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!

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