Thursday, February 27, 2014

Maha Shivaratri 2014

Festivals of Nepal - Maha Shivaratri - (Feb 27, 2014)

Wishing you all my blog readers - A Happy Maha Shivaratri 2014. Here's sending you warm wishes, good luck and prosperity on this special occasion of lord Shiva's celebration, I am uploading some pictures that I captured during the festival time.

The Pashupatinath Temple during Maha Shivaratri
Source Wikipedia - "Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated every year in reverence of Lord Shiva. The Maha Shivaratri festival, also much popular as 'Shivratri' or 'Great Night of Lord Shiva', is observed on the (13th night/14th day) in the Krishna Paksha every year on the month of Maagh according to the Hindu calendar. Alternate common spellings include Sivaratri, Shivaratri, Sivarathri, and Shivarathri. It marks the convergence of Shiva and Shakti. Maha Shivratri is celebrated on the Krishna Paksha Chaturdashi of Hindu calendar month Maagha which falls in February or March as per the Gregorian calendar. Of the twelve Shivaratris in the year, the Maha Shivarathri is the most powerful.

The festival is principally celebrated by offerings of Bael or golden apple or Bilva/Vilvam leaves to Lord Shiva, all-day fasting and an all-night-long vigil (jagarana). All through the day, devotees chant "Om Namah Shivaya", a sacred mantra dedicated to Lord Shiva. In accordance with scriptural and discipleship traditions, penances are performed in order to gain boons in the practice of yoga and meditation, in order to reach life's highest good steadily and swiftly. On this day, the planetary positions in the Northern hemisphere act as potent catalysts to help a person raise ones spiritual energy easily. The benefits of powerful ancient Sanskrit Mantras such as Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra increase manifold on this night.

In Nepal, millions of Hindus attend Shivaratri together from different part of the world at the famous Pashupatinath Temple (पशुपतिनाथको मन्दिर). Thousands of devotees also attend Mahasivaratri at the famous Shiva Shakti Peetham of Nepal.

.......continue reading here - source Wikipedia

Image of Shri Shankar Bhagwan
 Happy Maha Shivaratri!

Jai Mahadev, Jai Shiva Shambhu, Jai Bhairav, Jai Bholenath, Jai Gangadhar, Jai Kailashmnath!

Here are some useful informative links, and webpages about Maha Shivaratri.  Please check each link to get detail information.

1.  From ekantipur - Shivaratri today: 700,000 expected to turn up - please click here to read the read the complete article.

2.  Shivaratri Festival In Nepal Includes Temporary Lifting Of Marijuana Ban, to read the article, please click here.

3.  Maha Shivaratri 2014; the Great Night of Lord Shiva (photo, bhajans) from Huffington Post - please click here to read the page

4.  Devotees pouring in for Maha Shivaratri Celebration from Republica, please click here to read the complete article.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Loquat Fruit of Nepal - लौकाट

There is nothing like eating fully ripe, sweet and fragrant
 Loquat - लौकाट fruit of Nepal 

Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while will know that I have been trying to introduce Nepal's unique vegetables and fruits, whenever I get hold of it – listed below are the link of my previous blog that you probably have gone through. They are Balsam Apple (barela - बरेला),  Fiddlehead Fern (neuro - नीयूरो), Bauhinia (koiralo ko phool -  कोइरालो), Pumpkin Shoots (pharsi ko munta - फर्सी को मुन्टा), Taro (karkalo-gaava-pidhaalu - कर्कलो-गाभा-पिँडालु), Himalayan Wild Fruit - (kaaphal - काफल), Tree Tomato (tyammatar - ट्यामटर), Ash Gourd (kubhindo - कुभिन्डो), and Banana Blossom (kera ko bungo - केराको बुङ्गो).

Today I want to share with you an attractive evergreen fruit tree and its fruit, we call it "Nepal Loquat" (लौकाट). In scientific journals, Nepal loquat is called Eribotrya eliptica.  The Wikipedia describes the fruit as Eriobotrya japonica, a species of flowering plant in the family Rosaceae, native to south-central China. Some of the common names of loquat are Japanese plum, Chinese plum, LoGuat and Maltese plum.

"Loquats are unusual among fruit trees in that the flowers appear in the autumn or early winter, and the fruits are ripe in late winter or early spring. The flowers are 1in in diameter, white, with five petals, and produced in stiff panicles of three to ten flowers. The flowers have a sweet, heady aroma that can be smelled from a distance."

"Loquat fruits, growing in clusters, are oval, rounded or pear-shaped, with a smooth or downy, yellow or orange, sometimes red-blushed skin. The succulent, tangy flesh is white, yellow or orange and sweet to sub-acid or acid, depending on the cultivar."

"Each fruit contains from one to ten ovules, with three to five being most common. A variable number of the ovules mature into large brown seeds. The skin, though thin, can be peeled off manually if the fruit is ripe.The fruits are the sweetest when soft and orange. The flavor is a mix of peach, citrus and mild mango".....continue reading here.
...hand-picking loquot fruits from our own tree

I have occasionally seen loquat fruits (in small quantities) for sale at local Kathmandu markets, carefully hand-picked and brought by villagers. The fruits bruise so easily and begin to brown immediately after picking up, that makes this fruit travel unfriendly. Many Nepalese  who live in the city are unfamiliar with loquat fruits. My husband who was born and brought up in Kathmandu says that he has never eaten or heard of this fruit, whereas it is growing abundantly in many backyard home garden throughout the country.

