Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Top 18 Foods to Try in Nepal

Top 18 Traditional Nepalese Dishes Must-Try in Nepal

These traditional dishes have been cooked and enjoyed in Nepal for generations. A visit to Nepal means feasting on the most delicious organically grown vegetables, fresh ingredients, a minimum of cooking fat, and an artful combination of herbs and spices. Many visitors tell me they appreciate the freshness and healthy aspect of our food. I think this balanced, delicious cuisine is just waiting for discovery in the world!  Here in this blog I am posting 18 authentic and loved original dishes to experience a true "Taste of Nepal."  Please explore this blog to see if I have missed any of your favorites and write your suggestions in the comments.  I am always happy to hear from you!

Nepali food is often fused or associated with North Indian food or Tibetan food, or a combination of both.  Nepali food, however, has its own distinctive flavors and textures. In the southern Terai regions of Nepal, the cuisine has more of the neighboring influence from North India.  Commonly used spices in both cuisines are cumin, coriander, black pepper, turmeric, red and green chilies, garlic, fresh ginger and onions. Nepali spices such as jmbu (Himalayan herb) and timbur (schewan pepper) are not seen in Indian cooking. In Kathmandu the spicing is milder and subtler. Dhindo, gundruk, lentil stews, sun dried vegetables, bamboo shoots, sukuti (dried meat) are more common in hilly areas. Tibetan influence brings momo, the stuffed dumpling, fermented bamboo shoots and such. I would say Nepali food is neither Indian nor Tibetan, but a confluence of the two with a unique twist.  

1. Daal-Bhaat-Tarkaari-Achaar (lentil-rice-vegetable-pickle)
A common meal in many areas is the sdaal-bhaat-tarkaari combination.  Rice is usually boiled and accompanied by a lentil soup.  The daal is prepared from a variety of dried beans, lentils and peas.  There are at least a dozen varieties of daal dishes and each has different tastes and flavors.  Daal also accompanies the rice and is often eaten mixed together.  Vegetables are the third component of this staple meal.  A variety of fresh vegetables and many leafy greens predominate Nepali meals, and their preparation is varies based on the region and season.  Many of the vegetables are cultivated, but also gathered in the wild such as young fern tips, bamboo shoots, even nettle greens.  Nepali meals are often accompanied by a side dish of spicy pickles, which are either freshly made or preserved to enhance the flavor of the entire meal. For additional information, visit this link.

2. Dhindo - Cornmeal, Millet or Buckwheat Porridge 
Dhindo or dhido sounds like some exotic dish, but it is simply a thick porridge or mush, made by boiling the cornmeal (millet or buckwheat flour) in hot water with salt. Dhindo has been a staple food of most rural and middle mountain-area people of Nepal, especially in dry areas where rice or wheat corps are difficult to grow. This hearty and filling dish is a nutrient powerhouse and is often eaten with a dab of homemade butter, curried vegetables, or with various pickles. Gundruk-Dhindo is the most common combination served in farming communities.  It is a not to be missed traditional food of Nepal.  Don't forget to look out for it! For additional information, visit this link.

3. Khasi ko Maasu - Nepali Goat Curry
No list of foods to try in Nepal would be complete without classic goat curry.  In Nepal, goat curry symbolizes a celebratory meal.  The tender goat-meat is cooked with a generous amount of ginger-garlic (pounded in a stone mortar-pestle), cumin-coriander, shallots, and several other spices along with mustard oil to make this delicious flavored spicy dish.  Eat the goat curry with a very Nepali way -- with a generous serving of freshly steamed rice and vegetable side dish. For additional information, visit this link.

4. Aloo ko Achaar - Spicy Potato Salad with Sesame Seeds
Potato Achaar should also definitely not be missed - a very popular incredibly delicious, flavorful and refreshing potato salad dish made with dry-roasted-ground sesame seeds, and several fresh herbs and spices. Only rarely have I come across a traditional Nepali meal that is served without potato achaar. It can be served at any time of the day as a snack food with cheura (pressed rice flakes), sel-roti (fried rice bread) and poori (deep-fried puffed bread), for family gatherings, picnics and other casual functions or festive gatherings. For additional information, visit this link.

5. Momos - Meat or Vegetable Filled Dumpling
When it comes to a simple, delicious, one-meal dishes of Nepal, you can't beat the famous Momos, served with a variety of dipping sauces.  Momo, also known as momo-cha, is one of the most popular and cherished dishes in Nepal.  They are bite-size dumplings made with a spoonful of stuffing wrapped in dough.  Momos are usually steamed, though they are sometimes fried or steam-fried. For additional information, visit this link.

