Category Archives: Food

Titaura

Today I simply have to link to another Nepali blog. Many of the readers of this blog probably already read NepaliAustralian‘s, but if not you should check out her most recent post on titaura.

From time to time I like to write about things Nepali people like…
momo,  sel roti, WaiWai, heck even the Bryan Adams song “The Summer of ’69

… and  titaura  should certainly be added to the list.

Often when friends or family return from Nepal they bring with them packets of these small dried and candied fruit snacks, and the packets don’t usually last long in our house.

There are several kinds of titaura– salty, sweet, sour or hot. Many are made from the Nepali fruit “lapsi” which comes from a tree native to Southern and Eastern Asia.

Lapsi fruit hanging on a tree

I’m not a fan of the spicy or salty titaura. Early on in my friendship with the Nepali crowd at my university I was talked into trying a spicy mango titaura and I’m not interested in eating another one of those any time soon! However I love the sweet and sour ones. Even writing about titaura is making my tongue tickle with sweet and sour anticipation. Too bad I polished off a recently found (and presumably last) packet  from our October trip a few weeks back.

Packets of Nepali titaura candies.

I like the yellow ones in the lower right hand picture, but I’ll eat the orange ones in the upper right and the ones right below that too! yum yum :) P likes the ones that are sticky and wet like the red ones in the lower left picture. I think he is also more of a salty or spicy fan.

“Hot, Fresh, Sweet”

This post is dedicated to our DEAR FRIEND D who said last night, “I know what C’s blog post will be about tomorrow…  I even know the title” and who was sad that a few posts ago I referred to him as “our neighbor D” and thus felt demoted in relationship status.

As many of you probably know, Hurricane Irene blew through New England on Sunday. It also happened to be my birthday. We spent much of the weekend sitting around the apartment with Mamu and Daddy talking about what a hurricane is, and how they are different/similar from/to other weather events. I think they were both a little nervous and a little excited—they were curious to see what a “hurricane” was like, but worried that something would maybe happen to them. Mamu would stand near the window watching the trees bend and say, “Hurricane is coming…”

We had some gusty winds, but never lost power (although it seems a lot of other people around us did), and didn’t have the same flooding problems as other places an hour or two drive north or west of us. By evening the weather calmed enough for us to even go out for a little birthday dinner and cake.

After Irene blew through the weather cooled off, so I thought I would experiment with some “American autumn” inspired food. Always on the lookout for foods that I love, that I could try and introduce to Mamu and Daddy, during our pre-Irene grocery shopping I snuck a bag of brussels sprouts and a butternut squash into our cart.

Attempt #1: On Saturday I decided to pair the sautéed (in olive oil, garlic, salt and fresh ground pepper) Brussels sprouts—or “baby banda” (cabbage) as I called them—with the vegetable curry that Mamu made. P and I were practically fighting over the sprouts… but I saw Daddy push a few around his plate, and eventually toss the two or three half pieces that he couldn’t manage to eat into the garbage before washing his plate. I guess the “baby bandas” were a “fail”–my guess is that they were still too “raw” (crunchy) for their taste, but overcooked brussel sprouts are really bad and bitter, so “what to do?

Attempt #2: Again Mamu had some taarkari left over from lunch, and made a pot of rice, but I decided to whip up a quick butternut squash bisque. I sliced up the butternut—

“Is it a pharsi? [pumpkin]” Daddy asked.

“It’s in the pharsi family, it’s a butternut squash” I explained.

When I sliced open the round bottom part of the butternut and scooped out the seeds with a spoon Daddy said, “It is a pharsi! Look at the seeds!”

“Yes,” I responded, “pharsi family different type.”

—then sautéed some sliced onions, garlic, salt and pepper, added the butternut, and then a few cups of water and some veggie bullion. I let it boil, covered, for about ten minutes until the butternut was soft, and then poured the whole soup into the blender and pureed. Lastly I heated the pureed soup with a bit of whole milk mixed in for creaminess, and then brought it to the dinner table in a serving bowl.

