Saturday, April 24, 2010

Nepalese Dal: The Sacred Honda Civic of the Culinary World

When I traveled to Nepal, this is what everybody ate. It’s called Dal Bhat, or lentils with rice. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of this dish in parts of India and Nepal. I was told that many people will go their entire lives without ever eating anything except this dish. During my few months there, I ate this for every meal myself.

While this dish excels in reliability, it lags a bit in sexy department.... It's kind of the Honda Civic of the culinary world. It's sacred to millions, but if you want some excitement for dinner, I recommend you make another Indian or Nepalese recipe and serve this as a side dish. Much like Steve Buscemi, dal bhat is always best in a supporting role.

Prep time: 1 cocktail

1 cup brown lentils
2 tsp ground coriander
½-inch piece ginger
2 tsp ground turmeric
½ pound fresh spinach or beet greens, chopped (optional)
2 TBSP ghee, butter, or oil
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 tsp salt
2 tsp lemon juice
A dash of cayenne
Prepared rice (I like Forbidden Black)

In medium-sized saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add lentils, coriander, ginger, and turmeric. Stirring occasionally, bring to boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer, peeking in occasionally to stir. Continue stirring occasionally until the lentils begin to soften, about 30 minutes.

Remove lid and add spinach or beet greens, if using.

After adding the greens, in a medium frying pan or wok, heat the ghee over medium-high heat. When it’s up to temperature, add the cumin and fry until seeds turn a nice golden-brown. Immediately transfer the ghee and seeds to the lentils being careful not to splatter. Also add the salt, lemon juice and cayenne. Stir well and cook another couple minutes before serving over rice.

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