Yomari, also called Yamari, is a delicacy of the Newar community in Nepal. It is a steamed dumpling that consists of an external covering of rice flour and an inner content of sweet substances such as chaku. The delicacy plays a very important role in Newaar society and is a key part of the festival of Yomari punhi.
Read More About Yomari Punhi
The unique feature of Yomari is its odd bell shape that denotes the north and south direction respectively. If that wasn’t symbolic enough then the duration of winter can be judged, supposedly, by the length of the tail the Yomari has.
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Legend about Yomari
Locals have different versions regarding the origin of the yomari. One legend has it that a couple in Panchal (today’s Panauti) prepared this form of confection and distributed it to their neighbours. The neighbours loved the confection and hence named it yomari—the Newa word ‘ya’ translates ‘to like’ and ‘mari’ to ‘roti or flatbread’. The legend goes that Kubera, the god of wealth, who had come to the village disguised as a beggar was also given yomari. He was very happy with the couple’s generosity and blessed them with wealth and prosperity. He told the couple that anyone who prepares yomari with the shapes of gods and goddesses on the full moon day will be blessed with wealth and prosperity. Since then, it is believed that the Newa community started celebrating the festival.
But historians have different stories to tell. According to the book ‘Social History of Nepal’, the Bhasa Vamsavali found in Kathmandu Valley mentions that the people of Kathmandu started making yomaris from the time of Amshuverma, from 6th Century.
The authors of the book—Tulasi Ram Vaidya, Tri Ratna Manandhar and Shankar Lal Joshi—suggest that Newas might have adopted the culture from the Tibetans and even further north, Korean, which also prepare yomari-like sweets.
When is Yomari eaten?
Yomari is eaten in the festival called Yomari Punhi. Yomari is also eaten on occasions other than Yomari Punhi in Newa society. Parents feed pregnant daughters yomari and also prepare the delicacy to celebrate even-numbered birthdays of children until they turn 12.
During Yomari Punhi, people also make mayo and Bayo Yomari: mayo, filled with black lentils, symbolizes the female sexual organ, and Bayo, filled with chaku and sesame seeds, symbolizes the male sexual organ. The two are a symbolic representation of the two sexes. Even the ‘yomari phonegu’ practice is considered to be the meeting of loved ones and seeking romance.
Places to Eat Yomari
One can find authentic Yomari all over the valley during the festival. There are only a handful of restaurants in Kathmandu Valley selling almost all year round. If you don’t know how to make it at home, here are some restaurants/eateries where you can have delicious yamari.
The Village Cafe is one of the best restaurants in town serving Newari cuisines/delicacies, cooked by women home-based workers with inherited traditional Newari skills and using locally grown ingredients. They serve yamari all year round and also organize Yomari festival during the day of Yomari Punhi. Best yamari in town. tel: Pulchowk 977-1-5540712 Khokana -9851164447, Thamel -9841877910, Budhanilkantha -9818378784.
Nandini Food Court, Swotha Square-Patan
Located at the center of beautiful Patan (a few hundred meters north from Patan Durbar Square, this small eatery serves varieties of Newari foods. Enjoy the hot delicious yamari served in a tapari (leaf plates).
Bara Pasal, Chokachhen Galli- Indrachowk
Hidden inside the Indrachowk, a small family-run eatery serves few varieties of Newari cuisines, including yamari. Their specialty is Bara as the name suggests. It is located in a narrow Galli/street named ChokaChhen around 25-30 meters west from Indrachowk and packed with locals during mid-afternoon. Ask any locals there, they will show you the exact house it is located in. Closed on Saturday.
Yomari Cafe, Basantapur
Perhaps the most notorious yamari place in the valley is the restaurant in Basantapur that shares its name with the dish. Yomari is an up-and-coming eatery that presents its customers with a variety of Newari and other cultural food items.