Showing posts with label traditional. Show all posts
Showing posts with label traditional. Show all posts

Dec 10, 2018

Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars)


A German and Swiss holiday staple, this cookie has it all: It's spicy, it's chewy, and it's enticingly covered with sweet frosting. Zimtsterne or cinnamon stars are traditionally made in the shape of a six-pointed star, but if you only have a cutter with five points, that's okay too!


This recipe is adapted from my good friend Cyn's blog, Home Cyn Home. My longtime friend Cyn is a Swiss national living in Mumbai with her Indian husband, adorable daughter Ishita, cute cat Mittens, and dedicated dog Jasmine. Cyn celebrates Christmas by making traditional Swiss treats and lots of fun Christmas crafts. She is also a professional artist and her designs are available on Society6, Redbubble, and Colorpur. Be sure to visit her blog for more easy recipes and craft projects or a hilarious rant on the perils and pitfalls of expat life in India.

Bibi's Kandy-Kolored Raspberry-Flake Streamline Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer (My apologies to Tom Wolfe)
So when I first saw this recipe for I thought, "Egg whites and royal icing, hmm, sounds fiddly." But then I picked up this KitchenAid stand mixer while last passing through Delhi and that's what made this recipe a snap! I had my mom's 70's harvest gold and my own late 80's hunter green KitchenAid mixer in California, but did not bring them to Nepal due to voltage issues. (No, this is not an ad for KitchenAid) That whisk beater makes short work of whipping egg whites.! If you don't have a stand mixer a handheld electric mixer will do, but possibly take a few minutes longer. I ground the almonds finely in seconds in my Indian-style mixie.

See that glorious pile of local oranges on the Tarkariwala's cart?
Right now oranges are in season so I used a little orange zest and orange juice to make these cookies halal. Kirsch is the traditional flavoring but I'll bet Gran Marnier would be delicious also. Orange and cinnamon are such a great pairing. Cyn advises putting the royal icing on just after baking rather than before or during as is traditional. I agree as the pure white icing tends to discolor if baked, especially if you have a convection style oven. Be sure not to overbake as the Zimtsternen are meant to be a bit chewy and will taste burnt even if they're just baked to medium brown. Overall, this recipe is a keeper! I love this cookie's festive star shape and snow-like topping.The delightfully chewy, nutty texture and spicy cinnamon flavor are delightfully different. They really are easy to make - especially if you make the dough in advance and then bake and frost them the next day. I love'em! Off to the recipe:

Ingredients:
3 egg whites
1 pinch of salt
1 C powdered sugar
2 TBS cinnamon powder
1 TBS of orange juice (or Kirsch)
1 tsp orange zest (optional)
4 &1/2 C or 500g ground almonds (with skin)
extra ground almonds as needed
extra powdered sugar for rolling out dough
gold glitter sprinkles for decorating (optional)
Royal Icing:
1 egg white
1 C powdered sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 tsp orange juice

Here's what to do:
1) In a large mixing bowl beat the egg whites and salt until they form stiff peaks. (I use the whisk beater for this step.)


2) Add the powdered sugar to the beaten egg whites and fold until you have a smooth paste. (I switch to the regular beater from the whisk for this step.)


3) Mix in the ground almonds, cinnamon, orange juice (or kirsch) and orange zest and combine as evenly as possible. At this point, you will have a sticky dough. Add some extra ground almonds gradually until the dough sticks to itself but remains soft yet pliable.


4) Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate it for at least 8 hours to allow the cinnamon flavor to develop and the almonds to soak up the moisture. This dough can also be frozen for several weeks before use.


5) When ready to bake make a small batch of royal icing* (directions below) and preheat oven to 180C/350F. Place a large piece of waxed paper on a flat surface and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Place the chilled dough on the waxed paper and powdered sugar, lightly sprinkle with more confectioners' sugar and press or roll out to 1/3-inch thick.


