Showing posts with label Nepali. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nepali. Show all posts

Jan 30, 2017

Momo ko Achar (Nepali Chutney for Dumplings)

momo ko achar, Nepali, dumplings, momos, momo, chutney, hot, dip, dipping, authentic, traditional, sauce, tomato, timur, vegan, veg, vegetarian, recipe, easy, Nepal,

Momos are a savory dumpling of Tibetan origin that are popular in Nepal. Momo ko achar is the spicy tomato based dipping sauce traditionally served with momos. This recipe combines fire roasted vegetables with earthy cumin, bright coriander, zesty red chili, and the surprising zing of Szechuan peppercorns. The result is an amazing blend with a uniquely Nepali taste! Serve as an authentic accompaniment to steaming hot momos or as a delicious dip for potstickers. 

momo ko achar, Nepali, dumplings, momos, momo, chutney, hot, dip, dipping, authentic, traditional, sauce, tomato, timur, vegan, veg, vegetarian, recipe, easy, Nepal,

My Nepali maid taught me how to make this chutney or dip. I've tasted several different versions of this sauce across Nepal but hers is still the best! I guessed what was in the chutney but didn't know Nepalis charred the tomatoes, bell pepper, chilis, garlic, and ginger. Fire roasting certainly makes a huge difference in flavor! 

For truly authentic momo ko achar the vegetables would be roasted on the embers of a traditional Nepali stove called a chulo. Chulos come in various sizes and configurations but are generally made of clay and wood fired. The lovely lady in the above photo has one of the newer indoor models which have a chimney built along the wall. If you look closely you can see her pots are coated with mud on the bottom to prevent blackening and scorching from the fire.  I am told nothing can compare to the taste of food slow-cooked upon a chulo but I use my gas stove for more timely results. I char the vegetables on the gas burners of my stove but you can get similar results if you use the broiler in an oven. I wondered if the spices would be dry roasted but traditionally they aren't.

Nepali timur or Szechuan peppercorns
Please be advised that this chutney is HOT.  It's not just the green chilies that are spicy hot. Nepali timur or Szechuan peppercorns and red chili powder adding their zing too. So there's three kinds of heat going on in this sauce! You may leave the chilies out for less heat and swap the traditional timur for tamer black peppercorns - but momos are meant to be eaten with tears streaming down your face!

3 large tomatoes
1 bell pepper/capsicum, destemmed and deseeded
2-3 green chilies/hari mirch
4 cloves of garlic/lahsun, peeled
1&1/2 inch piece of ginger/adrakh, peeled
1 C cilantro/dhania, chopped
1 tsp cumin/jeera, ground
1 tsp coriander/dhania seeds, ground
1 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1/2 tsp paprika plus 1/2 tsp cayenne powder)
1/2 tsp timur/Szechuan peppercorns (or ground black pepper)
1 TBS oil of choice
Salt to taste

Here's what to do:
1) Roast the tomatoes, bell pepper, green chilies, garlic, and ginger until blackened. Either put them over an open flame or cut them in half and put them under a broiler until the skin blackens and splits. I do this on the gas burners of my stove but traditionally this would be done on the coals of a cooking fire.

momo ko achar, Nepali, dumplings, momos, momo, chutney, hot, dip, dipping, authentic, traditional, sauce, tomato, timur, vegan, veg, vegetarian, recipe, easy, Nepal,

2) Allow roasted vegetables to cool completely. 

momo ko achar, Nepali, dumplings, momos, momo, chutney, hot, dip, dipping, authentic, traditional, sauce, tomato, timur, vegan, veg, vegetarian, recipe, easy, Nepal,

3) When the roasted vegetables have completely cooled peel away the blackened skin. Remove seeds and stem from bell pepper. Place roasted vegetables, cilantro, cumin, coriander, Kashmiri mirch, timur, oil, and one teaspoon salt in a blender, mixie, or food processor. Grind until mixture is smooth.

momo ko achar, Nepali, dumplings, momos, momo, chutney, hot, dip, dipping, authentic, traditional, sauce, tomato, timur, vegan, veg, vegetarian, recipe, easy, Nepal,

4) Grind until mixture is smooth. Salt to taste and serve with piping hot momos or potstickers. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

momo ko achar, Nepali, dumplings, momos, momo, chutney, hot, dip, dipping, authentic, traditional, sauce, tomato, timur, vegan, veg, vegetarian, recipe, easy, Nepal,
Helpful Hints-
Other authentic variations of this recipe blend in a tablespoonful of dry roasted sesame seeds or dry roasted peanuts.

