Magazine article Sunset

If a Nepal Trekker Had a Microwave

Magazine article Sunset

If a Nepal Trekker Had a Microwave

Article excerpt

Take a hearty lentil stew, pair it with steaming rice, and you have the backbone of daal-bhaat, often cited as the national dish of Nepal. Traditional accompaniments are simmered vegetables, meat--usually in small portions--and at least one type of pickle or chutney.

Daal-bhaat is popular in Nepalese households and back-country rest stops catering to foreign hikers. Because the ingredients, seasonings, and techniques are compatible with Western kitchens, a daal-bhaat dinner makes an economical, informal meal for guests or family.

In our version for 6 to 8 people, a garlic-scented chicken dish with tomatoes and spinach is served with rice and accompanied by lentils fragrant with coriander seed and tangy with lime juice.

Make the sour-hot lemon pickle in a microwave oven, a modern touch that works well. Or buy an Indian lemon or lime pickle, or a favorite chutney, at a supermarket, Indian, or Middle-Eastern grocery. Shop for black (sometimes called brown) mustard seed at the same ethnic markets, or go to a spice store. Or use regular white (also called yellow) mustard seed. Though the mustards have only a subtle flavor difference, the black seeds are more decorative with the yellow pickled lemon.

With the meal, offer refreshingly tart lassi, a Nepalese yogurt drink.

Slice fresh oranges and pineapple for dessert; offer dark brown or coarse Demerara sugar and lime wedges for juice to go with the fruit.

A daal-bhaat dinner

Chicken with Spinach and Tomatoes

Curried Lentil Stew

Sour-Hot Lemon Pickle

Nepalese Yogurt Drink

Sliced Oranges and Pineapple

Dark Brown Sugar and Lime

The chicken is served on hot rice, while the lentils, the pickles, and the vegetables cooked with the chicken are presented separately. Chicken with Spinach and Tomatoes (Palung-ra Golbheda-ra Kukhura Ko Masu) 1 tablespoon coriander seed 1 teaspoon whole black pepper 1/4 cup water 6 cloves garlic 1 piece peeled fresh ginger, 1 by 2 inches, quartered 4 whole boned and skinned chicken breasts (about 2-1/4 lb. total), split 6 tablespoons salad oil 2 large onions, chopped 1/8 teaspoon cayenne 1 can (1 lb. 12 oz.) tomatoes 1-1/2 to 2 pounds spinach Salt Large, washed nontoxic leaves such as aralia (optional) 4 to 6 cups hot cooked rice

Whirl coriander and black pepper in a blender until finely ground, about 2 minutes. Add water, garlic, and ginger; blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Stop motor occasionally to scrape container; set aside.

In a 6- to 8-quart pan over medium-high heat, lightly brown breasts, a few at a time, in 3 tablespoons oil; set chicken aside. Add remaining oil and the onions to pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add coriander mixture and cayenne and stir about 30 seconds.

Spoon any excess oil from pan. Stir in tomatoes (mash slightly with spoon) and liquid. Stir to scrape any browned bits free in pan. Return chicken to sauce, bring to simmering, cover, and cook until breasts are just slightly pink in the center (cut to test), about 8 minutes; turn once or twice. (If made ahead, let chicken cool; cover and chill overnight; reheat in pan to continue.)

Meanwhile, cut off and discard spinach roots and any yellowed leaves; wash spinach well and drain. …

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