Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cinnamon, Cassia Bark - Daalchini - (दालचीनी)

Cinnamon, Cassia Bark - Daalchini - (दालचीनी)
One of the oldest known and most aromatic spices, cinnamon is the dried inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree.  The bark is reddish-brown in color, pungent, sharp tasting, and easily breakable. Cinnamon sticks keep indefinitely, but ground cinnamon loses its flavor more quickly.

Picture of a Nepali cinnamon - cassia bark, large, thicker and coarser and a feel of a tree bark, easily breakable.  In Nepal, a small stick of cinnamon is chewed with cardamom and cloves after a heavily spiced meal to freshen the breath and palate.
Cinnamon quills - very flavorful

Cinnamon is used either whole or ground to flavor sauces, rice, desserts, syrups, and is brewed with Nepali milky tea.  Cinnamon is also one of the components of Nepali spice blends.

Cilantro or Fresh Coriander - Hariyo Dhania ko Paat, Dhaniyan ko saag (धनियाँको साग)

Cilantro or Fresh Coriander  - Hariyo Dhania ko Paat, Dhaniyan ko saag (धनियाँको साग)
Also called fresh coriander or Chinese parsley,  cilantro is the fresh leaves and stems of the coriander plant.  The seeds and leaves have completely different flavors and aromas and cannot be substituted for one another.  Fresh cilantro has  distinct and sharp flavor, whereas the seeds are much milder. 

Freshly picked cilantro is sold neatly tied in bunches with stems and roots in Nepali markets.

A small amount of chopped fresh cilantro is sprinkled on nearly every Nepali dish as a garnish and to add extra flavor.

Fresh cilantro leaves, stems and roots can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week in a container lined with a paper towel.

Cardamom, Green Pods - Sukumel, Sano Sukumel, Sukmel - (सुकमेल, सानो सुकुमेल, सुकुमेल)

Cardamom, Green Pods - Sukumel, Sano Sukumel, Sukmel - (सुकमेल, सानो सुकुमेल, सुकुमेल)
The dried fruit of a perennial bushy plant of the ginger family, green cardamom pods are three-sided, smooth skinned, and contain reddish-brown seeds.  The seeds are sticky and have a highly aromatic flavor with a hint of eucalyptus.  Because of its high price, it is used sparingly.  When the recipe calls for whole cardamom, the pods are cracked leaving the seeds intact, adding a subtle flavor to dish.  Please see more description of this valuable spice in wikipedia.

Whole Green Cardamom Pods

Cardamom is one of the most important ingredients in Nepali sweets, and is also popular in meat and vegetable curries, sweet preserved pickles, and beverages.  It is also one of the ingredients used to make Nepali garam masala (spice mixture).  In the above picture, cardamom is used in freshly ground form, whole cardamom seeds, and just slightly cracked.

Cardamom seeds are also chewed after dinner or any time of the day to freshen the breath.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Garden Fresh Pumpkin Shoots (Pharsi ko Munta)

Garden Fresh Pumpkin Shoots (Pharsi ko Munta)
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. Like any leafy green, the volume of this vegetable reduces by half after cooking. My husband is growing a small patch of pumpkin vine in the corner of our home garden along with other vegetables. This summer the vine was growing in abundance and we have been eating munta once a week. Once you taste these delicious vegetable, you will come back looking for it...

Enjoy Nepal's most loved exotic vegetable. Recipe is available in the book "The Taste of Nepal." page 169 under Vegetables (Tarkaari).

Pumpkin plant - very versatile vegetable - most parts of the pumpkin are edible, the flowers, the fleshy shell, the seeds (roasted), and the young shoots (munta).

Tender shoots and young leaves of pumpkin vines
Close-up look of tender shoots.

A pumpkin flower attached to the vine are edible -  dipped into spiced batter and fried.  They are very delicious and have a pleasant, moist, and silky texture.

Collecting several tender shoots and the young leaves as shown above

Picking through and discarding any tough, large stems and matured leaves from the vine shoots and using only young shoots and tender leaves.

Removing fuzzy outer covering and fibers from all sides.

When fuzzy covering is removed from the stem,  it is shiny - breaking the stems into 1 1/2 inch pieces.

The outer coverings, mature and fibrous leaves are headed to the compost pile.

Washed and drained
Getting ready to cook

Spices used - dried red chili, fenugreek seeds, ground turmeric, minced fresh ginger and garlic, cumin, and salt.

Frying the whole spices until fully fragrant before adding pumpkin shoots.

Cooking until shoots are tender and have reduced to half of their original volume

They wilt down like cooking any green vegetables.

Final time is minimal -  the shoots are very soft and delicious.