Oct 27, 2016

Nepali Garam Masala

Nepali Garam Masala recipe szechuan peppercorns timur sichuan nepal

From the Himalayan nation of Nepal comes this version of the classic spice mix garam masala. Garam means heating in the Ayurvedic sense and masala means spices. What makes this recipe for garam masala unique is the use of Himalayan grown spices like zingy timur (Szechuan peppercorns), fragrant cassia leaves, and aromatic brown cardamoms. Try this simple to make spice mix to add some Nepalese flavor to any savory dish!

Nepali Garam Masala recipe szechuan peppercorns timur sichuan nepal
Don't let the use of timur or the Himalayan variety of Szechuan peppercorns in this recipe put you off. You most certainly can use the easier to find Chinese Szechuan peppercorns in place of the Nepali variety called timur. Let me tell you, the Chinese Szechuan peppercorns pack about half the wallop and pungency that the Nepali variety called timur does. This recipe has just the right proportion of black peppercorns to Szechuan peppercorns to give you a mild sensation of what the Chinese call ma la (translates as 'numbing heat').  I choose not to dry roast my garam masala as I usually fry it when adding to a dish but I've added directions on how to traditional dry roast the spices on the stove top or use an oven. Either way make this spice mix to add a bit of traditional Nepali zest and zing to any curry or chutney!

1 TBS cumin seeds/jeera
1 TBS coriander seeds/dhania
1 TBS black peppercorns/kali mirch
2 tsp green cardamoms/elaichi
2 tsp black cardamoms/kali elaichi
1 inch piece of cassia bark/dalchini, broken into small pieces (or cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp cloves/laung
1/2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns/timur
1 cassia leaf/tej patta, cut into small pieces
Do not dry roast but mix in afterwards-
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg/jaiphal
1/2 tsp ground dried ginger/soonth

Here's what to do:
For raw/unroasted garam masala- 
Coarsely grind all spices until roughly the texture of coffee grounds. Traditionally a mortar and pestle or sil batta was used to get this texture. Garam masala is not supposed to be like the finely ground powdery stuff you see sold at stores. To get the traditional 'coffee grounds' texture we're looking for use the 'pulse' button on your mixie, food processor, or coffee grinder until you get the desired results. If you are using a coffee grinder or small mixie jar you might want to grind each spice separately in batches to get a consistent texture. Breaking the cassia bark (or cinnamon sticks) into smaller pieces before grinding helps also. Store in an airtight container out of sunlight.

Two methods to dry roast garam masala-

1) Heat a heavy bottomed frying pan or tawa for 7-10 minutes.
2) Dry roast spices one at a time in batches, or toss all spices in and stir frequently until spices give off a fragrant aroma. Do not dry roast grated nutmeg or dried ginger.
3) Allow to cool completely. Grind coarsely (including grated nutmeg and dried ginger) using pulse button in mixie, food processor, or coffee grinder.  Store in an airtight container out of sunlight.
(The problem with this traditional method is that the temperature isn't really even over a tawa on a gas flame and some spices may scorch while others remain unroasted. Cumin usually roasts faster than the other spices and when burned has an unpleasant bitter flavor.  Roasting spices separately reduces the risk of scorching but is tedious. Why do South Asians still do use traditional tawa method? Because most South Asians do not have any sort of oven in their homes.)

Fast & easy oven method-
1) Preheat oven to 220F/100C.
2) Spread all spices (except grated nutmeg and dried ginger) over 13 inch by 9 inch baking pan or cookie sheet. Bake spices for 10 minutes.
3) Allow to cool completely and grind coarsely (including mace, nutmeg, or allspice) using pulse button in mixie, food processor, or coffee grinder.  Store in an airtight container out of sunlight.

Here's photo of a beautiful Nepali sunset I took from my roof yesterday evening.
There's Mt Macchapuchre on the right and Annapurna III on the left in the parting clouds at dusk. 