 Loquats bring me back to my childhood days in Kathmandu. I fondly reminisce eating these delicious golden yellow fruits straight off the tree from my grandfather's garden in Kathmandu.  His backyard garden had two huge loquat trees and every year, it yielded a big harvest. Generally the fruits were allowed to ripen on the tree to golden-yellow and the juicy and fragrant fruits were carefully hand-picked from the lower branches before the birds starts feasting the fruit. Some adventurous neighborhood kids would throw stone at the fruits in the upper branches and wait for the loquat to fall.  They would enjoy the fully over-ripped fruits and some of them even ate the sour and fuzzy green fruits. The unpicked fruits from the unreachable branches would over-ripe, the color would changes into orange and fall from the tree to perish. The fruit bruise very easily and do not store well, so once picked, my grandmother and her helper would make delicious fruit leather out of it.

Close up photo of loquat, they have begun to turn into beautiful golden-yellow and soft in texture on the tree. They are ready to be picked up. The flavor of the fruit can be described a cross between apricot and plum.
Picture of unripe fruits growing in clusters - photo taken at my mother's farm house in Gitanagar, Chitwan District at the Terai zone of Nepal
Each fruits contains shining large brown seeds (3-5).  The seeds are inedible.
...Spotting loquat tree fruit plant at Nepali Nursery, mostly trees are sold as seedlings
While researching for the botanical name of the Loquat tree in the Google search, I found a book named, "Don't let the Goats Eat the Loquat Trees" by an American Surgeon, Thomas Hall.  There are many good reviews of the book, one reviewer, Dani Moore writes, "What a fascinating peek inside the life of an American Surgeon in Nepal. I always really get enthused by learning about another life from the inside, but I found this especially enjoyable"....... please click here to read more in good-reads.  I have not read the book yet, but if I get hold of it, I would like to read it.
If you have any more information on loquat fruits and would like to share, please post them in the comments section of this blog.  I am always looking for more input.  Thank you.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Pomelo Salad (Bhogate Saadeko) – भोगटे or भगटे सांधेको

It is Bhogate season in Nepal! Enjoy the classic citrus salad dish, especially made during the winter season  -  sweet, sour, tangy dish, adorned by dry-roasted sesame seeds, salt, sugar, yogurt, chili and several other spices.  We call it "Bhogate Saadeko or Bhogate Saandheko".
Fruit and Vegetable Market in Kathmandu - The lady in red khasto shawl is filling her large bag with hand-picked and freshly delivered bhogate - perhaps she is planning to make pomelo salad.
Attention shoppers! High quality fresh pomelo have just arrived in Nepali markets - looks like the pomelos are fighting for attention - and they are destined for a saadeko dish.
Pomelo is known as “bhogate - भोगटे or भगटे" in Nepali language. It is one of the largest citrus fruit, thick-skinned and grown in subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world. Like grapefruit, pomelos are pink or yellow, with fibrous flesh separated into segments by membranes. The fruit is covered by a thick, tough, and loose fitting skin, which peels off easily with some effort.  Bhogate is abundant in the winter months (December-January) in Nepal. Even though this salad-like fruit dish is probably hard to find in Katmandu restaurant menus, it is a great favorite of Nepalese. The preparation of the refreshing salad is a leisurely family affair. Typically, family members, relatives, and friends gather in the sunniest part of the house, usually the top open floor (kausi) or the sunny part of the garden or porch area, on a warm sunny day. A large amount of pomelos are brought in and everyone helps to peel the fruit, separate it into segments, and mix with spices. 
When the green skin of pomelo starts to change to yellow, it indicates that the pomelo have ripened, and so will become juicier with best flavor. Some of the Nepali pomelo growers will not pick up the fruit from the tree, until they are fully ripened. Other growers pick the fruit while they are still light yellow-green and store it for more than a month for a better flavor before using it. 

Common name: Pomelo, Pummelo, Pompelmous, Botanical name - Citrus  grandis (L.) Osbeck)

Be careful to select ripe pomelos.  When ripe, the fruit is dry, and the flesh is firm, and has a slightly sweet-tangy taste. Some of the immature pomelos can be bitter, dry and overpowering taste and the fruit may not be suitable for the salad.  Choose the ones that are heavy for their size then you will end up with juicy pomelos.

Below is the recipe for most delicious, classic salad made for my family especially during the season of pomelo - tastes heavenly in its own way, based on a recipe from my book "Taste of Nepal - page 40-41".

