Category Archives: Things Nepali People Like

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.

“Summer of ’69” a Nepali Anthem?

A few years ago, when P and I were living in New York, P’s former roommate was Filipino, and like many Filipinos he loved to sing karaoke. I had a projector that I used for work, and occasionally we would have evening/weekend gathering where our Filipino friend’s friend would bring her karaoke machine, and I would hook up the projector and we would project the songs on the wall of our apartment and sing along with the lyrics.

A popular song was Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69.” It didn’t matter how shy one of our Nepali guests might be, when the “Summer of ‘69” came on, it was easy to stand up, grab that microphone, and belt out the tune. I started to think, “Hey every Nepali knows this song!”

Later, when we moved to Massachusetts, there were still more gatherings, sans karaoke machine, but still with singing—sometimes with people gathered around a guitar and laptop (for lyrics), or sometimes in just a room full of people clapping hands and singing together for as long as someone could remember the next line. Although these songs were mostly Nepali/Hindi, occasionally English songs were peppered in, and “Summer of ‘69” was an easy fall back.

So I can’t say I was surprised that the BBC recently had a video feature about the “Summer of ‘69” in the taverns of Thamel. Why do Nepalis love this song? Check out the three minute video to see.

With one of the news clip interviewees stating “the song is basically almost like an anthem” for Nepal, no wonder Bryan Adams made a trip to the country in February 2011, one of very few western musical artists to perform live in concert in Kathmandu.

As a lover of classic rock, I don’t mind jamming to “Summer of ‘69”… how about you?


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!!

“Don’t Trust Americans With Mangoes!”

This was declared at dinner last night. Needless to say, as the only American in the room, I gave my countrymen a bad name by cutting the two mangoes offered as dessert incorrectly. Sheesh!

Mangoes are a beloved fruit in Nepal. I have yet to meet a Nepali who does not like mangoes (if one is out there, please let me know!) There is even a “mango season,” where there seem to be so many mangoes they are practically falling from the trees like rain (okay hyperbole, but you get the point).

In the US, particularly as a native of the Northeast, it is quite possible for someone to grow up and never eat a mango. Apples– definitely, we have our own “apple season,” oranges, bananas and grapes are pretty ubiquitous also, but sometimes beyond that the average person might be getting into unchartered fruit territory (at least when I was growing up. Now exotic fruits are more accessible, particularly in juice form).

I remember reading about mangoes in a cookbook in middle school, and seeing a recipe for a mango smoothie. Never having tried one before, I tracked down a mango at the local store, and copied the cutting technique from the book. This is still the cutting technique that I use today– I mean, I don’t cut mangoes on a daily basis, mangoes are usually someone else’s territory, but I thought I had a handle on it.

So last night, after I got in from a long day at work, I was delegated to cut the mangoes for dessert. I took the mango and sliced around the pit, and then I scored the slices so the mango flesh would be easier to bite off the skin in square pieces.

I scored the flesh in a similar way...

P and D started eating and asked, “Where’s the rest?”

“There is no more,” I said “All that was left was the pit, so I threw it out…”

“You threw it out??” They pretty much yelled in unison, “Why would you throw it out?? There is so much more mango pulp we could get off of it!” P even melodramatically declared, “My dinner is ruined!”

Not only did they not like the way I cut it, but I didn’t get all the edible flesh sliced off, a cardinal sin of mango eating.

Last year D’s German girlfriend tried to slice a mango through the middle, not knowing there was a pit in the center. “How could you not know there was a pit?? Have you never eaten mango before??” he teased her (although I think he was serious about the question. It’s hard for P and D, mango lovers since childhood, to believe there are people out there who don’t know how to cut or eat one).

Thus, “Don’t trust Americans with mangoes!” If you are in the company of mango maniacs its best to let them have their way with the fruit.

I guess thats the last time I’m delegated to slice dessert.

Nepali Men and Whiskey

In keeping with the general theme of “Stuff Nepali People Like” I wanted to take a minute to mention whiskey. Particularly now that I have attended a few Nepali weddings it has become abundantly clear that Nepali men (I know, I’m generalizing) seem to enjoy whiskey–or at least it seems to be the hard liquor of choice.