I turned back to the kitchen to grab bowls for everyone but before I returned to the table Mamu and Daddy had already ladled my “pharsi soup” on to their heaping piles of rice—“like daal!” Mamu exclaimed.

“Whatever gets you excited about it” I thought.

I returned the bowls to the kitchen, keeping one for D and myself, since we both elected to eat my soup like soup.

While we ate I asked Mamu if she liked the dish. She smacked her lips and declared, “I like… hot, fresh, sweet!”

D started giggling… “I know what C’s blog post will be about tomorrow” he said, “I even know what the title will be!”

Mamu, Daddy and P had a few more spoons of “pharsi soup—like daal” on their rice while I finished up my large bowl.

Finally an American culinary win!

I’ll take it, “like daal” or not!

Vindication!

As noted in some previous posts (Please, no more rice! and the Pasta/Rice Wars) P and I occasionally disagree over what to eat for dinner. Now let’s be honest… rice generally wins out. We eat far (far) more rice than pasta on a daily basis, however there are those days where “Ke khana?” or “What’s for dinner?” becomes a debate with one of us responding…. “[pasta/rice] again?”

So last night when we got home from work P was reading something on his laptop when he solemnly said, “Bad news Merf, come see.” I thought it was something serious, so I jumped up to read over his shoulder, and then I saw he was reading an article in The Guardian newspaper from the UK. The title and byline read, “The world’s favourite foods: interactive—Pasta has been named the world’s favourite food, narrowly beating meat or rice dishes and pizza, in a new global survey by Oxfam into the way the world eats today.” [emphasis mine].

Pasta is the winner—woot woot, happy dance.

Even though the Guardian vindicated my pasta pushing, I can’t help but admit I’m surprised. With the populations of China and India alone I’m shocked that pasta can beat out rice. Last night D, P and I were talking about it at dinner—reasoning that Latin American and Caribbean countries often eat rice and bean combos not to mention all the rice inspired Asian cuisines. That seems like a lot of the world pop right there. African countries have their own staples—like corn meal cakes (ugali in East Africa), cous cous (North Africa), or fufu (in West/Central Africa), and although the US and Europe eat quite a bit of pasta, it just doesn’t seem to be enough to beat out rice.

I wish the report was fleshed out more, with some links to the Oxfam study, but I’ll take my small victory for now, particularly with P’s parents arriving on June 29th, I think I’m going to be eating a lot of rice in the next few months.

If you want to see the article and scroll over countries to see the most widely eaten foods click HERE.

Oops! Spoke too soon… BCC actually had a more fleshed out article that you can read HERE which explains that after Italy Venezuela is one of the top consumers of pasta with Tunisia, Chile and Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Bolivia in the top ten (who would have thought?) and that Brazil’s favorite dish is actually Lasagne!

Maybe I can continue my happy dance. Pass the marinara please!

Grilled Cheese

P came back from Nepal on Saturday (hurray!), and brought lots of wedding related goodies, which I’ll blog about at another time. However instead I thought I’d take a few minutes to talk about grilled cheese sandwiches.

An American friend of ours is having a dinner gathering tonight, and on the menu is grilled cheese. P said, “Do people really eat grilled cheese… for dinner?”

Cheese is not very high on the Asian list of tasty foods (South or East, unless you count all the milk-cheese related products consumed in Mongolia, but those cheeses are decidedly a whole different category). Although I think P has grown an appreciation for (Western style) cheese over time having been exposed to lots of varities of cheese through me and my family (hard cheese, soft cheese, moldy cheese, smelly cheese– give me a cheese platter as an hors d’oeuvre any day!), he is still not big into cheese sauces, mac and cheese, or cheese as a main course. Hence grilled cheese sandwiches (to him) just sound a bit unfilling and perhaps unappetizing.

I haven’t had a grilled cheese in ages, so I’m pretty excited. I guess that is one of the perks of living with someone from a different culture– since you eat a lot of different kinds of foods something a local would consider relatively mundane and boring all of a sudden becomes exciting and different.

