Recipes contributed by Buck Trawicky. Returned RPCV-Nepal.
Dal bhat is the basic meal of Nepal. It’s a combination of rice and lentils that are cooked separately, then combined on the plate. It is a nutritionally perfect meal, with a balance of all the needed proteins (like corn and beans in Mexico and Central America).
As sides, serve cooked vegetables and meats, and ghee (clarified butter, called “ghiu” in Nepali), “achar” (any kind of sour tangy pickle), and/or yogurt-and-lime-juice. Serve a hot pepper for dessert. Typically served with local tea to drink, with buffalo milk and sugar. Also, water to drink. Followed with native tobacco, you can live on it forever, and will always look forward to meal times.
This is a very satisfying meal, and another reason to be grateful for having served in Nepal.
1. DAL: BOILED LENTILS
1. The standard proportions are: 3:1, water:lentils
2. Measure out lentils into a bowl, and run water into it to rinse; a scum will arise—scoop this off. Repeat as needed, until the water is clear.
3. Boil water (n the proportion of 3:1, water:lentils). Add salt to taste, along with turmeric and the curry spices of cumin, coriander and brown mustard (plus others if desired), to taste.
4. To the boiling water, dribble in the lentils, keeping the bubbles alive. Stir. (If scum arises, scoop it off, though this is not essential.)
5. Turn down the flame to a simmer, and cover. It’ll take 20 minutes to cook, but check every 5 minutes or so.
6. When lentils are tender, serve with rice, combining the two on your plate.
- Sauteed onions and garlic as a topping.
- Yogurt (the full-fat kind), and lime juice.
- Achar. (A store-bought brand I recommend is Patak’s “Hot Mango Relish.”)
- And, of course, your choices of cooked vegetables, cooked meats, and cooked greens.
- Top all this with a dab of clarified butter (ghee; “ghiu” in Nepali).
One can serve the dal with boiled rice, or rice pilau.
BOILED RICE (BHAT):
Same proportions as for boiled rice, but with these preliminary steps:
2 of water to 1 of rice. With salt added to the water. Bring water to a boil, add salt to taste, and gently add the rice. (Adding a bit of oil or ghee is a nice touch.) Turn down the heat to just bubbly, and cover. Cook, slowly and softly, for 20 minutes. (Check every 5 minutes or so – don’t let the rice scorch! But no need to stir.)
In Nepal, a housewife will typically judge the water needed by putting the dry rice in the pot and adding water until it is higher than the rice by one knuckle.
1. Sauté the rice, starting with good oil, and, when the oil is warm, spices: cumin, coriander, brown mustard seed, and whatever else you like.
2. Then add finely chopped onion and garlic, then some nuts, such as almonds and/or cashews.
3. Then add the amount of uncooked rice you want.
4. Stir the rice as it cooks on the outside; it’ll become a bit yellow/gold; about 5 minutes or less.
5. Turn up the flame.
6. Pour in boiling water, 2-to-1, as per the standard recipe, and cook as per the standard recipe. (Or, pour in cold water, but in dribbles, so each addition reaches boiling before you supplement.)
3. GHEE (Clarified butter)
Butter will go rancid in warm weather, but “clarified butter,” called ghee in Hindi, and ghiu in Nepali, will not spoil in the same way. Consult the Internet, or a Nepali or Indian cookbook, for full instruction, but here is the bare-bones method.
1. Buy butter (salted or unsalted; unsalted is suggested). Figure 1 pound (4 sticks) of butter will make about 0.75 pound (3 sticks) of ghee.
2. Put the butter, cut into chucnks, into a saucepan. Place the and over low heat (sautéeing heat, as for cooking mushrooms). Let the butter melt slowly.
3. Then let the butter slowly come to a near-boil. A skin will form on the butter. Scoop this off with a spoon, repeating as necessary (It’s good stuff; save it to eat on your rice or potatoes.)
4. When no skin forms any longer, you’re done with the heating. Remove the pan from the heat.
5. At the bottom of the pot will be some solids: these are also thoroughly edible, but you don’t want them.
6. Carefully pour the clear butter into a different container. This decanted product is clarified butter, or ghee. It’ll stay good for about a month, if not insulted. And you will not be able to resist eating it up in a week or two. It’s that delicious.