Sunday, December 4, 2011

Turmeric - Besar, Besar ko Dhulo - (बेसार)

Turmeric  - Besar, Besar ko Dhulo - (बेसार)

Used in nearly all Nepali dishes to add color and flavor, ground turmeric (besar) and fresh turmeric (haledo) are the most important spices in Nepali cuisine.  The plant is native to southeastern Asia (probably India) and is cultivated throughout the warmer areas of the world.  The plant belongs to ginger family and has a rhizome, which looks similar to fresh ginger but has short, round, finger-like stems and orange color. 

Ground Turmeric

Freshly dug turmeric

Kathmandu market - A street vendor is carrying a kharpan - two large wicker baskets that is tied to the ends of a long bamboo pole.  The left basket  is lined with metal bowl, where ground turmeric are placed for sale, and on the right, ground cumin and red pepper are placed in a sack. Notice the vendor's clothes are all stained with turmeric powder.  Another farmer in the back is carrying on the shoulder a kharpan full of green vegetable - what a perfect balance!

To produce ground turmeric, fresh turmeric is boiled or steamed, peeled, dried, and ground to a powder.  Ground turmeric is yellow-orange in color, lightly aromatic, slightly bitter, and pungent.  A small amount of turmeric is sufficient to color or flavor a dish.  Excessive turmeric can overwhelm the other flavors of the food.  One has to be very careful when using turmeric powder, as it tends to stain clothes, cooking utensils, cutting boards, and work surface and it is difficult to clean.

Nepal pepper - Szechwan pepper, Sichuan pepper, Chinese pepper, (Z. armatum) - Timmur - (टिम्मुर, तिम्बुर)

Nepal pepper - Szechwan pepper, Sichuan pepper, Chinese pepper, (Z. armatum) - Timmur - (टिम्मुर, तिम्बुर)

Also known as ban timmur or Nepali pepper, this is a highly pungent, sharp tasting dried berry from the prickly ash shrub family.  It is often mistaken for black pepper, but has an entirely different flavor and is, in fact, not related to the black pepper family.

When the berry matures, it splits into two halves with a shiny black seed.  It has a rough, wrinkled, and uneven surface and the aroma lies in the split covering of the pod, not in the seed.

In the picture, the szechwan pepper,  red pepper and gooseberry (amalaa) are displayed together.  It was transported from the hilly area of Nepal in a doko (wicker basket).  It seems that the vendor did not have another container to separate her goods.  A local measuring devise called ek maanaa, adhaa maanaa, 1/4 maanaa is displayed.  The metal handy tool is used to measure spices, rice, lentils and other grains.

Close-up look of berries with black seeds

Crushed and finely ground  timmur - Nepalese describe its taste as "per-peraune" which means "biting taste with an anesthetic feeling on the tongue"  The spice should be used only in moderation; otherwise it will overpower the dish.

Timmur is most commonly used spice in Nepali pickles and chutneys. 

Five different measuring tools (similar to cups) are used here to measure timmur.

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All information on the Taste of Nepal blog are restricted use under copyright law. You may not re-use words, stories, photographs, or other posted material without the explicit written consent and proper credit to Jyoti Pathak. If you would like to use any materials here, please contact me.

Sesame Seeds - Til - (तिल)

Sesame Seeds - Til - (तिल)

Sesame seeds are flat, small, oval seds that come from the annual tropical sesame plant.  They can be white, black, or various shades of brown.  White sesame seeds are shiny, slippery, and easy to crush and remain white even after cooking.  They are used mainly in desserts and bread preparations.  The black varieties have a strong, bitter taste and not used much in Nepali cooking, but they are considered sacred and are used in various religious ceremonies and rituals.  Light brown sesame seeds are much preferred and usually toasted to bring out nutty flavor.

Sesame seeds - dry-roasted ground and whole seeds

Close-up look of light brown sesame seeds

A typical multi-purpose grinding stone in Nepal.  The seeds are lightly toasted and ground in Silauto
to get correct consistency before adding to a dish.  This method is effective when grinding small quantities.

Saffron - Kesar or Keshar - केसर, ज़ाफ़रान

Saffron - Kesar or Keshar - केसर, ज़ाफ़रान

The dried stigmas of the saffron crocus flower are known as saffron.  Each flower contains three bright red stigmas that are handpicked, an extremely labor-intensive process, making it one of the world's most expensive spices.  The stigmas are dried until they shrink into slender, delicate thread-like, strands with a bright orange-red color and delicate aroma.

Pure Saffron - World's most expensive spice

Close-up look - Saffron is used in small amounts to flavor Nepali dishes.  The threads are usually crushed and infused in warm liquids to extract their full aroma and flavor and to give even color to the dish.