6) Using a cookie cutter dipped in water, cut into 2-inch star shapes. Reroll and cut any scraps. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Bake the cookies in the center of the oven for about 10-15  minutes (they should just start to turn brown on the edges). Do not overbake!


7) Spread the royal icing* on the cookies as soon as you take them out of the oven. Ideally, the cookies should still be a bit hot. Sprinkle with gold colored sugar before icing sets if desired. Allow the cookies to cool on a rack. When completely cooled store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks. Zimtsternen taste best if allowed to stand for 24 hours.

*Royal Icing:
1) Place egg white, a pinch of salt, and a teaspoonful of orange juice in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or beaters. Beat until frothy.

2) Add the powdered sugar and beat on low speed until well blended. Increase the speed to medium-low and beat until the mixture is stiff and shiny, usually about 3 to 5 minutes. This icing hardens quickly, so be sure to cover it with plastic wrap until you're ready to use it. Gently press the plastic wrap into the surface of the icing to prevent a crust from forming.

Helpful Hints:


Grind almonds quickly and easily in your Indian-style mixie. I did mine in two 250g batches and it took only seconds!

Jun 4, 2018

Tips & Tools: How to Make a Mughal-Style Shorba (Stock) in a Pressure Cooker

shorba, chorba, stock, broth, mughal, recipe, method, mutton, chicken, technique, pressure cooker, easy, traditional, authentic, wazwan, indian, pulao, biryani,

A flavorful stock or shorba is the secret ingredient that will take your savory South Asian dishes from ordinary to exceptional! Get your biryanis bangin' and your pulaos poppin' with this easy recipe using a pressure cooker. 


A royal feast for the Uzbeks, Mughal, 18th century, National Museum of India
The cooking of the ancient Mughals was a veritable riot of flavors, fragrance, colors, experiments, protocol, table manners, traditions, techniques, and textures. At least one hundred different and exquisite dishes were served at each meal. Each dish was prepared by one cook fiercely seeking favor with the emperor. With techniques taken from the Persian and Ottoman empires, the finest of ingredients were combined in elaborate dishes. One such technique was the making of the shorba or stock to imbue savory dishes with umami-rich flavor. The word shorba comes from the Persian term شوربا with "shor" meaning salty and "ba" meaning stew. In today's modern vernacular a shorba has come to mean any sort of soup, gravy, or stew. But in the days of the Mughals, a shorba was a savory bone or meat-based broth.

The Waza!
The Mughals were prolific documenters but we have our own living historian of Mughal cuisine: the waza! The supreme chef of the Kashmiri Wazwan or traditional formal banquet is our living historian. When you taste the dishes of the Wazwan you are actually tasting history. For generations of wazas the dishes and methods of the royal Mughal court have been passed down. And this is whom I've learned this recipe for a classic shorba from. After the waza has chosen the animals and overseen their butchering one of the first things he does is make the shorba.

Gushtaba- famed dish of the Wazwan made of pounded mutton meatballs in a delicate yogurt sauce
This is because the shorba or bone-based stock is what gives so many Wazwan dishes their full, rich flavor. Yakhni, Rogan Josh, Gushtaba, Rishta, Aab Gosht, pulao, biryani, - just about all savory dishes benefit from the addition of a well-made shorba. I've rarely seen a waza add water to a dish. Mughal cooking isn't just grease and masala as some Delhi restaurants might lead you to believe.


The Waza begins to make the shorba by frying the bones he has chosen to make the stock. This gives the shorba a richer, slightly caramelized flavor and achieves the same effect that western chefs get when they roast bones for a stock. In the tradition of the Wazwan, every part of the animal is used. I save up the bony bits and joints from mutton and the necks and backs from chicken in a box in the freezer to make my shorba. The waza makes gallons of shorba in a huge deg over a fire for a Wazwan.  I find a pressure cooker more suited to my needs as I usually only make a little over a liter.



