Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Staples of Nepal

It's time for another international dinner! I did not want to start making them even though I am back at college. Instead of making a huge feast, I am going to tone it down a bit. I don't want my lack of space, money, and time to ruin my project, though. I'll just save the more elaborate countries for Christmas break.


Tonight's dinner is from Nepal. The inspiration for this simple meal came from a book called Little Princes by Conor Grennan. The book is an account of his life while volunteering at an orphanage in Nepal. He said that their typical meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week was rice (bhat) and lentils (dhal). This filling and simple dish is great comfort food. I am not sure if I could eat it every meal for the rest of my life, but it was delicious for dinner in between church, homework, and catching up with friends.

Known for being the home of Mount Everest, Nepal is small but not forgotten. They just finished a civil war where the Maoists overthrew the previous Kingdom of Nepal. The weather can be stifling hot in some areas and bitter cold in others. If you like the heat, I don't suggest climbing Mount Everest.

Nepali cuisine gets a lot of influence from neighboring India. Basmati rice, curries, and flavorful spices come to play in many of their dishes. Other things are uniquely Nepali like momo dumplings. I chose to stick with the every day peasant food that most of the population survives on.  I understand why it is a go-to meal. It's cheap, filling, and would be a great combat to the bitter Nepalese winters.

Dhal (Lentils)
serves 1
1/4 cup brown lentils
1/4 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp turmeric
1 tsp oil
1 cup water
Heat the oil in a small pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until golden, about 8 minutes. Pour in the water, lentils, and spices. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Serve atop a bed of bhat (recipe follows).
Bhat (Rice)
serves 1
1/4 cup basmati rice
1/2 -2/3 cup water
pinch of salt
Bring the water, rice, and salt to a boil in a small pot with a lid on it. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 40 minutes. (Add a little more water if it all evaporates ahead of time.) Allow the rice to sit for 10 minutes before topping with the lentils.
I really liked my dhal bhat. It came out to be the perfect portion for one, but feel free to multiply the recipe to serve more. (It would not be too difficult.) I enjoyed my Nepali food. Next time I will pay more attention and start the rice a little early. It takes quite some time to cook.

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