6. Juju Dhau - The King Yogurt from Bhaktapur, Nepal
Discover the mouth-watering yogurt with an extraordinary taste.  Juju Dhau is a sweetened custard-like yogurt that comes from Bhaktapur, Nepal, and is an important component of all feasts and celebrations.  Juju Dhau literally means "king of yogurt" in the Newari language.  While cow's milk is used to make regular yogurt, fresh buffalo milk (bhaisi) is traditionally used for juju dhau because it has a richer taste and texture.  A visit to Bhaktapur is not complete without sampling a bowl of juju dhau. For additional information, visit this link.

7. Sel-Roti - Deep-Fried Rice Flour Bread 
You probably have seen this delicious bread while walking around Kathmandu passing by Haluwai pasal (sweet maker shop).  Sel-roti does not need any introduction in Nepali cuisine -- it is one of the most "uniquely Nepali" dishes, a sweet rice bread, distinct from any other breads of the world.  Sel-roti resembles a large thin puffed-up doughnut and has a crispy texture with reddish brown color.  It is prepared by grinding soaked rice to create a thick batter.  It is then mixed with sugar, clarified butter, mashed banana, water, poured into bubbling oil and deep-fried.  It is a popular as a festive bread for many different occasions. For additional information, visit this link.

8. Maas ko Baara or Woh - Lentil Patties
Maas ko Baara or Woh is made from ground split urad beans (kaalo maas ko daal).  They are light and spongy lentil patties that resemble small flat pancakes, occasionally cooked with ground meat, along with ginger, garlic and other spices.  Woh is made in a similar way as Baara, with the difference is Baara is deep-fried, whereas Woh is pan-fried with only small amounts of oil, making it a relatively healthier version.  The lentil patties is delicious on its own, but serving with other dishes makes a wonderful lunch or snack. For additional information, visit this link.

9. Kwaanti - Sprouted Bean Soup
Enjoy the mixed sprouted beans soup that are built for maximum flavor with satisfying richness -  kwaanti, quaanti or biraula in Nepal are cooked a number of ways: in soups, in vegetable stir-fries, in salads, or in combination with meats.  During the  Nepali festival of Janai Purnima, a delicious stew-like soup is prepared from a colorful array of mixed sprouted beans. Traditionally, the sprouts are prepared from a combination of nine different types of colorful beans.  This wholesome soup is highly nutritious and usually eaten with steamed rice. For additional information, visit this link.

10. Yomari or Yoh-Mari - Rice-Flour Bread
Yomari is a delicious steamed bread with mouth-watering filling made from a new harvest rice flour dough.  It is eaten warm or at room temperature, by itself or with beverage. Yomari bread has a soft delicate texture with a bit of chewiness without being sticky, and a perfect combination of sweet filling with a great flavor. The filling varies according to family preferences which includes chaaku-sesame seeds-coconut, milk fudge, spicy ground meat and bean paste. For additional information, visit this link.

11. Jhaaneko Kaalo Maas ko Daal - Black Daal
Try this classic comfort dish - maas ko daal, or black gram beans. They are among the most loved type of lentil dish, considered flavorful, satisfying, and extremely nutritious. The preferred combination of spices for maas ko daal is jimbu (Himalayan herb), whole dried red chilies, asafetida and fresh garlic to create an authentic taste. Mostly served with traditional Nepali daal-bhaat-tarkaari combination meal. For additional information, visit this link.

12. Sikarni - Yogurt, Saffron, Pistachio Dessert
One the most loved yogurt dessert of Nepal is known as sikarni, pronounced, "see-kar-nee." Simple but elegant, this savory desert is an exceptionally full-flavored, delicate, and creamy.  It is made from drained yogurt, sweetened with sugar, flavored with saffron, green cardamom and sprinkled with chopped pistachios.  Creative cooks have given innovative twist to the classic recipe by adding fresh mangoes, ground almonds and other fresh fruits. For additional information, visit this link.

13. Pharsi ko Munta - Garden Fresh Pumpkin Shoots 
Once you taste this delicious vegetable, you will come back looking for it more! Pumpkin Shoots are the young, uppermost tender shoots, tendrils, leaves, and delicate stems from pumpkin plants. They are considered a delicacy in Nepal. The shoots are harvested from the growing end of the vine (the top 3 to 4 inches) by pinching off the tender ends. The plants will put out a new shoot or growth after the vine has been harvested. Pumpkin shoots have a distinct light flavor that can be described as a cross between squash and spinach. They should be cooked within a day of picking or they will lose their freshness and flavor. For additional information, visit this link.