The Waza does not use any sort of fresh herbs or root vegetables except for possibly a few cloves of garlic in making the shorba.  No French mirepoix, German Suppengrün, Dutch soepgroente, Italian soffritt, or Polish włoszczyzna is used in the making of stocks, soups, sauces, and stews as in western cuisines. No bouquet garni of fresh herbs tied with string or placed in a cheesecloth bundle is used either.



Rather, the Waza uses sabut garam masala or the whole spices you'd find ground into garam masala to season his shorba. Black peppercorns, green cardamom, cumin, cloves, cassia bark, cassia leaves, fennel, coriander, black cardamoms, - the list can vary according to each waza. Sometimes even saffron is included for an especially lavish touch. Our waza also adds a few cloves of garlic to the mix, not all wazas do that though.







The whole spices or sabut garam masala are then tied into a cheesecloth sachet called a potli. The waza then places the potli full of spices into the deg or huge urn-shaped pot with the fried bones and some water.








The deg and its contents are then allowed to simmer over a woodfire for hours until reduced to the desired amount. The urn-shaped cooking vessels you see in the above photo are what is called a deg in Kashmiri cooking, they are made of beaten copper and are quite heavy. The shape and craftsmanship of the deg goes back before the time of the Mughals. I prefer to use a pressure cooker as woodfires and giant degs aren't very practical in my kitchen.


After the shorba is completely cooked the waza strains the liquid through cheesecloth to remove most of the solids and particulates. The spice-filled potli is then discarded. Above you can see the huge blue tub partially covered by cheesecloth that the waza's helper strained the newly-made shorba into. Now the shorba is ready to be ladled out for use in the many dishes of the Wazwan - 36 courses minimum!


Bibi's jugaadi or 'make-do' do straining method requires only a collander placed over a pot with a spout. Not quite as efficient as cheesecloth over a tub but it works, it is reusable, and it is using equipment I always have on hand in my kitchen!


Here is Bibi's shorba. I only make shorba for special occasions like Ramadan, Eid, or an Urs when I'll be cooking lots of savory dishes. Right now during Ramadan I make a special mutton or chicken dish every day to send to the mosque for iftar. About a month in advance of when I wish to make shorba I'll start saving mutton bones and or chicken necks and backs in the freezer. Then once a week I'll make a fresh batch of both mutton and chicken shorba and keep it in the refrigerator until needed. A shorba is a simple, healthy, and inexpensive way to give your curries, gravies, sauces, sooups, biryanis, and an amazingly authentic taste!

Ingredients:
5-7 raw mutton bones or 5-7 raw chicken necks and/or backs
5 liter or larger pressure cooker
2 TBS ghee or cooking oil of choice
2 tsp salt (optional but will help preserve the stock/shorba)
5 C water
1 tsp cumin seeds/jeera
1 tsp fennel seeds/saunf
3 green cardamoms/elaichi
2-inch piece of cassia bark/dalchini or cinnamon stick
2 cassia leaves/tej patta
5 cloves/laung
4 black cardamoms/kali elaichi, bruised in a mortar and pestle
10 black peppercorns/kali mirch
3 cloves garlic/lahsun (optional)

Here's what to do:
1) In a 5-liter pressure cooker heat ghee or cooking oil with salt over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add mutton bones or chicken pieces and fry for about 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.


2) Add 5 cups of water and whole spices to browned bones.


3) Seal pressure cooker and heat for 15 minutes or one whistle. Turn off heat but leave pressure cooker sealed on the burner for 10 minutes.


4) Unseal pressure-cooker you should have a nice, rich, brown stock/shorba! Allow to cool to slightly warmer than room temperature.


5) Strain or sieve finished stock/shorba to remove bones and spices.


6) Place the shorba in a sealed airtight container and keep refrigerated until ready to use. You will see the shorba separate with a layer of fat rising to the top. Keep stock/shorba in the refrigerator in a sealed, airtight container for up to two weeks if you leave the layer of fat or up to one week if fat is removed. (You can use the fat scooped off the top just as you would ghee or clarified butter- I use it to fry onions with.)

Ramadan Kareem!