They are so delicious sauteed in fenugreek scented oil with fresh ginger paste and smashed garlic pod and other spices.  Once you taste them, you will come back looking more of it.

Copyright Information

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.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cardamom, Black Pods - Thulo Sukumel, Alainchi - (अलैंची, ठूलो सुकुमेल)

Cardamom, Black Pods - Thulo Sukumel, Alainchi - (अलैंची, ठूलो सुकुमेल)
Native to sub-Himalayan region, black cardamom is the dried fruit of a perennial herbaceous plant of the ginger family.  Apart from its usage in India, Nepal and other Asian countries, black cardamom is not common.  Some people describe black cardamom as an inferior substitute to green cardamom, but it is considered a valuable spice in Nepal.  When cooked with this spice, it enhances and intensifies the taste of food without overpowering a dish.  It is one of the ingredients used to make Nepali Garam Masala spice blends, and is also used in meat curries, rice dishes and pickles.  It is available in Indian, Nepali food stores.  Look for pods with moist, sweet seeds, and smoky fragrance.  Old pods with splits and cracks will have poor quality seeds with no flavor.  The seeds quickly lose their flavor once the pods are opened, so store the pods whole and grind the seeds as needed.
Many Nepalese chew black cardamom to freshen the breath and palate.  It is also used as a home remedy for digestive disorders and considered beneficial to teeth and gums.

The pod is oval shaped and dark brown, tough and leathery with deep wrinkles.  Each pod contains several moist brown seeds that are sticky, flavorful, and once crushed, emit a pleasant smoky aroma with a hint of camphor.
The above picture shows the black cardamom is used in different forms - whole, seeded (shell discarded), powdered form and slightly crushed to release flavor before cooking with the ingredients.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Asafetida - Heeng or Hing (हिङ्ग - हींग)

Asafetida - Heeng or Hing (हिङ्ग - हींग)
Also called hingu (Sanskrit) or devil's dung, asafetida is used extensively in Nepali cooking to flavor and preserve food, as well as for its medicinal properties.  Asafetida comes from an herbaceous fennel-like perennial plant.  When mature, the stems are cut close to the roots releasing a milky substance that solidifies into brownish, gummy mass.  Asafetida is sometimes described as having an unpleasant and over powering smell, due in part to the presence of sulfur.  In Nepal, there is a saying, "hing ne bhai pani hing ko taalo cha" ("even if the asafetida is used up, its aroma lingers in the wrapping cloth").  However when used with discretion, this spice mellows and adds a pleasant aroma to prepared food.  The flavor of asafetida is definitely an acquired taste, although some people describe it as similar to shallots or garlic.

Asafetida is readily available, labeled as hing at Indian grocery stores in powdered or solid forms.  Most powdered forms are combined with rice, corn or wheat flour to prevent lumping, or to reduce its overpowering smell, and sometimes to increase its weight.  The powdered form is convenient, but of a less intense flavor.

(L) powdered form and (R) roughly ground asafetida

The solid piece of asafetida are brown in color and come in irregular shapes.  Some people prefer to buy the solid form because its flavor is more concentrated. 

Bay Leaves (cassia) - Tejpaat, Tej-patta - (तेजपत्ता)

Bay Leaves (cassia) - Tejpaat, Tej-patta- (तेजपत्ता)
From the aromatic evergreen tree, this herb is also known as Indian cassia, cinnamon leaves and tej patta.  The dried leaves are oblong shaped and usually have three prominent veins.  The dried leaves have a warm, sweet, and distinct cinnamon aroma.  They are usually lightly sauteed for all kinds of spiced meat and fish curries, savory rice dishes, lentils, and some vegetables and are usually removed from the dish before it is served.

The highly scented dried cassia leaves becomes dull brown when dried.  They are tough to grind, so commonly used whole,  instead of ground form. They can be used fresh, but the dried ones are most common.    

The close-up look of dried cassia leaves.

Bay leaves are one of the important spice ingredients in the preparation on Nepali garam masala (spice mixture).

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ajowan Seeds - Jwaano, Javano ( ज्वानो, जवानो)

Ajowan Seeds - Jwaano, Javano (ज्वानो, जवानो)
Jwaano is used extensively in Nepali cooking.  These tiny gray-brown seeds have a striped surface and resemble celery seeds, but have a somewhat sharper and more pungent flavor.  If the seeds are chewed plain, they are quite strong, bitter, and stinging, but their aftertaste is is quite pleasant.  They are usually lightly fried to release their flavor and added at the beginning stages of the cooking process.  The seeds are sometimes lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle and added to batters.  Ajowan seeds are one of the most important spices in the much-loved Nepali Kwanti  (sprouted bean soup). 