4-6 medium white of red pomelos, peeled and sectioned
4-6 medium navel oranges, peeled and sectioned
¼ cup light brown sesame seeds
2 cups plain yogurt, stirred well
½ cup sugar (add more if the pomelo is sour)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon Szechwan pepper (timmur), finely ground with a mortar and pestle
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons mustard oil
½ teaspoons fenugreek seeds
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
A small pinch ground asafetida (less than 1/8 teaspoon)

With sharp paring knife, prepare the pomelo by peeling and separating them into segments. The segments can be difficult to get to because of the thick rind. The membranes are tough and inedible. Discard the white membranes, seeds, and place in a large bowl.

Heat a small skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat and dry-roast the sesame seeds, stirring, constantly with a wooden spoon to prevent the seeds from flying all over, until they give off a pleasant aroma, and the sesame seeds are a few shades darker, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the seeds from the skilled and pour in dry container to stop from further roasting. Cool and transfer to spice grinder and grind to make fine powder. A mortar and pestle can also be used to grind the spices.

Combine the pomelos, with orange segments, ground sesame seeds, yogurt, sugar, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, black pepper, timmur, and salt, and mix gently.

Heat the mustard oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the fenugreek seeds and fry until dark brown and fragrant. Remove the skillet from the heat and sprinkle in the turmeric, and asafetida. Immediately pour these spices into citrus mixture and stir well. The finished dish should be spicy, sweet, tangy and tart. Adjust the seasoning accordingly. Cover and set aside for 15 minutes to allow the seasonings and flavor to develop. Transfer the pomelo salad to a bowl and serve - makes 4-6 servings.

How to peel a pomelo - with a sharp paring knife, slice about 1 ½ inches off from the top end of pomelo or remove the cap off until the flesh is exposed like in the above picture.

Cut several vertical slice-lines all around the pomelo moving your knife from top to bottom.  Pull each outer thick-spongy skin.  You may have to use some force.

 The above picture of the pomelo peel will be made into pomelo skin hat (भोगटे को टोपी).  Nepali children would love to wear and play with the hat, a perfect hat for their amusements.  It is also a popular past time for young children to kick the pomelo skin like a football during the salad preparation time.  
Pull away all the membrane that surrounds each segments and continue this process until you have removed it all. is a picture of perfectly peeled pomelo..
..... Can't resist these mouth-watering -  भगटे सांधेको dish - This is one of the most popular and refreshing salad dish which I grew up eating in Nepal enjoying with my siblings, cousins, and other relatives.  This dish was typically prepared during the weekends of push-maagh (पौष/पुष, माघ), the winter months  in Nepal.  All the family members would gather in the uppermost section in the sunny and open area of the house that we call it "kausi".  We used to sit cross-legged, on a sukul mat (woven straw mats) or carpets and help peel the citrus fruits.  Pomelos have a very heavy, thick skin and yields more cottony pith than the fruit itself.  You need to have a lot of patients to peel, and separate the fruits into segments, but we were more interested in pomelo skin hat (भोगटे को टोपी) and take off to play as soon as the skin of the fruit was separated.  It was such a joyful occasion. 
You can serve the pomelo salad by itself or with other snacks and beverages, for a leisurely afternoon get-together.  It is best eaten right away or can be stored in the refrigerator up to 2-3 days and served chilled.
If you can't find pomelo in your area, you can substitute with regular grapefruits. Here, in the part of the US where I live, I have started to see large-sized pomelos in my supermarkets, but not regularly. So I tried to recreate “bhogote saandeko” dish with regular grapefruits and found it just as good and full of flavor.  The following recipe is made with pink variety of grapefruits.  
Combine the grapefruit with orange segments, dry-roasted sesame seeds, plain yogurt, sugar, fresh lemon juice, cayenne pepper, ground black pepper, timmur, and salt to taste in a mixing bowl.
... mix well
Heat the mustard oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the fenugreek seeds, and fry until dark brown and fragrant (5 seconds).  Remove the skillet from the heat and sprinkle in the turmeric and asafetida.  Immediately pour the entire content into the citrus mixture and stir well.  The finished dish should be spicy, sweet, tangy and tart.  Adjust the seasoning accordingly.
Transfer the grapefruit salad to a bowl and serve.
The picture (above and bottom) - is captured from my cousin's backyard garden in Nepal and I would like to share the pictures with my blog readers. Her garden was full of citrus fruit trees, such as oranges, lemon, tangerines, but the most impressive was the hundreds of pomelos hanging from the tree,  just ready to be picked.  She was kind enough to give me a large bushel of pomelo and informed me that these pink variety are much sweeter and much sought after in Nepal compared to the white ones.

Here are some interesting link on pomelo that you may want to check it out.

 "How to clean a pomelo like a professional fruit seller", please click here to watch the helpful video on YouTube.

"Sweet and sour Bhogate Sandeko" from Republica Newspaper (Leisure Section), please click here to see the page.

An article by ECS Nepal - "Tangy to Taste" by Yukta Bajracharya.  Please click here for the link.

Refreshing, delicious recipe and information from Desigrub Blog -  "Pomelo salad (Bhogatee Paun)".  Please click here to read his blog.

Another recipe and informative article from, Nepaliaustralian blog - "One of the things widely eaten in Nepal after the festival of Tihar is Bhogate Sandheko also during Mha Puja and Bhai Tika." Please click here to read her blog.