Saffron is available in strands and in ground form in an airtight container, dated and labeled with the source in Indian, Middle Eastern, and regular supermarkets. Good quality saffron has a strong pleasant flavor, and is light, glossy, and soft to touch.  Ground saffron loses its potency more quickly and can be easily adulterated with fillers unless you get it from a reputed spice vendor.

Red Pepper, Cayenne pepper, Chilli, Chili - Rato Khursani, Khorsani, Hariyo Khursani, Sukeko Khursani (रातो खुर्सानी, खोर्सानी)

Red Pepper, Cayenne pepper, Chilli, Chili - Rato Khursani, Khorsani, Hariyo Khursani, Sukeko Khursani (रातो खुर्सानी, खोर्सानी)

Chillies comes in all sizes, shapes, flavor, and colors.  They are the members of capsicum family.

The extremely hot and flavorful chili was grown in our home garden. 

Huge pile of red dried chili pepper in front of the store along with other Nepali spices. The picture was taken near Maru Tole, in the heart of Kathmandu. 

Chilies used in different forms - whole dried red chili, crushed chili pepper flakes, fresh red or green chillies, and finely ground red chili powder.

Flavorful fresh green chilies

Crushing fresh green chilies with a mortar and pestle.

Radish Seeds - Mula ko Beu

Radish Seeds - Mula ko Beu

The dried edible seeds of the radish plant, radish seeds are reddish-brown in color with a pungent, sharp, and peppery taste, and a hint of radish flavor. 

Close-up look of Radish seeds.

Radish seeds are used in small quantities because of their overpowering taste and mainly as a pickling spice.  The seeds are used in the ground form and can easily crushed with a mortar pestle or spice grinder.

Poppy Seeds - Khus Khus, Aphim - (अफिम, खसखस)

Poppy Seeds - Khus Khus, Aphim - (अफिम, खसखस)

These small, dried, pale yellow, black or beige seeds comes from the capsules of the opium poppy.  They add crunchy texture and nutty flavor to any dish, and are especially popular as a topping for breads.  

Picture of spice vendor in Kathmandu.  For the image of poppy seeds please check this site.

Peppercorns - Marich - (मरिच)

Peppercorns - Marich - (मरिच)
One of the most widely used spices in the world, black pepper is also known as pipali in Sanskrit, which means "berry".  Black pepper has a very pungent, hot and biting taste. 

 Black peppercorns

Crushed black pepper with the use of pepper mill (everyday kitchen gadget), whole black pepper and finely ground pepper

Display of ground spice packets in Ason Tole, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Dried long pepper from Nepal spice market.  Nepalese call it पिप्ला Pippla.  For more information for this long pepper check  Gernot Katzer spice page.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Nutmeg & Mace - Jaiphal, Javitri - (जाइफल - जावित्री)

Nutmeg & Mace - Jaiphal, Javitri - (जाइफल - जावित्री)

Known for its strongly aromatic, warm, fresh, and nutty flavor, nutmeg comes from fruit of nutmeg tree.  It is an ingredient in Nepali Garam Masala mixture. Ground nutmeg is frequently used to season strong-flavored meat like game, venison, and organ meats.  Nutmeg should be used in moderation, a small pinch is generally sufficient to flavor a moderate-size dish.

Whole Nutmeg - oval shape, light brown and slightly wrinkled exterior.  It is suggested to purchase whole nutmeg and grind it as needed, because its flavor deteriorates and looses its potency soon after grinding.  Whole nutmeg keeps indefinitely if they are stored in an airtight container.

Mace (javitri) is the outer lacy covering that surrounds the hard nutmeg seeds.  Both spices have delicate flavor.  It is available whole (above picture) or in grounded form.   

Using nutmeg grater and (to the right) finely ground mace.

Close-up picture

Nigella Seeds - Mungrelo, Mugrelo - (मुग्रेलो, मुन्ग्रेलो)

Nigella Seeds - Mungrelo, Mugrelo - (मुग्रेलो, मुन्ग्रेलो)

Also known as black cumin, black onion seeds and kalonji, these are small, triangular, black seeds with rough surface and white interior.  They have a lingering flavor described as peppery, nutty, and bitter.  The whole seed is not very strong, but when crushed they have a distinct pungent flavor. 

Close-up look of Nigella seeds.

Nigella seeds are often confused with onion seeds, but they are quite different and should not be substituted.

The seeds are usually fried or toasted to enhance their flavor, and cooked with meat, fish curries, vegetables such as pumpkins, and used extensively in pickles.