Close-up view of Ajowan seeds

Shopping at spice market at Ason Tole area, Kathmandu which offers exotic packaged spice blends, ground and whole spices,  momo spices (bite-size dumpling filled with meat or vegetables), and Nepali garam masala mixture.

Bags of whole spices at the market in Kathmandu
Jwaano seeds are also chewed on their own to help with bloating, and to aid digestion.  It is also believed that ajowan soup (jwaano ko ras) helps lactating mothers increase and maintain milk supplies.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Commonly Used Herbs and Spices in Nepali Cooking

Commonly Used Herbs and Spices in Nepali Cooking (Nepali Masalaa Haru) 

The following list describes some of the special herb and spices used in Nepali cooking. Most spices are available in Indian, East Asian, and Middle Eastern grocery stores or some health food stores and larger supermarkets. In my next posting I will add more detailed descriptions and pictures of each of these herb and spices.


Ajowan Seeds - Jwaano, Javano (जवानो, ज्वानो)
Asafetida - Heeng or Hing (हिङ्ग - हींग)
Bay Leaves - Tejpaat, Tej-patta - (तेजपत्ता)
Cardamom, Black Pods - Thulo Sukumel, Alainchi - (अलैंची, ठूलो सुकुमेल)
Cardamom, Green Pods - Sukumel, Sano Sukumel, Sukmel - (सुकमेल, सानो सुकुमेल, सुकुमेल)
Cilantro or Fresh Coriander  - Hariyo Dhania ko Paat, Dhaniyan ko saag - (धनियाँको साग)
Cinnamon, Cassia Bark - Daalchini - (दालचीनी)
Cloves - Lwang - (ल्वाङ्ग)
Coriander Seeds - Dhania ko Geda - (धनियाँ)
Cumin Seeds - Jeera, Jira ko Geda - (जीरा)
Fennel Seeds - Saunp or Saunf - (सौंप)
Fenugreek Seeds - Methi ko Geda - (मेथी)
Ginger - Aduwa or Adua - (अदुवा)
Himalayan Herb Jimbu - dried leaves of a local onion species - (Allium wallachii) - (जिम्बु)
Mustard Seeds - Rayo or Sarysun - (तोरी, राई)
Nigella Seeds - Mungrelo, Mugrelo - (मुग्रेलो, मुन्ग्रेलो)
Nutmeg & Mace - Jaiphal, Javitri - (जाइफल - जावित्री)
Peppercorns - Marich - (मरिच)
Poppy Seeds - Khus Khus, Aphim - (अफिम, खसखस)
Radish Seeds - Mula ko Beu
Red Pepper, Cayenne pepper, Chilli, Chili - Rato Khursani, Khorsani, Hariyo Khursani, Sukeko Khursani -  (रातो खुर्सानी, खोर्सानी)
Saffron - Kesar or Keshar - केसर, ज़ाफ़रान
Sesame Seeds - Til - (तिल)
Nepal pepper - Szechwan pepper, Sichuan pepper, Chinese pepper, (Z. armatum) - Timmur - (टिम्मुर, तिम्बुर)
Turmeric  - Besar, Besar ko Dhulo - (बेसार)

Nepali Spice Markets - (Ground Turmeric, Cumin, Coriander, Cayenne Pepper and Garam Masala)

 Fresh Herbs and Spices - green chillies, ginger, garlic, cilantro (fresh coriander), onions, shallots, tomatoes - a must have ingredients - for Nepali cooking

Whole spices such as stick cinnamon, bay leaves, green and black cardamom, and whole cloves adds flavor and texture to Nepali dish.

Spice Box (Sanduke or Masala Dani) - The round stainless steel spice box that stores dry spices is found in most Nepali homes.  It has a tight fitting lid to ensure that the spices are not exposed to air and do not mix together.

Strolling through the Nepali markets and taking pictures. Whole spices are artfully displayed in several large and small bowls.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Absolutely love my Daal-Bhaat-Tarkaari!

Given Nepal's vast geographic and cultural diversity,  it is difficult to generalize about what constitutes Nepali cuisine.  It is however, characterized by its simplicity, lightness, and healthfulness.  A typical meal uses only the freshest local ingredients, minimal fat, and an artful combination of herbs and spices.

Nepali cuisine varies by region, from the tropical Terai region to the arctic Himalayas, but most meals consist of some form of rice or other grain accompanied by dried beans, lentils, or peas, and fresh vegetables.  A common meal in many areas is daal-bhaat-tarkaari, (lentil-rice-vegetable) 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 flavor.  This also provides a liquid that go along with the rice.  Vegetables are the third component of this staple meal.  A variety of fresh vegetables and many leafy greens predominates Nepali meals, which is cooked according to regions and seasons.  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.

