Showing posts with label dried. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dried. Show all posts

Jan 23, 2017

Ingredients: Jimbu, Jambu, Jamboo, Jhiku-cha

jimbu, jambu, jamboo, jhiku-cha, himlayan, herb, allium, nepal, przewalskianum, hypsistum, dal, himalaya, dried, mustang, upper mustang, thakali,

Jimbu, jambu, jamboo, or  jhiku-cha is a dried herb used in Himalayan regions. It is the dried stalks and leaves of two species of wild onions and looks like dried grass. When fried in ghee or oil the dried herb has a pungent flavor much like garlic or shallots. After tempering in this manner it is traditionally used to flavor lentils, pickles, meat, salads, and vegetables.

jimbu, jambu, jamboo, jhiku-cha, himlayan, herb, allium, nepal, przewalskianum, hypsistum, dal, himalaya, dried, mustang, upper mustang, thakali,
 Allium przewalskianum 
jimbu, jambu, jamboo, jhiku-cha, himlayan, herb, allium, nepal, przewalskianum, hypsistum, dal, himalaya, dried, mustang, upper mustang, thakali,
Allium hypsistum
Allium hypsistum and Allium przewalskianum are the two perennial species of the onion family that are dried to make jimbu. The plants thrive in the sandy soils and cool arid climates of the Himalayas from 2,000m to 4,800m in altitude. Both are small species slightly over a foot in height and are found from Central Asia to China. Dense umbels of rose-purple flowers and fibrous orange-colored bulbs are distinctive of both species too.

jimbu, jambu, jamboo, jhiku-cha, himlayan, herb, allium, nepal, przewalskianum, hypsistum, dal, himalaya, dried, mustang, upper mustang, thakali,
A valley in the Upper Mustang region of Nepal, formerly known as the Kingdom of Lo

The high altitude Upper Mustang region of Nepal is where most jimbu is harvested.
The wild herb is seasonal and is foraged between June and September. The leaves and stems are then allowed to air-dry in sheds. The Thakali people of Nepal inhabit the Upper Mustang and the sale of jimbu is a significant part of their annual household income. About 3288 kilograms of dried jimbu was estimated to be collected in Upper Mustang during 2004. Most of the land in the high desert Mustang region lacks vegetation. The sandy soils are prone to erosion by wind, snow, and rain. Allium hypsistum and Allium przewalskianum grow in soil-binding clumps which help to prevent this erosion. Unfortunately over harvesting of these wild plants has been a problem with Allium przewalskianum listed as a vulnerable species in the 1990s.

jimbu, jambu, jamboo, jhiku-cha, himlayan, herb, allium, nepal, przewalskianum, hypsistum, dal, himalaya, dried, mustang, upper mustang, thakali,

Here in Pokhara we have a large population of Thakali folks so you'll often see jimbu in large sacks at markets in early Fall. If kept cool, dry, and out of direct sunlight jimbu stores well for about a year.

jimbu, jambu, jamboo, jhiku-cha, himlayan, herb, allium, nepal, przewalskianum, hypsistum, dal, himalaya, dried, mustang, upper mustang, thakali,

In the past few years I've even seen jimbu packaged at the local department store. Priced at a little over a dollar for 25 grams it's not cheap but not exorbitantly expensive compared to spices with similar flavor such as hing/asafoetida. Jimbu smells like dried onions to me.


So as you can imagine we have quite a few Thakali restaurants around here. We have other regional specialty restaurants such as Newari and Gurung too. One of the most famous Thakali dishes is made with black lentils called kalo maas. Kalo maas is a black lentil grown at lower hilly elevations. The Thakali also grow a red bean at higher elevations that is much like a pinto bean in flavor called Simi. The Thakali prefer to split their lentils before cooking so that's how you'll see them for sale at markets.

