October is the prime month for trekking in Nepal. The monsoon rains, which have been pouring down for the past three months, stop and the rice fields shine like emeralds. The mountains await avid climbers to see some of the most majestic peaks on the planet. Mountain guides, porters and cooks, with experience accumulated over the last half century, are ready to pamper the climbers.
Among the many surprises – sensitive, mystical, human, cultural, landscape… – that the hiker will receive from Nepal, one will undoubtedly be the gastronomic one. You will discover to your surprise that, in a harsh environment and constant scarcity, your attendees are able to pull out of their sleeves every day delicious salads, comforting soups, stewed chicken, fluffy masala tortillas, cinnamon cakes and other ragweed. Meanwhile, you’ll be confused as these culinary wizards eat the same thing every day, multiple times a day: the ubiquitous dal bhat.
Dal bhat is not food reserved for mountain workers. It is eaten all over the country, whether rural or urban, and several times a day. There are Nepalis who will rarely taste another dish in their entire life. In fact, many of those who are forced to emigrate to support their families lack the main food, to the point that they often have problems with their intestines from eating various preparations.
Dal bhat does not deceive. It give (lentils) with dry (rice). But seasoned in a way that makes it a very complete dish, in case adding the legume protein source along with the grains wasn’t enough. For starters, red lentils are often used, a variety that has a skin so thin that it disappears when cooked. The grain, whatever it is called massive (red), has a light pumpkin color or, in some varieties, a deep yellow. When boiled for a few minutes, it dissolves into its own liquid, creating a thick, sandy, highly aromatic liquid, which will be the element to be mixed with the rice.
For Nepalese (or North Indians, who also have a soft spot for dal bhat), cooking rice has guidelines that must be followed as strictly as the Ten Commandments for a Catholic. Initially, the basmati type will be preferred, which is long-grained, which cooks quickly and has a dry fruit aroma that fills the kitchen and dining room as soon as it boils.
In Nepal, rice bowls are extremely large. And that’s because every Nepali is capable of ingesting, in one sitting, an amount of this grain that would give any other being a gut twist. The first step in the recipe is to wash the rice lightly, as many times as necessary until the starch breaks down. It will be known because the water will already be clean. Some say it should be seven times if you want the grain to be loose and develop all its perfume. But two or three times will do, with the grains in a sieve and put under the tap. If you are going to cook a large quantity, one way to save fuel is to soak the rice for half an hour and boil it while changing the water. It will cook much faster.
According to the Nepalese principle of cooking rice, boiling the grains in plenty of water and then discarding the excess is to get rid of the best flavor. Therefore, one and a half measures of liquid is calculated for each measure of grain. Thus, it ends up absorbing all the liquid. Of course, the operation is done with a lid, as the steam also plays its role in the proper preparation of the stew. Finally, it is considered essential to let the rice rest for about ten minutes before serving, so that the grain can open well and release all its aromas.
Once you have the two basic ingredients, you need to add the accessories. Because although the name is concise, a dal bhat is not just rice and lentils. There is a rich dish of vegetables (known as tarkari), pickles and – if the timing is right – a piece of chicken. Everything is served on the classic thali tray, which has compartments to separate each of the ingredients. Then bitter spinach, curry potatoes, boiled carrots, al dente cauliflower, tomatoes and onions prepared with cumin, ginger and turmeric appear…
A proper dal bhat would not be complete without a raw green chilli in one of the compartments of the thali. It is normally extremely spicy, to the point that the Nepalese themselves tend to sweat and shed a few tears when they give it small bites that liven up the intake of the rest of the ingredients. By the way, in the tradition of that country, when chili pepper is given to a person, it should be done by placing it next to him on the table, but never by giving it to him. It is said to bring bad luck and make you enemies with friends and family. You will never see a Nepalese taking a chili directly from another person.
Dal bhat is present in all the restaurants of the country, whether they are elegant ones (which may serve a more generous portion of chicken, but which will always be discreet, since the main thing is vegetables), to simple beach bars on foot. roads or in high mountain lodges. In places where they want to give a special touch to the dish, they add a papadum, a fried and spiced legume flour pancake that’s crunchy and serves more as an appetizer than a dip; and a slice of lime to refresh.
Dal bhat is the ‘mother dish’ on which many other Nepali and Indian preparations are based
The protocol for eating dal bhat could not be simpler. The three middle fingers of the right hand are used to form a ball with rice that has been dipped in lentils, vegetables are pushed and everything is eaten with the speed of an escaped prisoner being hunted by the FBI.
By the way, it is a habit that can be repeated as often as desired. Normally, in restaurants, a young kitchen assistant goes around the tables offering more rice, more lentils, more vegetables, more pickles and more chicken. Needless to say, Nepalis gorge themselves to the point of impossibility and when they are done they let out a squeal of satisfaction that gives the preparation a thumbs up. When you come as a guest in a private home, you should repeat it at least once, even if it is with an extra small spoonful of each ingredient, to show the host that you liked the dal bhat.
When you come as a guest to a private address, you must repeat at least once
Dal bhat is mother’s plate on which many other Nepalese and Indian preparations are based, such as chana dal with tarka or dal makhani, which is considered a very sophisticated dish, as it requires 142 minutes of cooking and mixing, to be exact! 47 times. If you’re not very kitchen-savvy, stick to the dal bhat, which British Indian chef Meera Sodha calls “unmistakable”. She overdoes it, because she has the great advantage of having the fabulous recipe of her mother and grandmother, but the preparation of the Nepali national plant is not difficult, but long and has the effect of a bubble bath, but in the sky.
weather2:20 in the morning.
-200 g of red lentils
-20 cl of water
-2 cloves of garlic
– salt and pepper
-1 teaspoon of garam masala
-6 green cardamom pods
-6 tablespoons of clarified butter or sunflower oil
For the bat:
For the bat:
-200 grams of basmati rice
-700 ml of water
For the tartar:
-500 g of spinach
-3 cloves of garlic
-500 g of cauliflower
-3 medium potatoes
– 150 g of peas
-1 teaspoon of cumin powder
-1/2 teaspoon of powdered ginger
-4 tablespoons of clarified butter or sunflower oil
Pickles and meat:
– very small pieces of chicken, with its bones
– pickled green beans
– pickled carrots
– pickled onions
– pickled mango
1. Prepare the dhal by washing the lentils and drying them with a cloth. Fry finely chopped onions and garlic with cardamom, pepper, garam masala and salt. Add the lentils. When everything is lightly browned, add cold water and cook on medium heat until the output becomes a paste.
two. Boil the rice.
3. Prepare the tarkari by frying the finely chopped onions and garlic, adding the chicken, garam masala, potatoes, carrots, cauliflower and peas in this order so as not to break up. Add water and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes.
Four. In a separate pot, boil the spinach until soft and drain well.
5. frying papadum and cut a few slices of lime.
6. Serve on a thali with rice in the center and dal, vegetables, pickles, papadum and lime surrounding it.