14. Khalpi Achaar - Pickled Cucumber
The spicy and crunchy pickled cucumbers that we call "khalpi ko achaar" plays a very important part of meals in most Nepali households. It is eaten frequently with traditional Nepali meal of daal-bhaat-tarkaari combination, or it is just perfect to serve paired with bland afternoon snacks.  It is so addicting, both in flavor, texture and color. Nepalese have been making this pickle for centuries using the same natural fermentation process.  They believe that any kind of fermented pickles are associated with great health benefits especially to improve digestive issues. After eating a spicy Nepali meals, the pickles are reported to help support proper digestion. For additional information, visit this link.

15. Phaapar ko Roti - Buckwheat Bread
Phaapar ko roti  is a delicious light-gray colored bread prepared from buckwheat flour. It is prepared with a very simple technique. The flour is made into a smooth batter, spiced, and griddle cooked until light golden brown. The bread is delicious by itself, or with Nepali seasoned salt, which is chili-salt-timbur (Nepali szechwan pepper) powder, or can be served accompanied with a combinations of vegetables, yogurt, and buttermilk. For additional information, visit this link.

16. Karkalo-Gaava-Pidhaalu - Taro Vegetables 
Another well-loved classic vegetable dish made out of fresh young taro leaves, stalks, and young shoots.  They are are boiled-simmered in a small amount of water until taro softens, excess water evaporates, and reduces to silky textured smooth paste like consistency.  It is then tempered with mustard oil, turmeric powder, dried red chili and fenugreek seeds. It is delicious served with freshly steamed rice with freshly squeezed lemon  juice before serving.  For additional information, visit this link.

17. Taamaa-Alu-Bodi ko Tarkaari - Bamboo Shoots, Potatoes, and Black-Eyed Peas Medley
Must try these savory dish that has exotic bamboo flavor dominating the whole dish and usually accompanied with freshly boiled rice as a part of everyday Nepali traditional meal of daal-bhaat-tarkaari. Bamboo shoots are the underdeveloped, young, edible shoots of the bamboo plant known as taama in Nepali.  They have a unique flavor and texture, are considered a delicacy in traditional Nepali cuisine and are a favorite wild vegetable for many. The young and tender shoots are mild-flavored and mix well with most ingredients. In fact, the shoots can be pickled, fermented, dried, or cooked with any combination of vegetables and other ingredients.  They are made into a popular stew-like dish combined with black-eyed peas, potatoes and several other herbs and spices and the Nepalese call this medley, alu- taamaa. For additional information, visit this link.

18. Ek Raate Dahi - Homemade Yogurt
Yogurt is considered one of the country's most important dairy products.  It is consumed throughout the day in different forms. We called the yogurt "ek raate dahi" which translates to  "yogurt made overnight" or "one-night yogurt." Most Nepali households make a small amount of yogurt on a daily basis with just two ingredients: fresh milk and live and active yogurt cultures (usually from a previous batch).   A warm place to rest for the culture to incubate and a "do not disturb sign" are also important. The delicious yogurt will be ready in 6-8 hours.  Yogurt made this way is typically consumed within a day or two before it starts to acidify and turn sour. The yogurt should definitely not missed if you want to have a true "taste of Nepal." For additional information, visit this link.

Discover the most delicious, traditional meal of Nepal -  daal-bhaat-tarkaari, (lentil-rice-vegetable) combination.  There is nothing more comforting than a plate full of rice, lentils and vegetables for many Nepalese.  For additional information, visit this link.

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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.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

2016 - Happy Deepawali-Tihar-Bhai Tika

2016 - Happy Deepawali-Tihar-Bhai-Tika

Wishing all my blog readers
Happy Deepawali! -  (शुभ दिपावलीको शुखद उपलक्षमा हार्दिक मंगलमय शुभकामना)
Happy Tihaar and Bhai-Tika! -  (2073 साल को तिहार, भाई-टिका को शुभकामना)
Happy Bhintuna Greetings! -  (भिन्तुना शुभकामना)
Happy Chat Parba! -  (छत पर्बको उपलक्षमा हार्दिक शुभकामना)

May Peace, Love and Prosperity follow you always and forever!

Deepawali reminds me of Marigold (sayapatri phool) and Globe Amaranth flowers (makhamali phool). As we approach the Deepawali-Tihar-Bhai-Tika soon, I would like to celebrate the festival by uploading several pictures captured by me during the festival time in Nepal. 