jimbu, jambu, jamboo, jhiku-cha, himlayan, herb, allium, nepal, przewalskianum, hypsistum, dal, himalaya, dried, mustang, upper mustang, thakali,
Split black lentils or urad dal, called kalo maas in Nepali
I've tried cooking this local kalo maas a few times with no success. You can see how tiny these split lentils are in the photo. They are riddled with tiny pieces of gravel that are about the same color and size as the lentil bits. Traditionally, one rinses the kalo maas vigorously then spreads it out on a plate to laboriously sort out all the gravel, twigs, and whatnot. Inevitably you miss a few gravelly bits and some unsuspecting diner bites down on a piece of gravel. NOT PLEASANT. Anyway, after you've sorted your lentils you boil them with a pinch of turmeric until creamy. Mine were more like gluey.

jimbu, jambu, jamboo, jhiku-cha, himlayan, herb, allium, nepal, przewalskianum, hypsistum, dal, himalaya, dried, mustang, upper mustang, thakali,

The jimbu and other spices used such as dry red chili, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, and garlic are then fried in smoking hot ghee in a technique called jhannu in Nepali. This same tempering technique is called chaunk in Hindi, tadka in Punjabi, and baghaar in Urdu. The tempered spices and hot ghee are poured onto the boiled lentils making a distinctive sizzling sound.

jimbu, jambu, jamboo, jhiku-cha, himlayan, herb, allium, nepal, przewalskianum, hypsistum, dal, himalaya, dried, mustang, upper mustang, thakali,

The jhannu or tempering technique is what gives this dish it's uniquely aromatic, garlicky, buttery and smoky flavor. The fried jimbu and I'm guessing the fried fenugreek seeds also lend the grayish cooked lentils a rather peculiar green cast.

jimbu, jambu, jamboo, jhiku-cha, himlayan, herb, allium, nepal, przewalskianum, hypsistum, dal, himalaya, dried, mustang, upper mustang, thakali,

Here's a typical thali from a local Thakali restaurant. This is the Thakali version of the traditional Nepali meal of dal-bhat-tarkaari or lentils-rice-vegetables. In the lower right corner is the dal or lentils made with jimbu. The bhat or rice is in the center and composes most of the meal. The tarkaari or vegetables are the sauteed greens and the yellow potatoes you see on the upper right as well as the bit of raw vegetables on the upper left. (The greens and potatoes were probably made with jimbu too.) The bits of meat in red sauce on the bottom center are a special treat and not usually an everyday occurrence. Just in case anything is too spicy or you're having a bit of tummy trouble a little bowl of yogurt or curd like you see on the upper left is usually served with all meals also.

That's all I know about the traditional and uniquely Himalayan herb called jimbu. Another uniquely Nepali spice is timur which you can read about here. Hope you enjoyed my little essay and keep calmly currying on,
Bibi


Jan 9, 2017

Malai Methi Murgh

malai methi murgh recipe chicken curry indian fenugreek cream creamy easy

Malai means cream, methi means fenugreek, and murgh means chicken. In this dish chicken is simmered until meltingly tender in a rich, creamy gravy fragrant with fenugreek and traditional aromatic spices. A true North Indian delicacy that's mild in heat yet boldly spiced and flavorsome. A perfect recipe for a cozy and comforting Fall or Winter supper when paired with rice or rotis!

malai methi murgh recipe chicken curry indian fenugreek cream creamy easy

Fenugreek and I have not always been such good friends. It's not a familiar flavor to the Western palate and can easily overpower a dish if not used properly and judiciously. This dish uses the dried leaves of fenugreek which are usually available at any Indian grocers' by the name kasoori methi.

Kasoori Methi or dried fenugreek leaves usually come sealed in foil in a small box of a few ounces.

Dried fenugreek leaves or kasoori methi require a little special treatment to get them to release their rich and complex flavor without becoming bitter or overwhelming. As with herbs in general, fenugreek's flavor is much more concentrated in the dried form while the fresh leaves are much milder. A few pinches of the dried herb is all that's necessary to imbibe it's earthy flavor often said to be a bittersweet blend of celery, fennel, and maple.
The herb kasoori methi or dried fenugreek leaves.
Cream is the perfect agent to mellow the sharpness of kasoori methi and best bring out the rich, complex flavor. Never fry kasoori methi as it may scorch and turn unpalatably bitter. (One of my first unfriendly encounters with kasoori methi was the result of just such a scorching.) Only add the kasoori methi towards the end of the dish after the cream or other liquid has been added. Be sure to crush the kasoori methi between your fingers when adding it to a dish to help release it's flavor. Not more than a tablespoonful is usually all that's necessary, anymore than that in a recipe is cause for grave suspicion! If you follow all these suggestions you'll be rewarded with a gravy whose velvety texture is enhanced and warmly accented with kasoori methi's unique and robust flavor. If you wish to learn more about fenugreek when used as a spice, fresh herb, or dried herb you may do so on a post I did here. Despite any previous mishaps, I think you'll find when fenugreek is used gently and judiciously it's quite the taste sensation!

