Dal Bhat Recipe
The Nepalese national dish, dal bhat (lentils and rice), is an inexpensive and tasty meal to eat whilst trekking. If you order dal bhat at a lodge or tea house, any extra dal or bhat you need to satisfy your appetite is usually free. Porters sometimes refer to a hill climb as a ‘3 dhal-bhat’ hill. You may hear a Nepalis joke about ‘double dal-bhat’ for real hunger or trekker greed.
Dal bhat is the safest thing to eat, because that’s what the locals eat. Western trekkers may find that they enjoy it as much as the Nepalis, and wish to have the recipe to make it at home. So here it is, courtesy of Meg Sheffield and Siddhanta Shaha in Kailash magazine.
- Half a cup of dal (black or yellow lentils)
- One and a half teaspoons of salt
- half a teaspoon of ghee
- Gound ginger
- 4 cups of water
- 1 pinch of jimbu (A special Nepali rice, see the folowing note)
- Boil water and a quarter of a tablespoon of ghee
- Put the dal and the salt in the water and cook for an hour for black dal and half an hour for yellow dal.
- Add ground ginger
- Take oil off fire
- Heat the rest of the ghee in a stirring spoon and fry the jimbu and put it in the dal.
- Serve hot
Well everyone has to learn how to boil rice sometime:
Wash two cups of rice. Do not pour the water directly onto the rice. Pour the water first on the hand held over the rice so as not to break the grains (Well that’s what it says in Kailash!). Wash the rice about four times and drain off the water.
Add one and a quarter cups of water (sufficient to cover the rice) and a heaped tablespoon of ghee. Do not use poor ghee. If neccesary use butter instead.
Bring to the boil. Stir the rice only four times. Cook only for fifteen minutes. Each grain of rice must be separate and undamaged. (I always cover the pan and put a heavy weight on the lid. It also seems to cook better if you don’t look at it)
The main source of protein in dal bhat is the dal or lentil sauce which is served with the rice. There are several kinds of dal. Black dal is grown in Kathmandu at the edge of the paddy. Yellow dal comes from the terai in southern Nepal. Dried peas and beans are also called dal and various types are often mixed. Dal is cooked in Nepal in a Kasauri, or round bottomed brass pot. Remember not to leave food standing in a brass container, or the food will be tainted with a metallic taste. With dal bhat, vegetables are also eaten, and it is these that provide minerals and vitamins. So eat your greens!
The jimbu spice mentioned in the dal recipe is a uniquely Nepalese spice. Jimbu looks like dried broken tarragon leaves. Jimbu can be bought in shops in Indrachowk in Kathmandu.