Bibi ;)

Feb 25, 2018

Soachal (Kashmiri Mallow)

Kashmir, Kashmiri, mallow, recipe, sochal, soachal, vegetable, traditional, easy, india, pakistan, weed, malva, forage, edible,

Mallow or soachal is a much-loved vegetable in Kashmir. Simply sauteeing with a bit of garlic and red chili is the Kashmiri way of rendering this common weed into a delicious dish.

Kashmir, Kashmiri, mallow, recipe, sochal, soachal, vegetable, traditional, easy, india, pakistan, weed, malva, forage, edible,
Common mallow (Malva neglecta)
What a  surprise it was when I saw my Kashmiri sister-in-law washing and prepping a pile of leaves from this weed on our last trip to Srinagar. This plant is called cheeseweed or common mallow in my native California. You'll often see this pretty little weed growing wild along roadsides or in newly disturbed soil around the world. I had no idea it was completely edible nor that it tasted so good! Most wild greens I've tried have been bitter, sour, fibrous, metallic, or earthy to the point that they required a lot of cooking and seasoning. Mallow leaves or soachal (pronounced tsot-zall) in Kashmiri are tender with a delicately green flavor thus requiring minimal cooking and seasoning.

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Common mallow (Malva neglecta) in my garden
 So now I have soachal (mallow) growing alongside Kashmiri haak (collards) and gogji (turnips) in my winter garden here in Nepal.  The plant freely reseeds and suffers minimal pests. About once a week I pluck leaves from the little plot of soachal (mallow) in the morning to prepare for lunch or dinner. If you are interested in learning more about mallow I've written a post about it here.

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Common mallow (Malva neglecta)
This recipe is for the simple yet delicious saute my sister-in-law prepared that day. Garlic and Kashmiri mirch add just enough umami boost and spicy heat to perfectly compliment the mild flavor of the mallow leaves. Mallow is in the same family as okra and has a similar mucilaginous sap. Allowing the mallow leaves to completely dry before sauteing prevents them from getting gooey. Leaving the pan uncovered while sauteeing keeps steam from causing slime too. The leaves turn slightly crisp when cooked in this manner giving the dish a unique and interesting texture. The Kashmiris also do another tasty dish that combines soachal or mallow leaves with nadroo (lotus root). If I can find some fresh lotus root/nadroo here in Nepal I'll put that recipe up too! Until then, off to the recipe:

Ingredients:
4-5 C mallow/soachal leaves,
2-3 TBS cooking oil, or just enough to cover the bottom of your pan
2-3 garlic/lahsun cloves, minced finely
1-2 tsps Kashmiri mirch (or red chili powder of choice)
1/4 tsp turmeric/haldi
salt to taste

Here's what to do:
1) Rinse fresh mallow leaves with cold water and allow to dry for three to four hours. Pick out any damaged or diseased leaves or woody stems.

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2) Heat cooking oil in kadhai or shallow skillet over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes. (Oil should be hot but not smoking). Place clean mallow leaves and minced garlic in hot oil in pan. Stir so that leaves and garlic are coated with hot oil. Some liquid will come out of the leaves. (Do not cover the pan or the leaves go a bit slimy- I learned that the hard way.)


3) Allow mixture to fry for about 3-4 minutes then add salt, Kashmiri mirch/red chili powder, and turmeric. (I usually add about a scant teaspoon of salt) Stir well. Continue frying for about 4 minutes more or until garlic is cooked through. Salt to taste and serve hot or warm with rice.

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Helpful Hints:
When asked the Sheikh (my husband) how long to cook the soachal he said, "Until it is done." Duh.  So basically I figured out that when the garlic is limp and cooked through the soachal is probably "done" too.


Feb 15, 2017

Kohinoor Chicken Curry

kohinoor chicken curry, chicken, murgh, kohinoor, curry, easy, mughal, moghul, north indian, indian, easy, recipe, non veg, spicy, authentic, traditional,

From the royal courts of the ancient Mughals comes this recipe for a rich chicken curry. First, the chicken is marinated in yogurt and spices which will render it moist and flavorsome. The marinated chicken pieces are then slowly simmered until tender in a creamy gravy lavishly laced with traditional spices. Truly a regal dish that requires far less effort than you might think to prepare!