Ingredients:
1 kg/2lbs chicken pieces, skinless and bone in
3 TBS cooking oil or ghee (clarified butter)
1 C onions, thinly sliced into half moons
2 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
2 TBS ginger/adrak paste
2-3 green chilis/hari mirch, finely chopped (omit for less heat)
1 TBS coriander/dhania
1 tsp turmeric/haldi
2 tsp garam masala
5 green cardamoms/elaichi, bruised with mortar and pestle
3 black cardamoms/badi elaichi, bruised with mortar and pestle
5 cloves/laung
1 inch piece of cassia bark/dalchini (or cinnamon stick)
10 black peppercorns/kali mirch, ground coarsely
2 cassia leaves/
1 C milk mixed with 1/4 C cream
1 C water or stock/shorba
1/2 to 1 TBS dried fenugreek leaves/kasoori methi

Here's what to do:
1) Heat oil or ghee with 1 teaspoon salt over medium high heat in a deep heavy bottomed skillet or kadhai for 4-5 minutes. Add thinly sliced onions and fry for 8-10 minutes until medium brown. Add green chilis, garlic, and ginger paste and fry for 2 minutes stirring well. Add coriander, turmeric, garam masala, green cardamoms, black cardamoms, cloves, cassia bark, black peppercorns, and cassia leaves. Stir well and cook mixture for at least 2 minutes or until raw smell leaves spices.


2) Add chicken pieces to the pan. Allow chicken pieces to cook for about 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in milk mixed with cream. Return pan to heat and bring to simmer over medium heat.


3) Add 1 to 2 cups water or stock (or enough to cover chicken by at least a half an inch of liquid)  to chicken mixture in pan. Crumble dried fenugreek leaves/kasoori methi over chicken mixture and stir in well.

4) Allow to simmer over medium covered for 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and oil separates from the gravy. Salt to taste and serve with rice and/or rotis.



Feb 22, 2016

Ingredients: Mango Powder, Aamchoor, Amchur

Amchur, aamchoor, or aamchur is a spice powder made from dehydrated unripe mangoes. It's tart, fruity, sweet, and honey-like flavor is used to add acidity and brightness to dishes in north Indian cuisines. You can taste amchur's tangy note gracing samosa and pakora fillings, stews, soups, fruit salads, pastries, curries, chutneys, pickles, and lentils. It is also used in marinades to tenderize meats, and poultry. 

An unripe, green mango destined to become amchur.
To make amchur, unripe mangoes are harvested, peeled, cut into thin strips and dried in the sun. This results in rather unappetizing slices of dried green mango that look like tree bark you see in the photo below.

Dried strip of green mango that will be ground to make amchur.

These unsightly dried slices of green mango are then ground into a fine pale beige powder that usually comes foil sealed in a box like this in India:


Amchur has a sour, citrusy, and slightly fruity flavor with a fragrance often described as honey-like.  In North Indian cuisines it is commonly used in curries, chutneys, dals, samosa fillings, and stir fried vegetable dishes. It is also used to tenderize chicken and mutton in marinades. Primarily it is used as a souring agent, but lends a bit of sweetness and fruit flavor along with it's acidic brightness to foods too.

Use amchur sparingly and always add it near the end of a recipe. Amchur is very potent and tart so about a 1/4 teaspoon or a pinch is all you need for most dishes. Amchur is also prone to scorching or burning so be sure to add it in towards the end of a recipe after any frying or high temperature cooking is over.

If you can't find amchur where you are, lime juice, lemon juice and tamarind are considered substitutes.

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