In this chapter I have uploaded several pictures of Nepali meals of daal-bhaat-tarkaari for you to view at this time.  I will be adding more pictures when available.

From Jyoti's kitchen -- complete Nepali evening meal served in khande-thaal

Simple everyday daal-bhaat-tarkaari served at lunch time at Pratima's farm house - Plain steamed rice, cauliflower and peas tarkaari, soupy chicken, buttered spinach and a fiery tomato chutney....and a generous serving of rice....

From Jyoti's kitchen - putting together well-balanced Nepali meal - yellow daal lentils, spinach, dry cooked vegetable dish, plain yogurt, pickles, fresh cucumber and grape tomato salad and fish curry .... served with warm melted pure gheu (clarified butter - a flavor enhancer).

 Enjoying home-cooked delicious lunch of Daal-Bhaat at the Riverside Springs Resort on the banks of Trisuli river,  Kurintar, Chitwan district of Nepal (3 hours drive from Kathmandu).  The plain boiled rice is served on a round plate and a number of side dishes are served in small bowls.  They are mixed vegetables, split black urad daal (kaalo maas ko daal), goat curry and yogurt.  A small portion of pickle (achaar) and a salad dish with lime and pure clarified butter (gheu) is also included. 

Dashain ko Bhoj 2011 - Serving Vijaya Dashami Feast. Dashain is the longest and most celebrated religious festival in Nepal

Badaam Saadheko (spiced nuts for snacks) -
A typical Nepali brass plate lined with saal ko paat - a large shiny green leaves from saal trees - found in Nepali forests. The leaves are pinned together with bamboo splinters to make disposable plates, known as Tapari or Duno. The disposable plates are commonly used in religious festivals, wedding feasts and other local functions.

Assorted authentic Nepali food served in thaal with multiple compartments
 From the kitchen of my good friend, Hema...wide range of flavors and textures.  A typical traditional vegetarian home-made dinner!

Enjoying the daal-bhaat-tarkaari lunch at the Lychee Garden Resort, Pokhara, Nepal.  The lunch was served at the roof top garden (beautiful view) under the Lychee tree.  The buttered rice with unlimited refills were served with dishes that included lentil curry, daal dish, vegetables of the season, yogurt, chutney and a sweet dish.
Another favorite daal-bhaat-tarkaari!

Absolutely love this combination!

The perfect combination of simple, light and healthy Nepali meal from Rehana's kitchen.

In this Nepali daal-bhaat-tarkaari combination, a variety of breads are served in a separate dish.
An Invitation to an authentic Nepali cuisine! – Daal-Bhaat-Tarkaari-Achaar served in khande thaal or thaal-kachaura. Enjoy your meal!

1. Khande Thaal – (divided plates with compartments) – This is metal tray that is divided into compartments. It can be round or square and the most common ones are made of stainless steel. When using a khande thaal, rice is placed in the largest compartment and the vegetables, meats, lentils, pickles, and curry dishes are placed in the surrounding compartments. This allows you to taste each dish individually and to mix the tastes and textures to see what combination and sequence you prefer.

2. Thaal-Kachaura – Traditionally Nepali meals are served on a thaal-kachaura. A number of small bowls, known as kachaura, are placed on a round tray. Meat, vegetables, and daals are placed in the bowl, while rice and bread are placed directly on the tray. This way the rice does not get mixed up with other dishes and lets you sample each individual dish separately.

A warm hearty meal!

Serving Nepali meal in a plate that is lined with Saal tree leaf (saal ko paat).  It gives a beautiful background and adds an exotic touch.

From the kitchen of Meenakshi - A well balanced combination of rice, daal, three different vegetables, salad and a delicious flaky bread.

Dining at Wunjala Moskva - traditional Newah delicacies served in a metal plate (thal-kachaura) surrounded by small bowls.  Soupy lentils, gravy based vegetables and meat are served in a small bowl.  Dry cooked dishes are placed directly on the plate.

Wunjala Moskva is one of the most exotic garden restaurant in the heart of the city, Naxal, Kathmandu, Nepal

Simple everyday Daal-Bhaat-Tarkaari served for lunch in the farming village  - plain steamed rice, cauliflower with potato, kukhura ko ras (chicken soupy gravy), maas ko daal (split urad lentils), buttered spinach....and a generous serving of rice.........

Energy for trekking... a popular tourist t-shirt

Meetho Daal-Bhat-Tarkaari

Copyright Information

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.