Last summer when P and I were traveling to Nepal we had a layover in Qatar. Our friends R and S took the same flight several days before, and S had asked us to pick up several bottles of Johnny Walker at Duty Free to bring to his wedding. He had done the same during his transit, but there was a limit to how many bottles could be brought through the Kathmandu airport.

We dragged the bottles from Qatar, to Kathmandu and through the janthi in Chitwan but everything got so chaotic near the end of our journey that I actually lost sight of them after awhile. Hopefully the whiskey made it into the right hands, but even if it didn’t, I’m sure someone really enjoyed it.

At R and S’s wedding reception there were two places set up for drinks on opposite sides of the venue—the bar, and then the “ladies bar.” The bar served beer and, of course, whiskey (perhaps some came from our Qatari Johnny Walker?). The “ladies bar” served soda and wine. I asked someone why there were two separate bars, thinking perhaps women weren’t suppose to drink beer and whiskey. I was told this was “in fashion” and also that the ladies didn’t want to be crowded around by the men. At the “ladies bar” they had space to stand around and gossip with each other over wine and soft drinks. Hmmmmm.

Another wedding I attended in Kathmandu the waiters were circulating with glasses of wine and whiskey, while at AS and N’s wedding they received a few gifts of bottles of whiskey from family and friends. One of which, I must admit, was polished off last night during a dinner party… where more than half the guests were Nepali men.

So if you find yourself entertaining and happen to have a bottle of whiskey on hand, feel free to serve, straight up with ice. Or not sure what to gift at a Nepali wedding when you are a buddy of the groom? Perhaps a nice bottle of whiskey. Trust me, someone will drink it ;)

“Stuff Nepali People Like”

P brought to my attention this morning that the Nepali Times is running a series of articles on “Stuff Nepali People Like.” The first in the series touched on a few subjects that the American-Nepali Household has already discussed… from the ubiquitous love of steamed momo, to being called “fat” by relatives, to being fed constantly while visiting others (well, it’s more or less a rant on rice, but you get the same general idea).

Momo love-- a fundamental part of Nepali culture ;)

Certainly there is more that can be written; P asked me if I had posted about tea yet, and I’m surprised that I haven’t since a universal love of tea seems to be at the heart of Nepali-ness as well. I’m sure if I think about it a little more I can come up with a few more guesses as to what will be in future postings of “Stuff Nepali People Like,” but for now, feel free to check out the original article HERE.

WaiWai

I was planning to write about something else when I got off on a tangent. So why not stick with the tangent  for now?

I began by mentioning that in the new year P and I are consciously trying to be more healthy in our eating choices. We are going to try and eat more local and organic foods if we can, and try to eat less processed foods as well.

Which led me to the tangent… while thinking about much loved processed food. While I might pine desperately for a chocolate bar, I think P would daydream of… WaiWai.

Why WaiWai? Sorry, I couldn’t help myself there.

WaiWai is kind of like a Nepali/Indian version of American ramen instant noodles. It is packaged in a similar way although the spices are pre-cooked into the dried noodles instead of in a little spice packet like in the American version. WaiWai isn’t the healthiest thing in the world, but considering the list of ingredients is pronounceable by a 3rd grader, maybe Michael Pollan might grudgingly say that it is okay to eat (although there are more than 5 ingredients, and technically, I’m not sure if it would ever rot, uh oh). But heck, we are not ones to judge, P is still a graduate student, and we do the grad-student instant noodle meal from time to time!

WaiWaiThe funny thing about WaiWai is that it seems to have a nostalgic emotional appeal to some of the Nepalis I know, and most definitely for P. He tells stories of how as kids they might pool together a few rupees to buy WaiWai from a street vendor as a snack or for lunch. Or how WaiWai was a much welcomed addition to the bland boarding school food of high school years. It is one of those easily transportable foods that is quick and easy to eat on the go.

So when the Vietnamese grocer around the block from our apartment occasionally has WaiWai in stock (and our caches at home are depleted), don’t be surprised if you see P lugging home a box of 40 WaiWai packets, cleaning out the grocer of his supply.

