Each year at the end of the rice harvest and the rise of the December full moon, Yomari Punhi arrives in communities around Kathmandu Valley. Lucky travelers staying at community homestays in Panauti and Patan may be able to experience the unique traditions of this popular Newari festival — and its treats, homemade yomari.
Yomari or “tasty bread” are a steamed delicacy made of rice flour dough, filled with mollases and sesame seeds. The dough is made from freshly harvested and ground rice, and shaped into long pointy pockets before being stuffed with the sticky filling.
This culinary tradition is firmly rooted in Newari myth: A married couple, Suchandra and Krita, living in Panauti, the oldest city in Nepal, made the first yomari as an experiment with their newly harvested rice. They shared them with their fellow villagers, who all enjoyed the delicacy. That same day a stranger passed by, and the couple offered him a yomari. The stranger accepted the gift and revealed himself as a Kuber, the God of wealth. As a reward for their kindness, he then blessed the couple with riches.
In celebration, present day Newari families, mainly farmers and traders, observe the festival with four days of worship and feasting on yomari. The delicacies are not only enjoyed but also offered to the goddess of food and nourishment Annapurna to bring prosperity throughout the year. Children go around the neighborhood performing songs and dances, asking the women of the houses for their treats.
The homestay experience is a perfect way for travelers to get an insider’s look at this festival, as many local women in Panauti and Patan will use recipes handed down for generations to make their yomari. Travelers may be invited into the kitchen to learn how to prepare the sweet dumplings, or they can book a true cooking class to learn how to make yomari and other traditional Nepali foods. These are flavorful memories that last well beyond the trip.
The 2019 Yomari Punhi falls on Dec. 12, just as Nepal’s peak tourist season winds down and the winter season arrives. It’s a perfect time to experience Nepal like a local and go trekking at the lower elevations or explore the Newari city of Bhaktapur, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.