I would also like to share a short write-up about the festive flowers from Dr. Deepak Shimkhada, a Nepali scholar, Professor at Claremont Lincoln University, artist, author, and art historian.  He writes, "When I see marigolds I am reminded of Dashain In Nepali, marigold is called SAYAPATRI, meaning ‘flower with one hundred petals.’ I really haven’t verified the numbers by counting each petal and I’m sure that if I really sat down to count them it would drive me crazy, because the petals are tiny and packed into a small bud. The individual who came up with the name might have tried to count, but after counting only 50 or 60 petals might have given up; in his or her estimation, there were more than 100, so the individual might have decided to call it Sayapatri. I am sure there are more than hundred petals, but does anyone care to verify?  I think it’s the colorful sight and smell of the Marigold and Godavari (chrysanthemum) in Dashain and Tihar, respectively; the nostalgia transports me back to my childhood days, when I used to wear a garland of flowers during these times. How sweet those memories were! I can almost touch and smell them."

Season of Marigold flowers - Sayapatri Phool (शयपत्री फुल)
Season of Globe Amaranth or Gomphrena Globosa flowers - Makhamali Phool - (मखमली फुल)

Monday, October 10, 2016

Happy Bijaya Dashami 2016 - विजया दशमीकेा शुभकामना

I would like to wish the "Taste of Nepal Blog" readers a very Happy Bijaya Dashami 2016 (Ashoj 2073 – Bikram Sambat - Nepali calendar). May the warmth and joy of Dashain fill your heart and home with happiness. Thank you for stopping by and experiencing the cultural, social, and religious exchange during the most auspicious time in Nepal.

Dashain (दशैं) or Badadashain (बडादशैं) or Vijaya or Bijaya Dashami (बिजया दशमी) is the 15 day long national (religious) festival of Nepal. It is the longest and the most auspicious festival in the Nepalese annual calendar, celebrated by Nepalese people throughout the globe. It is not only the longest festival of the country, but it is also the one which is most anticipated. The festival falls around October-November, starting from the bright lunar fortnight and ending on the day of full moon. 

Dashain is celebrated for 15 days; the most important days are the 1st, 8th, 9th, 10th, and the 11th. The fifteen days of celebration occur during the bright lunar fortnight ending on the day of the full moon. Dashain is also popularly referred to as Badadashain, Dashera, Vijaya (Bijaya) Dashami etc. 

The most important days of Bijaya Dashami
First Day of Dashain - Ghatasthaapanaa - घटस्थापना - October 1, 2016
Day 7 - Fulpaati - (फूल्पाती) - October 8, 2016
Day 8 - Maha Asthami - (महा अश्टमी) - October 9, 2016
Day 9 - Maha Navami - (महा नवमी) - October 10, 2016
Day 10 - Bijaya Dashami - (बिजया दशमी) - October 11, 20116

Here are some informative links about the festival that I hope you will enjoy viewing

1.  Sharing video of "Celebrating Phulpaati in Nepal"
Published October 8, 2016 by Incredible Nepal....please click here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SKwKXaJ6xU&feature=youtu.be

2.  Phulpaati at Hanuman Dhoka by Avenues TV Nepal - please click here  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzVL_MYET-0

3. Mangal Dhun created by Sur Sudha for great festival of Bijaya Dashami - please click here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0-6U948u7Y&feature=share

4. Part I - Ghatasthapana Puja Vidhi: Jamara Kasari Rakhne “घटस्थापनामा जमरा कसरी राख़्ने ?” : FESTIVALS OF NEPAL - please click here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ipfnmheTWc

5. Part II - Ghatasthapana Puja: “घटस्थापनादेखि दशैँसम्म” Part 2: FESTIVALS OF NEPAL - please click here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rx8Zao65iAg

Friday, July 15, 2016

Bauhinia and Potato Salad (Koirala ko Phool re Aloo ko Achaar)

 Bauhinia and Potato salad (Koiralo ko Phool re Aloo ko Achaar - (कोइरालोको फुल र आलुकोअचार)

Welcome to a new addition to the "Taste of Nepal" blog!  This blog post is intended to be a quick guide to help you enjoy a well-loved, edible flower called, Koiralo (कोइरालो) or Bauhinia.  It is used as an exotic spring delicacy in Nepal.

Koiralo tree is in full bloom in the Spring time (February-March) in Nepal 

Koiralo ko Phool (seto-raato) - Bauhinia  - local name: कोइरालो
Common Name - Mountain Ebony, Camel's foot, Orchid tree, Kanchanara (Sanskrit), Kachnar (Hindi)
Botanical Name - Bauhinia Variegata L.