I certainly ate my fair share of ramen in my pre-P days. So I wasn’t surprised that P enjoyed a good WaiWai every now and then, but I was surprised to see the “snack on the go” way to eat it. Unlike the American ramen which (maybe I’m sheltered but) I’ve only seen eaten in soup form—you know, step 1) boil the noodles for 3 minutes, step 2) add the spice packet, and step 3) slurp up with a spoon—P and his brother U would eat it straight out of the packet. Raw. Crunch, crunch, crunch. Pass the packet, crunch some more. Useful on long car trips, but to me at first, seemingly weird. Ew, raw noodles? How is that tasty?

Now I’ve gotten used to having some WaiWai every now and then, although I think it is safe to assume I still prefer my dried noodles cooked, in soup form or chow mein style. However, for instance, during the Epic Family Visit of 2008, P’s mom wouldn’t venture 10 minutes away from our apartment without  packing some sort of snack to keep us all nourished, and Waiwai was easy. Waiwai packets, bananas, clementine oranges, and bottles of water were Mamu’s favorites.

If you like raw WaiWai, you don’t just have to eat it “on the go”… you can even dress it up if you want, without cooking it. Scenario— guests show up at the door unexpected, you don’t have anything to offer for a snack… (as Mamu would say) “What to do?” Add a little diced onion, chili and coriander, and perhaps a squirt of lemon, to a packet or two of crushed dried WaiWai and you have an instant appetizer. Voila!

So I thought I’d take a moment to share in the WaiWai love. Or maybe I’m just hungry and need a snack… is it dinner time yet?

Mo:mo

I don’t think anyone can be in an intercultural relationship–wait, no scratch that, I don’t think anyone could be friends–wait, scratch that too… I don’t think anyone can ever know in life a Nepali person and not have tried momos. Ohhhh, my mouth waters just thinking about them.

Tray of freshly made potato momos... folding momos is practically an art form, and everyone has their own style. This is mine... so at least if I can't speak Nepali, at least i have beautiful momos :)

Tray of freshly folded, but not yet steamed, potato momos... folding momos is practically an art form, and everyone has their own style. This is mine... so at least if I can't speak Nepali, I can earn some respect from beautiful momos

What the heck is a momo? 1) It’s delicious, 2) you can’t just eat momos by yourself…its a community oriented food–its easier to have a momo party and have your guests help with assembly (plus its more fun that way too!), and 3) its probably one of the most popular dishes in Nepal. According to my handy dandy Nepali cookbook, momos are “bite sized dumplings, filled with meat or vegetables, usually steamed, though they are sometimes fried.”

The cookbook goes on to describe their history, “The origin of momo is uncertain. Because this dish is popular among the Newar community of Kathmandu valley, one prevalent belief is that Newari traders brought them from Tibet. They modified the dish with local ingredients, such as water buffalo meat, and gave the dish a Nepali name. Others believe the dish was introduced to Nepali cuisine by Tibetans who settled in the mountains of Nepal.”

Yeah... I screenshot it...

Yeah... I screenshot it...

Wherever the origin, one thing is certain, I’ve never met a Nepali that wasn’t crazy about momos. In fact, if you do a search of Facebook you will find no fewer than seven groups/fanpages devoted to momos… one with 18,095 fans! Another one has nearly 3,500. When I typed in “chicken curry” it only had 1,600 fans. I think the facts speak for themselves…

As I mentioned, one thing that is particularly fun about momos is that it is a great food to eat when you are having a party. When we first moved, there used to be Friday night momo gatherings in the neighborhood all the time, and when P’s brother and cousins come to visit it makes for a fun and filling dinner. Frequently we have momos when we visit friends’ houses, and our friend S (remember him? P’s roommate from high school and the guy who went to college with him before he transfered over to me?) makes such amazingly spicy and delicious momos that I fear he might have ruined my momo palate for eating the real deal in Nepal.

I was in northern India a few years ago, and I was able to get momos at certain restaurants, particularly in places with larger Tibetan and Nepali populations like Bodhgaya, Dharmsala, and some places in Uttaranchal, but 95% of my experience  has been with homemade momos in the US. I remember the momos in Bodhgaya and Dharmsala tasting really good, but nothing compared to the momos that we usually make at my house, let alone the out-of-this-world momos that S makes. So when P and I decided to go to Nepal for S’s wedding in June I was excited to taste Nepali momos at the epicenter of momo-dom. Unfortunately I was disappointed.