Oct 3, 2016

Dashain or Vijaya Dashami in Nepal

Dashain or Vijaya Dashami is t
he longest, most popular, and most auspicious Hindu festival in Nepal. It is a celebration of the victory of beneficent gods over evil demons. The fifteen day long holiday usually falls around the end of September and the start of October. The Dashain festival involves many prayer rituals called pujas, offerings of fruits and delicacies, animal sacrifices, blessings of family members, and all sorts of other special activities.  

 Goddess Durga fighting the demon Mahishasura, Guler School, early18th century
In the first nine days of Dashain, the goddess Durga is worshipped in her many manifestations during what is called Navaratri. This celebration commemorates the fierce battle between the goddess Durga and the demon Mahisasur. It is believed all the gods of the Hindu pantheon were nearly powerless compared to the strength of the army of demons lead by Mahisasur. The gods all contributed a portion of their divine powers to form the new and ultra powerful goddess Durga. Each day of the Navaratri has a special significance.

Sacred barley sprouts called jamara
The first day of the festival is called Ghatasthapana. Ghata or kalash means 'holy vessel' and sthapana means 'to establish.' A ghata made of metal or clay symbolizes the goddess Durga and is purified with cow dung, decorated with flowers, and placed in a special sacred room called the puja or Dashain ghar for worship. The ghata is placed in the center of a rectangular sandy area in the room. Pure and blessed barley seeds are sown about the ghata. The ghata is treated as if it were the goddess Durga herself and is worshipped throughout the festival. An oil lamp, called a diyo is kept flickering next to the ghata at all times until the final day of the festival. The ghata is propitiated every morning and evening  in rituals led either by priests or by the home owner. The ghata and the seeded sand are sprinkled with water daily and protected from the sun. By the tenth day, the seed grows into five to six inch tall yellow sprouts called jamara. The pale yellow jamara is believed to confer all the blessings of the goddess.

Flying kites is an important part of celebrating Dashain in Nepal as it is considered a way of asking the gods not to send anymore rain after the Monsoon. People of all ages fly kites from their roofs in Nepal during the festival. Many people often pass the time by playing cards for money and fun too.

A very tall Nepali swing called a ping constructed from bamboo
Giant bamboo swings called ping are constructed by community members for persons of all ages to enjoy. These swings are quite tall often reaching over twenty feet high. Buying and wearing new clothes is part of the festival too so there are lots of sales and discounts in shops.

Buffalo being sacrificed by Nepali army members with a traditional khukri knife.
The eighth day of Dashain is called the Mahaastham and is the day for animal sacrifices in homes all over the country. The night is called the Kal Ratri when hundreds of sheep, chickens, ducks, buffaloes, and goats are sacrificed in the temples of the goddess, the palaces, and army barracks all over Nepal. The ninth day is called Maha Navami is the last day of the Navaratri and is the biggest day of animal sacrifices. Buffaloes are favored for sacrifice as it is believed that the demon Mahisasur took the form of a buffalo on the final day of his battle against the goddess. All sacrificed animals are eaten as prasad or food blessed by divine powers. On Maha Navami, the god of creation called Vishvakarman is also worshipped. All factories, vehicles, machinery, instruments, equipment, tools, and even weapons are blessed by offerings of animal blood. This blessing protects of all machinery, tools, or weapons from damage and calamity throughout the year. It is believed that any vehicle denied of this offering will meet with certain destruction.

Elders applying tika and jamara 
The tenth day of the festival is called Dashami and all the pujas cease. On Dashami all the worshippers in towns and villages across Nepal participate in processions of idols of gods and goddesses rejoicing in the victory of Durga over Mahisasur. Blessings are given by elders in by applying tika to the forehead and adorning with the blessed barley sprouts called jamara. Tika is specially prepared by mixing unbroken grains of rice, yoghurt and red powder. Relatives from afar visit over the last four days of the festival to receive tika and blessings from elders. Nepalis used to wait in line outside the royal palace to receive blessings and tika from the king of Nepal himself. Now I understand the president of Nepal offers tika and blessing in his place.

