive vibe. The aroma of the dishes enhances the feast. The paala on the side is filled with aila (homemade liquor), which completes the serving of the extravagant Newari cultural Samaya Baji.
In the olden times, the Newar community had a caste system where there were merchants, priests, goldsmiths, blacksmiths, while a huge section of the people were farmers. They had a particular lifestyle back then, and electricity and fuel were a luxury. Therefore, they depended upon firewood to cook. Burning wood was a tedious and time-consuming job, so, they prepared meals twice a day and ate right before heading out to their farms, which used to be far away.
Except for some small shelters to shade from the sun, there used to be nothing on the way. So, they took some snacks to eat in the mid-day. The food like chiura, chwela, bhatmaas, palu, saag, etc., was made so that they did not have to be re-cooked or re-heated. The food was not only made for taste but also their nutritional values.
Chiura (Beaten Rice)
Chatamari (Rice Flour Crepe)
Aalu Tama (Potato and Boiled Shoots curry)
Chwela (Barbecued and marinated buffalo meat)
Bhatmaas / Haku Musya (Black soybeans)
Aalu-Wala (Spicy Potato Salad)
Juju Dhau (the Bhaktapur Royal curd)
Bodi ko Achar (Boiled Beans mixed with spices)
Sanya (Fried Fish)
Khen (Boiled Fried Egg)
Palu (Fresh Ginger Rhizomes)
Wo/ Bara (Lentil Patties)
Saag/Waucha (Green leafy vegetables)
Ayla (Homemade alcohol)
Recipes may vary in different places. Moreover, the dishes are prepared with spices like astafoieda, schezuan pepper, black salt, Himalayan pink salt, mustard, mustard oil, and satay of fenugreek seeds with turmeric powder.
The versatility, flavors, and textures of the food are enticing, which makes the entire set a must-try.
Once a traditional cuisine, now has also become a popular tourist attraction. The craving for the Newari food has increased for its authenticity and the local taste that it provides. Therefore, many restaurants serve the delicacies as their highlights, which you can mostly find in the Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur area. Besides, there are always local eateries that serve the Newari Khaja set.