It reminds me of the semester I spent in India. I was living with a group of American students, but since we stayed in homestay families, guest houses (when traveling), and ashrams (on one particularly colorful field trip), we generally ate a lot of Indian food. But after weeks of daal, curry, roti, and rice, many of our American palates began craving American foods. One food that really helped with nostalgia was what our Indian cooks were calling “cheese toast.”

It started while we were taking Hindi language classes in Mussorie, Uttaranchal. We would spend the morning walking up the steep (crazy steep!) hill station roads to our language class, spend the entire morning working on language acquisition  skills, and then head back down the hill to the guest house for lunch. It was the end of the rainy season, and it was often pouring and damp, and heavy rain frequently knocked out the electricity. “Cheese toast” (and  soup) day was enough of a pick-me-up to send us careening down the slippery hill after class fighting to be the first person in line for the grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches.

After a while we found that “cheese toast” was often found on various menus as we traveled across India, particularly in touristy cafes (not that we ate in those cafes all the time– but every now and then). Other Westernized dishes didn’t come out tasting as good– pasta in red sauce, mac and cheese, pizza, but “cheese toast” really hit the spot when the stomach needed a small reminder of home.

I can’t remember the last time I had a grilled cheese sandwich. I hardly ever ate them in the US before I went to India and used it as my “I need a taste from home” meal. But I’m pretty excited to have one tonight.

MMMM… my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Sel Roti SUCCESS!!

To read about the original challenge, click HERE.

Excuse me while I do a little happy dance….

I’m thrilled to report that the sel rotis were a success! Certainly there is a learning curve, and they aren’t perfect, but for a first timer, I think they are impressive and I’m very very happy.

But I have to admit that I was really nervous. I was worried that my confidence would make me look foolish if it didn’t work. Before trying my first sel roti frying I literally took a deep breath and thought, “Yikes! Here goes nothing”… but it worked out perfectly fine!

So my naak is quite thulo today ;) I wanted to show the process in pictures… for the recipe click HERE.

Main ingredient... rice!

Soak the rice over night

Drain rice in the morning

Other ingredients... rice, ghee (I substituted ghee for butter because I was told it would have a better taste), banana, sugar, water, rice flour is pictured and suggested, but I didn't use...

Everything in the blender...

I added ground cardamom seeds to enhance flavor... just a pinch

Fluff batter and then let sit (covered) for 30-60 minutes to "rest"

Make sure the oil is the right temperature... about 350 degrees F

Very first attempt. A little pathetic looking BUT the batter stayed together and it was almost in a circular shape! Not bad for attempt number one!!

First few attempts were... er... not great... there was a bit of a learning curve... my first one crumbled, pictured in top right hand corner :(

Looking better...

Woohoo!!

Team work with AS!

These are a bit on the "too crispy" side, but they taste great!

N's mom helped to make sure the batter was well mixed, she verified the correct consistency.

and AS was certainly the best roti maker in the house...

Right side-- the "learning curve" pile, left side-- "we are starting to get it right" pile

Taking it out of the oil

How the magic happens...

I'm pouring sel batter into the oil

Don't let anyone tell you it's too hard... it CAN be done! It just takes practice :)

Sel rotis turned out so well... I think we are going to try round 2 tomorrow!! Hurray!!

Sel Roti Prep

Team Nepal is trying to psych me out on the sel roti plan!

Tonight (Nov 4th) at dinner I was told not to get my hopes high, and that I should only try with “a little bit” of batter in case it doesn’t work well, then we can leave a small offering to god for Lakshmi puja and not worry because at least I tried. I keep being told “It’s hard! Really!” which I’m sure is true, but it only makes me stubbornly want to do it even more.

So I spent part of the evening tracking down sel roti videos on youtube and comparing the recipe I plan to use with other recipes I’ve seen online. P even called home to get advice from him mom. This sel roti plan is intense!

