Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Recipe: Nepali Dal Bhat

Note: the following recipe is adapted from a cooking course at Via Via Cafe, Kathmandu, based on a chef's interpretation and my loose notes. The measurements may not be fully accurate! For spices, it is best to rely on "parts" relative to each other.

Disclaimer: If there is one thing I learned in the mountains, everyone's dal bhat is different! The pickle, dal, and curries are all up for experimentation.

Dal Bhat, as served on the Annapurna Trek

Dal Bhat is the quissential Nepali dish and a staple in the rice-cultivating regions. It generally consists of dal (lentils), baht (rice), a vegetable curry / saag, and a chutney. It is eaten (traditionally) by mixing the dal with the rice to form a soupy mixture, making a ball of the mixture with your hands, and adding curry and chutney. For the trekker, a spoon is acceptable too...

Starting with the easy:

Bhat (fluffy rice)

x cups rice
2x-4x water
(x ~ 3/4 cup p.p)

Equipment: Pot, Steamer

To make fluffy (read: not sticky) rice, first wash and then boil x cups rice in water for 10-20 minutes, until a rice grain is still slightly hard when squeezed with the fingers. At this point, it is almost cooked; pour the contents of the pot into a drainer, and then steam the rice above a steamer until ready to serve.

Dal (lentils)

1.5 cups lentil (any kind) (for up to 4 people)
3-8 cups water*
1/2 - 1 head garlic, finely chopped
1 cup sliced onions, finely chopped
2 chillies (optional), whole if dried or chopped if fresh

Spices (displayed as parts, 1 heaping tsp will probably do of each):
2 parts salt
1 part tumeric
1 part cumin seed

1 part jeera, to be added to boiled dal (recommended)
ginger, to be added to boiled dal (recommended)
jimbu, to be used as a replacement to ginger (recommended)
2 tomatoes, small (for color)

*The amount of water used literally can vary magnitudes; it determines the consistancy of liquid. If using a steamer, however, I recommend using more rather than less water to avoid burning the dal...

Equipment: Pressure cooker or pot, frying pan

Wash lentils and let soak; drain. Add fresh water, the salt and tumeric and 1-2 tbsp ghee/oil (and other optional spices except cumin), and either cook under pressure cooker for 10-20 minutes or in a pot, simmered and covered, for 20-30 min until the lentils look like porridge.

In a frying pan on medium heat, fry the oil/ghee with the garlic, onion, ginger, cumin seed, chilis until golden brown. If using jimbu instead of garlic, fry until dark. Add tomato (optional) and make a gravy-like consistency. Add the pre-cooked dal, salt to taste, and cilantro, water if necessary, and boil. Alternatively, add fried mix + ingredients to pot.

Frying the dal

Vegetable Curry (tarkari)

(Any) vegetables, boiled or steamed*

2-3 onions, finely chopped
equivalent amount of garlic, finely chopped
4-5 tomatoes, small, finely chopped
chilies, chopped (to taste)

Spices (displayed as parts, 1 heaping tsp will probably do of each):
1 part garammasala
1 part cumin powder
1 part tumeric powder
1 part curry powder
1 part salt
1/2-1 part chili powder

lemon juice
coriander/cinnamon/cardamon/cloves (pinch)

*Common Nepali choices are potato (boiled), green beans, califlower, cabbage, peas, carrots, but any will do. Steaming or boiling helps to slightly pre-cook the vegetables to lessen frying time. Blanch the vegetables if boiling to ensure they are not fully cooked.

Equipment: frying pan

In a frying pan under medium heat, fry in oil/ghee the garlic, onion, ginger, and chilies until golden brown. Add the cumin, tumeric, curry, and chili powder, followed by garammasala, a cup of water, and salt. Add finely diced tomatoes and vegetables. Cook under low heat until the curry has a gravy-like consistency. Add cilantro at end, and lemon juice. Alternatively, one may try to use a blender with the tomatoes/onions/garlic/ginger/chilies to achieve the curry-like consistency before adding vegetables (though I haven't tried it myself).

Prepared raw ingredients

Curried Spinach (saag)

300g spinach leaves (adult/leafy preferred), cut to bite-size pieces
1/2-1 head garlic

Spices (displayed as parts, 1heaping tsp will probably do of each):
1 part cumin seed
1 part currry powder
1 part salt
1 part white pepper

Equipment: frying pan

In a frying pan, fry oil/ghee, garlic, cumin seed. On browning, add spinach, salt, curry powder and white pepper. Cook until spinach is tender.

Tomato Pickle (golbheda ko achar)

Note: This is copied verbatim from recipe list; I have not tried to make this. It also works as the sauce for momos. Personally, I think this recipe is overkill and a lot can probably be left out. Mint-based chutneys as an alternative, which is much easier, also work very well in dal bhat.

2 cups roasted tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
3 fresh red chilis, minced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger, minced
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp mustard oil
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
salt, to taste

1 tbsp mustard oil
1 tsp fenugreek
10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tbsp green onion, finely chopped

Blend the first set of ingredients to a smooth paste. Transfer to large bowl. Then, in a frying pan heat the mustard oil. Add fenugreek. When it turns dark, add garlic slices until they turn golden brown. Pour the garlic-oil mixture and chopped green onion mixture over the blended paste, mix, and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Note: An alternate recipe suggested by a coworker is to blend boiled tomatoes, chili powder, fresh garlic and salt, and refrigerate.

Completed, based on the recipe


Anonymous said...

We tried this recipe and the result was identical if not better than the Dal Baht we had daily during our trip through Nepal. A great way to make this delicious local dish!

BackInTimeForTea said...

We just tucked in to our first Dhal Bhat since leaving Nepal. We really enjoyed it, thanks for the recipe. Jon and Lou

Jane Poretsis said...

Hi Zach.

I really like your recipe...can I have permission to use it in my magazine?? Credited to you??

will need a quick turn around decision!!

Best Regards
Jane Poretsis
Features Editoe
Himalayas Nepal Magazine

mewahang said...

So testy Nepali food
thanks for nepali food recipes