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This is one of those creamy, rich, ultra-posh Mughal dish with all the "bells and whistles" so popular around Delhi. The long list of ingredients does look quite daunting, but I've broken it down and simplified the steps so it's really not that difficult! It is also a great recipe for any special occasion as most of the preparation can be done a day in advance. A word of warning though, this chicken curry is VERY spicy. This isn't one of those bland, timid Mughlai recipes relying mostly on butterfat and cream for it's flavor. There's definitely a lot of spice and heat going on here, but it is masterfully blended to perfection. So if you're looking for a chicken curry recipe with bold, vibrant, IN YOUR FACE flavor - this is it!

Ingredients:
1kg/2lbs chicken, skinless and cut into 8 pieces, bone in preferred
3 TBS cooking oil or ghee
1 C onions, thinly sliced into half moons
3 tomatoes, diced finely or pureed
2 C water or stock/shorba
1 TBS dried mint (optional for garnish)
Grind to smooth paste for masala:
1 TBS coriander/dhania
2 tsp cumin/jeera
9 cloves/laung
12 black peppercorns/kali mirch
7 green cardamoms/elaichi
1 inch piece cassia bark/dalchini, broken into small pieces
1 TBS water
Grind until smooth for marinade:
1 C full fat yogurt
1/2 tsp flour/maida (this will keep the yogurt from splitting)
1 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
1 TBS ginger/adrak paste
3-4 green chilis/hari mirch
1/4 C almonds/badaami, ground finely (or coconut cream)*
2 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1 tsp paprika plus 1 tsp cayenne powder)
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi
2 tsp salt

Here's what to do:
1) Grind almonds to fine powder in mixie, food processor, or blender. Grind powdered almonds and all ingredients listed for marinade to smooth paste in a mixie, foods or blender. Coat each piece of chicken in marinade. Place chicken and marinade in airtight, sealable container and allow to marinate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight in the refrigerator.

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2) When ready to cook, heat oil over medium heat in a large heavy bottomed skillet or kadhai for 5 minutes. While oil is heating grind spices with water as listed for masala in mixie, food processor, or blender and set aside. Add thinly sliced onions to hot oil and fry for 5 to 7 minutes or until just beginning to brown. 

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3) Add diced or pureed tomatoes and ground spices for masala to the fried onions, stir well, and fry for 5 minutes or until oil separates from the mixture.


4) Add marinated chicken pieces to fried onion mixture in pan. Reserve marinade. Cook chicken pieces for 2 minutes on each side. Add reserved marinade and 2C water or stock/shorba. Stir well.

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5) Bring the dish to a simmer covered over medium heat. Stir well every 5 minutes turning the chicken pieces to be sure they cook evenly. The dish is ready when the chicken is cooked through, about half the liquid has evaporated, and the oil separates from the gravy. This usually takes 20 to 25 minutes.  Salt to taste, garnish with dried mint if desired and serve!

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Helpful hints:
For persons suffering peanut or nut allergies a good substitute for ground almonds is canned coconut cream. (Persons suffering peanut and tree nut sensitivity can usually safely eat coconut.)

Lithograph dated 1844 from the online gallery of the British Library depicting the Maharaja Ranjit Singh's jewels including the famed Kohinoor diamond (top center). Maharaja Ranjit Singh extorted the Kohinoor diamond from the Emir of Afghanistan in 1813. The lithograph also portrays one of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's favorite horses shown with the head officer of his stables.

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. 

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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!

Ingredients:
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.

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2) Allow roasted vegetables to cool completely. 

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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.

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Helpful Hints-
Other authentic variations of this recipe blend in a tablespoonful of dry roasted sesame seeds or dry roasted peanuts.
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