I should quickly explain before someone comes along and assaults me over this… I am a vegetarian, and I usually make a spicy potato, peas, garlic, onion filled momo (almost like a samosa filling). Most of the vegetable momos that I found in Kathmandu and Solukhumbu barely had any spice and were usually filled with cabbage. However I’ve been told that meat momos are superior and particularly delicious in Nepal. While I hesitate to acknowledge that meat tastes better, I’ve never tried it myself, I bet if going for “authenticity” I can see why P and friends enjoy a plate of momos from back home. Here in the US, they make momos with ground turkey, chicken, or pork, but back home you could have it with water buffalo (“buff” momo are quite popular), yak, or goat in addition to the ubiquitous chicken.

folding momos...

folding momos...

Anyway, I digress as usual… shall we consult the cookbook to get back to topic? Ah, yes… “family and friends often gather to spend a joyful, leisurely time preparing momos… though momo shaping is an art, requiring patience, even young children can learn to enjoy the job.” Momo gatherings are fun because everyone gets together, has to sit on the floor with table cloth or newspapers spread underneath, take a wrapper (we use wonton wrappers from the Vietnamese grocery store down the street), wet the edges, put a spoon full of momo filling, fold, and stick in the queue for steaming. Folding is pretty funny… people have their own style… some people wrap them in the half moon style that I favor (see above), other people make the circular style (like in this video), some make a pocket or pouch, and some make weird amoeba shapes that basically use any means necessary to get the wrapper closed (if this is you, don’t worry… I was definitely once at that stage!) When the momos are steamed sometimes you can tell whose handy work you are eating, and dinner conversation flows from there.

At the time of writing this one of our neighbors had borrowed our steamer, so this is actually a picture from the internet, but it looks something like this...

At the time of writing this post one of our neighbors had borrowed our steamer, so this is actually a picture from the internet, but ours looks something like this...

When we were in college we used to steam momos by wrapping the top of a large pot of boiling water with aluminum foil covered in fork-hole-punches. We would place the momos on the aluminum foil then cover with a deep pot lid to help the steaming process… and unfortunately the number of momos we could steam at one time was very small. Now we have an industrial sized metal momo steamer bought from Chinatown… and it makes a world of difference… However it still takes several rounds of steaming to cook all the momos, because we usually make at least 200. I remember in India, some of the Americans I was with were really impressed when they ate 8 or 9 momos… I would merely scoff… our crew could easily eat 20 a piece.

Eating momos has become almost something of a litmus test. When our friend started dating a girl last year we made momos one night and discovered it was her first time eating them. We joked that if she didn’t like them, then the relationship might be in jeopardy. Meanwhile my middle sister is not a fan of momos (the only person I have thus far met who has eaten one and not liked it very much, mostly because of a dislike of onions) and so I’m pretty darn sure she won’t follow in her big sister’s footsteps and marry a Nepali herself.

So at the end of the day… if you know a Nepali and you have not yet been invited to the inevitable momo party, make sure to ask about it. Momos are a must…

More mo:mo fun!

  • This is a good video on the basic idea of how to make momo. We wouldn’t use beef at our house; instead P would use ground chicken/turkey or pork and I’d use veggies, but this is a good starting point!
  • I was looking for an easy-to-hyperlink veg momo recipe, but everything I was finding looked more complicated than necessary. So I started a recipe section. See my “Potato Veg Momo” recipe HERE
  • One last pearl of wisdom from my cookbook, “freshly steamed momos taste best served piping hot straight from the steamer. If they are served as a meal, six to eight are a good serving [I guess my friends and I must be pigs…] A meat-filled momo has to be eaten whole, as the flavorful juice in its steamed pocket will dribble out if it is broken. Though a well-seasoned juicy momo does not really need any condiments, it is traditionally accompanied by freshly made achar.” (P and I beg to differ on that last note… one of the best aspects of momo is the spicy achar– see recipe HERE!!)