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.

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