Tag Archives: Nepali Cuisine

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!!

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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!

“Chicken’s Younger Brother”

To continue with posts on food I don’t usually eat, but have had so far this week… today’s post is about jackfruit or katahar (कटहर) in Nepali, and also happened to have been my dinner last night.

According to wikipedia, jackfruit is the “largest tree borne fruit in the world, reaching 80 pounds (36 kg) in weight and up to 36 inches (90 cm) long and 20 inches (50 cm) in diameter.” It’s also the national fruit of Bangladesh! They are massive yellowish-green fruits with a thick bumpy outer skin, almost spiky but too dull to poke you.

While visiting a friend’s village in the Terai region of Nepal in 2009 we stacked the back of the car with large jackfruits to bring back to his family in Kathmandu, but it wasn’t until last night that I actually tried one.

Can of jackfruit used for dinner last night

The fruit is sometimes referred to as “vegetarian chicken” or as D poetically put it last night, “chicken’s younger brother” (while AS said, “shhh… don’t say that or C won’t eat it!”). It gets this reputation by how “meat-like” the vegetable can be, especially after cooking.

I’ve never been big on fake meat, mostly because I was never a big fan of the taste and texture of real meat, and thus lack that “meat nostalgia” some vegetarians struggle with. Sure I’ll eat veggie burgers (most don’t look or taste much like meat burgers anyway), and on very very rare occasions I might try some veggie sausage for breakfast, but that is about the extent of it. So eating a fruit that has the look and texture of meat was kind of strange and a bit unnerving.

jackfruit curry, left overs after dinner was finished.

Can you believe this is a *vegetable*?--jackfruit on my dinner plate... when you pull the individual pieces of jackfruit apart the pieces pull apart just like real meat. I swear this almost looks like pulled pork! The fruit also has small "eyes" in it that look similar to meat fat or bone sockets.

The taste was fine, but it took me a bit to get over the texture.

Final analysis: would I eat it again? Sure. Is it my favorite? No. There are lots of other “kinda like meat” Nepali foods that I would rate much higher… like masura or titora, even nutri-(soya) nuggets.

We also ate fried parbar as well. Unfortunately no one at the dinner table knew what “parbar” was in English, and I can’t find it online. Found in Indian grocery stores, it is a small oblong shaped green vegetable that can be sliced into quarters, the seeds removed, and fried with spices to make a snack. I should have taken a picture, but since we had 10 people for dinner, and I was already whipping out the camera for the jackfruit, I didn’t want to go overboard. If anyone knows what the English name is, please let me know!

— update:

Yes! It was “pointed gourd!”According to wikipedia it is sometimes colloquially called “green potato” in South Asia… which makes sense, because once it was fried, I told AS it tasted a little like a spiced french fry with a peel.

This is what the uncut vegetable looks like:

they might look like cucumbers but they are different on the inside.

Nepali Restaurants

I mentioned that I ate at a good Nepali restaurant in New York recently, so I thought I would write a little bit about Nepali restaurants and have the comment section be a place where others could suggest Nepali restaurants around the country or abroad.

New York

If anyone has been to New York City with a South Asian friend or significant other then you are probably familiar with Jackson Heights, Queens. As Wikipedia notes, “Stores and restaurants on and near 74th street tend to cater towards the large South Asian population in the neighborhood, with sari and jewelry stores, Bengali and Hindi music and movie retailers and many restaurants.” There are even billboard advertisements featuring Bollywood stars like Abhishek Bachchan.

Although there are a few Nepali places in New York, I hear one of the best (most “authentic”?) is Himalayan Yak on Roosevelt Ave. I’ve been there twice now, and enjoyed it both times. It’s menu is divided into three sections—Tibetan, Nepali and Indian, and the atmosphere definitely has a Nepali/Tibetan feel—with Nepali wood panel art, Buddhist prayer wheels, paintings of mountain scenery (and of course, yaks), and tv screens airing muted and subtitled documentaries about Nepal and Tibet ( the first time I was there they were playing a documentary on the salt caravans in the high mountains). The food is quite tasty, serving crowd pleasing favorites like bhatmas ra chiura (spiced soybeans with beaten rice), gundruk (dry green vegetable very particular to Nepal), aloo tama (potato and bamboo shoot curry), kusi ko masu (goat meat), and of course momo.

In the evening the restaurant is usually packed with a Nepali/Tibetan crowd, who come not only for the food but to hear the live Nepali bands that play Friday-Monday. Inside the restaurant, it’s easy enough to pretend you are sitting in a café in the KTM valley tourist district of Thamel, rather than Queens.

Nepali band playing at the Himalayan Yak Restaurant

The restaurant was even in an episode of the American tv series “Ugly Betty” (Season 3 episode 14 near the middle of the episode). They made it look much more Tibetan for the show than it usually looks (the waiters don’t actually wear Tibetan costumes, although I have seen patrons wearing Tibetan chupas before).

To learn more about the restaurant you can read an interview done by the New York Times with the manager (my favorite question: “Is there seafood in Himalayan cuisine?”—answer: “We don’t have sea in Nepal. Nepal is a landlocked country. We don’t have sushi also over there.”).

So if in town, and looking for a place to try Nepali cuisine, check in to Himalayan Yak.

Boston

Living close to Boston one would think I’d have better recommendations for the city. There are several in town, and I’ve eaten the food at two—Kathmandu Spice in Arlington and the Yak and Yeti in Somerville.

I used to work at Tufts which is close to Somerville/Arlington, so one night after work P and I tried out Katmandu Spice. To be honest I don’t remember anything particularly outstanding– it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very memorable either. It has Nepali specialties as well—kwatti (9 bean soup), thukpa (Tibetan noodle soup), goat sekuwa (barbequed goat meat), aloo tama, momo. I think I remember P saying the food seemed more Indian inspired, and they had quite a few dishes with fish and shrimp (see Himalayan Yak manger quote above– but in their defense they might be catering to the seafood loving New England palate). It was okay, but I’m not chomping on the bit to go back.

Inside Kathmandu Spice

Yak and Yeti is a new restaurant in the city. They catered our friend’s wedding this summer, and the food was pretty good. Our friends ordered big trays of pakora (which were really tasty), chicken, goat, cauli aloo, daal, and another dish or two (to be honest, I filled up on the tasty pakora so I can’t really remember what else I ate), topped off with a big tray of kheer (rice pudding). The food was good, relatively cheap for a big crowd (they had about seventy people), and worked well in a large quantity. I haven’t eaten at their restaurant in Boston yet, but based on the wedding food they made for AS and N, I’ll keep them in mind for a certain ceremony coming up in July.

Inside Yak and Yeti

Other restaurants…

So now dear readers, do you have Nepali restaurant recommendations? Feel free to comment below! Here is another list (from Desi Grub) to get you thinking…