Kwaati (Nine Beans Soup)

August 29, 2013 , by Sewa Bhattarai, Leave your thoughts
Kwaati (Nine Beans Soup) » My Dreams Mag

Kwaati is a Nepali soup made of nine different kinds of beans. Traditionally, it is consumed hot on the day of Janai Purnima, accompanied by rice or flat bread. Though the word Kwaati itself is of Newari origin, the soup is popular across many cultures in Nepal. It is believed to be very nutritious and is a staple food in the winter.


Kwaati is an inseparable part of Janai Purnima, but many of us do not know why the two are so associated. Bhoj Raj Paudel, in China, does not know why we prepare and consume Kwaati in Janai Purnima, and though he likes Kwati, does not make an effort to make it if he doesn’t find the ingredients. Pratap Shah, whenever he craves for it savours the hot beans soup, and substitutes the ingredients when he cannot find that exact ones, feels that eating Kwaati in Janai Purnima is probably a culture from outside the valley, as he has seen people from Gorkha and Birgunj eating it. However, Jyoti Pandey, currently in the US, often makes Kwaati, and opines that we eat Kwaati to build our immunity and strength for the forthcoming rainy and cold season. She is not far off the mark.

The western calendar marks June 21 as the longest day of the year, after which the days start getting shorter. September 23 is the day when day and night become equal, according to the solar calendar. In other words, when chilly season officially starts. But we Nepalis who use a luni-solar calendar are much smarter. We know the start of winter lies somewhere in between, after the longest day, but much before the equinox. We being preparing for the winter in August itself, when we celebrate Janai Purnima with Kwaati, fortifying ourselves for the long winter ahead.

Kwaati comes from two Newari words: Kwaa meaning hot, or alternatively meaning dish, and Ti meaning liquid or soup/soupy. “Kwaanti” with the nasal sound as it is spelled and pronounced today is the result of what happened after a word travelled across cultures: it changed its form.

Kwaati, Kwati


According to culture expert Tejeswor Babu Gongah, Kwaati has multiple uses. It rejuvenates the body, tired from the strenuous work of planting rice. Modern nutrition experts agree that the fibers and antioxidants in the beans build immunity from the season’s many diseases. The spicy ingredients used in the soup, like garlic and ginger, have the power to make us sweat, removing the body’s excesses and cleaning out our system. The heat warms us from inside after we are soaked through in the long monsoon, which traditionally used to be spent outdoors in fields. Since few fresh beans are available in the winter, eating Kwaati on Janai Purnima signals the beginning of long months of gaining nutrition from preserved food. And few things are more nutritious than a combination of beans, where each one is rich in proteins.

To Gongah, it makes perfect sense that Kwaati can cure all the seasonal ills of these months. Nature provides the antidotes to its own poisons, if only we can recognize it.

This medicinal soup is actually not made from a random mix of beans, but has a specific formula to it. Nine different kinds of beans go into making it.   Kwaati, Kwati

Green gram (Moong) : 2 parts 

Black gram beans (Maas) : 1 part

Soyabean :1/6 part

Small peas :1/4 part

Rice bean (Masyang) :1/4 part

Bean (Simi) :1/4 part

Black eyed peas :1/4 part

Broad bean (Bakulla) :1/6 part

Gongah warns that using them out of proportion, or drinking the soup cold, might upset the stomach. (If you drink it too hot, of course, it will scald the skin off the roof of your mouth, and if eat too much, it will give you diarrhoea­­. Be careful of both. —Gongah)

Interestingly, Janai Purnima is called Gunhu Punhi: in Nepal Bhasa, where the word Gunhu itself means the nine-days. As a result, this day is intimately related to the number nine. This day heralds the beginning of a 9-day festival which ends on Krishnashtami. It is believed that on this day you do everything nine times: eat nine times, go out on a walk nine times, and change dresses nine times.

The nine kinds of dried beans must be soaked overnight to ensure that they are completely edible, and then they must be cooked thoroughly, until the hot soup acquires all the nutrition from the beans. For the traditional bowl of Kwaati, Gongah recommends garlic, ginger, salt, turmeric and oregano as the only spices.

You may eat it with flat bread, with rice, with a cucumber and potato achar, or with yogurt. But any way you enjoy this bowl of spiced beans, remember that it is Kwaati which gives the people of Bhaktapur the energy to perform the “Ghintang Ghisi”, the lively dance of Gai Jatra that falls on the day after Janai Purnima.



Text by: Sewa Bhattarai
Photography by: Bikkil Sthapit

  • Kwaati, Kwati
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  • Kwaati, Kwati
  • Kwaati, Kwati
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  • Kwaati, Kwati
  • Kwaati, Kwati

Categorised in: Food & Travel