Some lovely Nepali ladies sporting tika, jamara, and traditional attire. 
The last day of the festival falls on a full moon and is is called Kojagrata. The meaning of Kojagrata is  'whom is awake'. On this day Laxmi the goddess of wealth is worshiped. It believed that Laxmi descends upon earth this night and showers whomever stays awake all night with wealth and prosperity. Nepalis enjoy staying up all night singing, dancing, as well as playing cards and various games.


Unfortunately Dashain falls during peak tourist season and used to be a fourteen day bank and government holiday too. When I first moved here all government offices and banks would be closed for a full fourteen days minimum during Dashain. This posed problems for tourists as well as local business owners as you can imagine. Visa issues were impossible to address as all government offices were closed and any bank transactions were impossible. Not really an ideal financial situation in one of the poorest nations in the world in peak tourist season. Within the last few years the legal holiday has been shortened to a ten days for government offices and some banks will open for half days during the festival. All hotels, hospitals, and other services that remain open for business usually only have a skeleton staff as most Nepalis go to visit their families for the holiday. 

Right now it's raining AGAIN so I'm going to go fly a kite!

Jul 27, 2016

Nepali Style Chicken Curry

Khukura Nepal maso ko spicy

From the heart of the Himalayas comes this delicious chicken curry. Chicken is marinated then slowly simmered until delectably tender in a richly seasoned sauce of traditional Nepali spices. Don't let that long list of ingredients in this recipe intimidate you, this is one of the easiest and tastiest chicken curries you'll ever make!

There are so many ethnicities in the tiny nation of Nepal it's really hard to generalize the cuisine. I learned this recipe from a lovely lady who once ran a small restaurant in the town of Malekhu on the banks of the Trishuli river in Nepal. She firmly insisted this chicken needs to marinate overnight or a full day for the best flavor. Although everyone cooks their chicken curry a little differently the marination in oil is typical of many Nepali meat curries. The liberal use of spices such as black cardamom, fenugreek, and cassia leaves or "tej patta" is common to many Nepali dishes. If you've never made a curry this is a great "first recipe" to try. It really is incredibly simple to make but so scrumptious!

1kg/2lbs chicken, skinless, bone in, cut into 8 pieces
2 cassia leaves/tej patta
2 inch piece cassia bark/dalchini (or cinnamon stick)
Grind to smooth paste for marinade:
1/3 C cooking oil (I use rice bran oil but tempered mustard oil would be authentic)
2 C onion, roughly chopped
2 TBS ginger/adrak paste
2 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
1 TBS coriander/dhania, ground or sseds
2 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1 tsp cayenne powder + 1 tsp paprika powder)
2 tsp cumin/jeera, ground or seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi
5 green cardamoms/elaichi
3 black cardamoms/kali elaichi
1 tsp fenugreek seeds/methi
5 cloves/laung
10 black peppercorns/kali mirch
1/4 tsp mace/javitri (or nutmeg/jaiphal)
2-3 green chilis/hari mirch (omit for less heat)
2 tsp salt

Here's what to do:
1) Grind all ingredients listed under marinade to smooth paste in mixie, food processor, or blender. Coat all chicken pieces in ground marinade and place in a sealable airtight container. If you like, place the cassia leaves/tej patta and cassia bark/dalchini on top of the marinating chicken pieces in the container. Allow chicken to marinate for at least 2 hours up to overnight in the refrigerator.


2) When ready to cook place marinated chicken pieces, tej patta/cassia leaves, and cassia bark/dalchini in kadhai or deep heavy bottomed skillet. Reserve marinade. Allow chicken pieces to fry on each side for 3 minutes, chicken should just be turning white. (The chicken has been marinated in oil so there's no need to add oil to the pan.)

3) Add reserved marinade to chicken pieces in pan. Stir well and fry for 5 minutes. If mixture begins to stick or scorch add 1/4 C water, stir, and reduce heat.

4) Add 1 C water to pan, stir well and allow chicken pieces to simmer uncovered over medium heat for 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and oil has separated from the sauce. If mixture begins to stick or scorch add 1/4 C water, stir, and reduce heat. Salt to taste and serve.

Helpful hints:
Never cook chicken in a pressure cooker, it gets a rubbery texture from the extreme, high heat.

I think this technique of marination in oil came about in Nepal previous to modern refrigeration. Even with refrigeration nowadays electricity is so sporadic this technique is still quite useful.