Dal bhat tarkari: A Nepali Staple

Namaste from Nepal!

The Nepali eat three fixed meals a day: breakfast between 7 and 8AM, lunch between 9 and 10AM plus a tiffin (light afternoon snack of Nepali tea and bread), and dinner around 8 or 9PM, sometimes even later. Here, the food culture is undeniably similar to that of its South Asian neighbors though one should not overlook the unique aspects of Nepali cuisine.

Within Nepal, cuisine varies a bit from region to region, for example, the Nepali in the high Himalayas have a different habit of eating than the Nepali in the Valley. However, one food remains staple from the Newar to the Terai and Inner Terai peoples: dal bhat (lentil and cooked rice). Eaten for lunch and dinner day, this dish is primarily served with sweet dahi  (homemade curd or yogurt) as well as a vegetable tarkari (curry) and pickled radish.

On my first night in the Kathmandu Valley, I stayed with a Nepali family just 20 minutes outside Thamel and experienced life as the locals do. With roughly ten hours of electricity a day, the stonewalled kitchen was lit by just a few candles and a solar powered lamp, plus the fire on the portable stove. As wife and husband prepared the meal as an ensemble, chopping up the vegetables and tidying up the other ingredients for this staple dinner, I sipped on what had to be my fourth or fifth cup of milk chiyaa (Nepali tea) — this one sprinkled with a perfect dash of masala.

At the sound of the loud whistle coming from the pressure cooker, the fluffy white bhat was ready and dinner was served on stainless steel platters at a very sleepy 8:30PM.

Here is a simple recipe for mushroom tarkari provided by the Sharma family you can try!

  • Place button mushrooms in boiling water to  clean (1 lb)
  • Remove and cut up
  • Repeat with potatoes, tomatoes, onions
  • Prepare coriander, garam masala (just a pinch of each)
  • Heat vegetable oil in pan (1 tsp)
  • Cook onions in oil until golden, add in other vegetables
  • Stir/keep on heat until mixture is cooked
  • Add water by preference: “If you want soup, add a lot of water. Otherwise, just enough to finish cooking to vegetables.”
  • Salt to taste
  • Sprinkle coriander on top

Enjoy!

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