So the Sel Roti recipe I plan to practice with is from my Nepali Cookbook (pg 122):

3 cups white rice
1 medium very ripe banana
1 cup sugar, or to taste
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup rice flour, or as needed
4 to 5 cups vegetable oil

In a large bowl, soak rice in water overnight. Drain rice and place in a blender or food processor with banana, sugar, and butter and process, adding up to 1 1/4 cup of water to make a semi-thick puree with no grainy bits. You may have to do this in two batches. Transfer batter to a mixing bowl and beat with a fork until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and set aside to rest for 20-25 mins.

When the batter is well-rested, mix it again. The consistency should be similar to heavy cream. If it seems too thick, gradually add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water; if it feels too thin, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of rice flour and mix well.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until it reaches 350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Test for readiness by placing a small drop of the batter into the hot oil. If it bubbles and rises to the surface immediately, it is ready. Pour about 1/4 cup batter into the oil slowly making a large circle (pour the batter from a cup or a pastry bag with a medium-size opening). Stretch and move the batter using a wooden spoon or chopstick to create a round shape. As the sel puffs and rises, push it into the oil with the back of a spoon until it is light golden brown. Flip and fry the second side until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain it on paper towels. Repeat until finished with the batter.

Hopefully by the end I’ll have nice rotis!

Some of the videos that helped me visualize the process (since I’ve never seen it done in person)…

Traditional method with your hand… (only for the seasoned veterans)…

Plastic bottle method (with a little “Resham Firiri” in the background)…

Using a metal bowl to help keep the rotis round shape… (cheating method?)

Using a cup to add batter, and timing (skip ahead to 2:28 and watch until 3:57 it gives you a good idea of how long to cook them, the rest of the video is random and not helpful)…

And finally two Nepali women with a cooking show segment. They mostly talk in Nepali with subtitles, but it gives you a good idea as well…

My rice is soaking, and I’m ready for action.

Tune in later to see how it goes…

The 2010 Sel Roti Tihar Challenge

Living in our intercultural household means that the fall is filled with lots of holidays… and lots of food. October brings Dashain and Halloween, November and its Tihar and Thanksiving time and December culminates in Christmas and New Years. What’s a girl trying to get in shape for a wedding to do? Take on a Challenge I guess.

Tihar technically starts today (November 3rd) with “Kag Puja” or the worship of crows. People leave sweets for the crows on the roofs of their houses because the cawing of crows symbolizes sadness and grief in Hindu mythology, and offering puja supposedly averts grief and death from your home. I don’t think we have crows, just lots of Canadian Geese at the moment, so I’m not sure if we will be able to do this, but tomorrow is Kukur Puja–worshiping dogs– and with a pup in our house, that’s pretty easy! I’ll happily give our little Sampson a flower garland, tikka, and treat like last year!

After Thursday’s Kukur puja, Friday is Gai (cow) Puja and Lakshmi Puja, Saturday is Maha (Self) Puja, and Sunday is Bhai Tikka (worship of brothers).

I digress, back to the challenge… during Tihar a traditional food to eat is a homemade circular fried bread made out of rice flour called “Sel Roti.” People eat it at other times of year as well, but it is widely eaten during the festival.

S's brother making Sel for Dashain

His pretty Sel Roti, already to eat... one of the "challenges" of making Sel is making the circle of dough in the cooking oil. I should have helped my uncle make doughnuts as a kid to prep for this!

I’ve been saying for months that I wanted to try and make Sel this year, and every time I mention this plan I’m usually told, “Sel is too hard, I don’t think you can do it.” (well… telling me that only makes me want to do it more, of course!)

I’ll counter with, “But I have a recipe I can follow, from my Nepali cookbook…” to which someone would respond, “Oh, but even with a recipe, Sel Roti is too hard, I don’t think you can do it.”

Gosh darn it, don’t tell me what I can and can’t do! At least let me try…

So this Friday I am taking on the 2010 Sel Roti Tihar Challenge. I’ll take photos and document the process… and if I fail, at least I tried, but I’m hoping for some of that homemade circular bread for Bhai Tikka… and the “street cred” that goes along with having achieved a dish considered “too difficult.”

If you have made Sel Roti before, feel free to share your stories or give cooking tips! I can use all the help I can get!

To see how it turned out visit Sel Roti Prep and Sel Roti Success!