Soft And Fluffy, These Nepali Rice Cakes Are Simple Comforts

Bread in India is so much more than a throwaway addition to a meal, they’re the living breathing heart of communities. Goans got nicknamed ‘Maka Paos’ after the call of their local breadwallas who cycle through the quiet back lanes delivering fresh loaves and Kashmir’s Kandur bakeries hold a cultural identity of their own. Each state has its own bread history but what about our neighbours to the north, Nepal?

It seems like bread love is a global phenomenon and Nepal’s traditional bread Bhakka is a great example of this. The simple, fluffy rice flour cake comes from the heart of the Tharu and Rajbanshi communities who live in the eastern plains of the country. They’re similar to idlis and are eaten in a similar way too, for breakfast or as a snack with fresh tomato pickles. If you visit that part of the country, you’ll probably spot a lot of women steaming and selling them early in the morning on the streets.

Although simple, the process to make it soft and airy is a time-honoured technique. Bhakka is made with soaked rice that is then freshly milled and moistened with water. The flour is then massaged into grainy sand and sieved to form smaller round grits. It’s then compacted and steamed, traditionally in a clay pot with a narrow opening covered by a muslin cloth. 

These rice bread are preferred around winter and can be sweetened with sugar for a dessert version of the dish. But the most common version is the savoury cake served with a pickle made from tomato, green chilli, and green coriander paste with salt and, if available, Sichuan pepper for an extra kick.

For the true experience, you’ll need to wander the streets of Nepal at dawn, but if you’re trying to get a taste of the dish at home, try this recipe below. It utilises ready-made rice flour instead of freshly milled moistened rice so the texture may be a little different from the true recipe, however you can also soak and grind some rice at home if you are able.


  • 1½ cups rice flour
  • Water


  • Start sprinkling water into the rice flour and mix well with your fingertips until it just comes together. 
  • If you’re able to make a ball from the flour which then crumbles, it’s sufficiently moist.
  • Cover and keep it to rest for an hour.
  • Meanwhile, soak some muslin cloths in water. 
  • Push the flour through a sieve to create a coarse texture.
  • Gently pack the flour into a small glass or metal bowl, cover them with the muslin sheets and then flip them over and place in a steamer.
  • When in the steamer gently remove the bowl and then steam for 7-8 minutes.
  • Serve hot with chutney.