Useful parts: Flower, Bark, Roots
Family: Caesalphiniaceae

Koiralo ko Phool (कोइरालो को फुल), or Mountain Ebony, is the edible flowers of the Bauhinia tree. The flowers and un-opened buds are collected from the tree and cooked as a delicious vegetable, made into salad-like dish or pickles. It is a popular spring flowers and has become integral part of Nepali cuisine, where it has been consumed for centuries.
The trees originated in the Himalayan region in the high altitude areas, but are also native to South Asia and Southeast Asia, including southern China, Burma, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

The flowers resemble the orchids and the color varies from pink-white to light mauve-purple.  Even during ancient times, Koiralo was used in Ayurvedic and herbal medicine to cure many ailments such as treatment of digestive disorder, skin disease, treatment of cough, thyroid problems, improve appetite and treatment of hemorrhoids. Ongoing studies show that the edible flower is packed with full of nutrients.

The purple orchid-like flowers have a long history as an exotic delicacy among Nepalese, the food writer and executive chef, Sandeep Khatri in Friday Weekly writes,  "The flower is named for Sir Henry Blake, British Governor of Hong Kong from 1898 to 1903, who was a keen amateur botanist by S. T. Dunn, Superintendent of the Botanical and Forestry Department, who assigned it to the genus Bauhinia and named it after Blake in his paper in 1908. This flower was said to have first been discovered in 1880 near the ruins of a house on a shoreline of a western Hong Kong island near Pok Fu Lam. However, this flower and its tree which both have medicinal value have been used in Nepal for centuries."

There are several studies on  Bauhinia; to read more, please click the link here

My memories of homemade Bauhinia and Potato Salad (koiralo ko phool re aloo ko achaar) is when our family cook, Thuli Bajai, used to make a delicious potato-bauhinia salad-like dish when the flowers were in the season in the Spring.  The flower blooming season only lasted for 2/3 weeks. Bajai told us that the raw and uncooked flowers are bitter in taste, so should be cooked properly.  Before cooking, she quickly washed the flowers and buds, but did not to soak the flowers in the water for extended time as they quickly become waterlogged.  The base of Koirala ko achaar is, of course, freshly picked flowers.  A wilted, old, dried-up and spotted flowers complete the flavorless dish.  The first time I tried this recipe, it seemed like I was cooking a beautiful orchid-looking flower, which was too pretty to cook.  Now I can't wait until spring time to cook this delicious vegetable.  Even though I cannot replicate Bajai's recipe, I offer you my version- 

Bauhinia and Potato Salad (Koirala ko Phool re Aloo ko Achaar)

4 medium size potatoes (any kind red or white)
6 cups of fresh Bauhinia
1/4 cup brown sesame seeds
2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (red pepper)
1/8 teaspoon  Szechwan pepper (timmur in Nepali), finely ground with a mortar and pestle
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 medium red onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 large tomato, chopped fine
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons mustard oil
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/8 teaspoon jimbu (Himalayan herb)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2/3 fresh mild green chilies, halved lengthwise

1.  In a medium-size saucepan, combine the potatoes and water to cover, and bring to boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain until cool to handle, peel, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes.  Set aside.

2.  Bring a pot of salted water to rolling boil over medium-high heat. Remove and discard tough stems, wilted and dried petals from Bauhinia flowers and wash thoroughly in cold water.   Some people even remove the center stigma of the flower because it is slightly bitter.  Add a few drops of lemon juice and Bhauhinia to the boiling water and boil until tender.  Drain and run under cold water to halt the cooking further.  Squeeze all the water and transfer to a bowl and set aside.

3.  Heat a small skillet over medium heat and toast the sesame seeds, stirring constantly to prevent them from flying all over, until they give off a pleasant aroma and darken, about 3 minutes.  Remove from skillet and pour into a dry container to halt the toasting.  When cool transfer to a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder.

4.  In a bowl, combine potatoes, Bhaunia, ground sesame seeds, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, Szechwan pepper, green cilantro, red onion, tomato and salt.  Mix well and set aside.

5.  Heat mustard oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is faintly smoking.  Add the fenugreek seeds and jimbu, fry until dark-brown and fully fragrant, less than 5 seconds.  Sprinkle in the turmeric and add green chilies and immediately pour the spiced-oil into the Bauhinia mixture.  Stir well, cover the bowl, and allow the seasonings to develop for at least 20 minutes.  Taste for salt and lemon juice and transfer to serving dish and serve.

So tasty and addicting, koirala ko phool ko achaar - Photo courtesy
Close up koirala ko phool ko achaar - Just taste some and you will know how addicting they are! Photo courtesy
Another image of Bauhinia and Potato Salad - Photo Courtesy
Beautiful sunny day in Kathmandu - the koirala tree is blooming everywhere (Feb-March) adding beauty with blossoms!

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.