Mustard Seeds - Rayo or Sarysun - (तोरी, राई)

Mustard Seeds - Rayo or Sarysun - (तोरी, राई)
These small round seeds come from mustard plant, a common annual field crop.  They range from reddish-brown to dark brown color, but when crushed they are yellow on the inside.  They have a pungent, sharp flavor, but when fried in oil, they impart a mellow nutty flavor.  

Preparing Nepalese pickles (achaar), the ground and coarsely ground mustard seeds are used, they are must have ingredients because of their wonderful preservative properties, which discourages mold and bacteria.

Mustard Seeds bought at the Indian grocery store.
In the above picture (L to R) crushed yellow mustard seeds, Dijon mustard, finely ground mustard, brown mustard seeds, Crushed brown mustard, dark-brown mustard seeds, and the center is pale-yellow mustard seeds

Mustard seeds range from reddish-brown to dark brown in color.  Photo taken at Nepali spice markets.
Yellow mustard seeds (sarsyan) are used to cook fish and are believed to eliminate fishy odors.

Himalayan Herb Jimbu - dried leaves of a local onion species - (जिम्बु)

Himalayan Herb Jimbu - (Bot. name - Allium Hypsistum Stearn) - dried leaves of a local onion species  - (जिम्बु)

Also known as Himalayan aromatic leaf garlic, jimbu is a dried aromatic herb that is virtually unknown outside the Himalayan region.  The herb looks like dry brownish-green grass and has a distinct flavor somewhat similar to garlic and shallots.  It is found wild throughout many regions of Nepal.  The leaves and tender stems are carefully picked and dried, which weakens the flavor, but this is reversed by browning in hot oil until fully fragrant.  Nepalese have a remarkable fondness for this herb and they use it as a tempering spice to flavor daals, vegetables, salads, and pickles.  For more information, please check Wikipedia

The following information is from - An Introduction to Nepalese Food Plants by Puskal P. Regmi (1982)

Com name: Nepal Aromatic Leaf Garlic

Bot. name - Allium hypsistum Stearn
Family: Amarylliddaceae
Cormatic perennial herb. It grows completely wild in sub-alpine and alpine regions of Nepal. The dried and processed leaves and tender
foliage provide excellent seasoning spice with desirable aroma used in pulse soup, vegetable curry, fresh or preserved achaar (pickles) and so on. It has got medicinal properties as well. Use of jimbu in Tarai regions of Nepal are not yet common.

  Source - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Allium hypsistum, commonly known as Jimbu, is an herb that is used extensively in some regions of Nepal. The herb, which has a taste in between onion and chives, is most commonly used dried. In Mustang it is use to flavor vegetables, pickles, meat. In the rest of Nepal it is most commonly used to flavor urad dal or lentils. The dried leaves are fried in ghee to develop their flavor.

Nepali spice market - display of commonly used spices -  cumin, coriander, fenugreek seeds, black pepper, pink Himalayan salt, packaged spices, turmeric, red and green chilies, garlic and fresh ginger, and onions.

Picture of two most authentic Nepali spices - L Himalayan herb Jimbu and R. Szechwan pepper, Sichuan pepper, Chinese pepper, Nepal pepper (Z. armatum)
टिम्मुर, तिम्बुर - (Timur, Timmur, Timbur)

Copyright Information

All information on the Taste of Nepal blog are restricted use under copyright law. You may not re-use words, stories, photographs, or other posted material without the explicit written consent and proper credit to Jyoti Pathak. If you would like to use any materials here, please contact me.

Ginger - Aduwa or Adua - (अदुवा)

Ginger - Aduwa or Adua - (अदुवा)
Although fresh ginger is sometimes called ginger root, it is actually an underground creeping rhizome.  The attractive plant has long leaves, and grow up to three feet tall, forming rhizomes that are dug up from the ground as they mature.  Fresh ginger has cream to light brown colored skin with pale yellow flesh, and provides the freshest flavor and spicy biting taste.

Fresh ginger in a wicker basket - most important spice in Nepali cooking.

Young ginger rhizome - The attractive plant has long leaves, forming rhizomes that are dug up from the ground as they mature.

New harvest - fresh ginger
Friend's farm house in Nawalparasi, Nepal - watching the process of harvesting ginger - digging from the ground, separating, and drying in the sun. The villagers told me that Nepal is one of the top exporters of ginger rhizome in the world.

Powdered ginger is convenient, but has a different flavor and I do not  substitute for fresh ginger.

Candied ginger slices
The whole dried ginger rhizome is locally called sutho in Nepal.

Nepali market - Beautiful display of herbs and spices - fresh ginger - two different varieties of garlic and shallots.