Thursday, September 23, 2010

Project Food Blog Challenge #2: A Classic Dish From Another Culture..... Drum Roll Please...


Thick satisfying Dal Bhat, Freshly steamed meat momo, a sweet and smokey, spice infused tomato achar for dipping, then wash that down with a cool and refreshing lassi and you have yourself a meal fit for a mountain king... or queen. 
Welcome to Nepal!

This challenge from Project Food Blog was to create a classic dish from another culture, one we are not experienced or familiar with, being as authentic as possible.
After much contemplating I decided to opt for Nepali cuisine.  I figure if the sherpa's can cook it so can I!. 
I had eaten at a Himalayan restaurant in Brisbane, Australia many years ago and  I really enjoyed the meal. Never have I had the chance to recreate that satisfying food though. I must say I have definitely stepped out of my comfort zone in this challenge.  Not only did I have to purchase turmeric (a spice I had never used before.. yes gasp in horror) but I discovered after the fact that Cedar City, Utah does not have red or black lentil beans. I am proud to say that I stayed as true to the authentic Nepalese food that was possible within my means -- which is what my blog is about any way... doing what you can with what you have.

Following is the recipes for these scrumptious dishes

Dal Bhat
Translated this means lentil soup with rice. This soup is satisfying and extremely healthy! Simple and quick to make, it's a great winter recipe for any family, the best thing is it's better the next day!
2 cups lentils (it's recommended to use 1 cup red and 1 cup Black... but I didn't have the option and was quite satisfied with regular lentils)
8 cups of water
2 TBS minced garlic 
3 TBS salt
1 TBS Turmeric
1 TBS Cumin Seed 
2 TBS butter 
4 TBS oil
1 cup sliced red onions
1 TBS minced ginger

Wash Lentils and let them soak for 30 minutes; remove the floaties and then drain.

Add the lentils to fresh water, salt, turmeric, and butter in a large pot.
Cook covered at a simmer for approximately 30 minutes until the lentils look like porridge.

In a frying pan on medium heat, add the cumin seeds, red onions and minced ginger. Allow it to simmer and infuse with the oil, watch it closely so it does not burn.
Pour it over the top of the soup once it is cooked. Serve steaming hot with basmati rice cooked to packet directions. (this is great also with fresh naan bread)

Meat Momo

I took the bull by the horns with this one and made my own dough from scratch, worth it? well, I would say that I am glad I attempted to do the real thing but I would just use a spring roll wrapper next time. As a working mother I don't always have the time to go all the way with the dough!
Things to make ahead: you can definitely create the filling the day before.  In fact the flavors will be more enhanced if you DO!

Dough for Wrappers
3 cups all purpose flour
Halfway kneaded
1 tbs oil
1 cup water
pinch of salt
 In a large bowl combine flour, oil salt and water
Mix, knead the dough until it becomes the same consistency throughout. 
When I started kneading my dough I thought "Becky there is no way this is working out" but I persisted... after 5 minutes it looked like the first picture.. and by the full 10 minutes (ohhhh and your arms are going to BURN) it somehow works out.
Cover it with a bowl or tea towel and let it sit for about 30 minutes
Fully kneaded
Momo Filling Ingredients
1 lb (Approx. 500 grams) Ground Chicken (Mince)
1 lb (Approx. 500 grams) Ground Pork (Mince)
1 red onion finely choppped
1/2 cup green onion finely chopped
1/2 cup ripe tomato, finely chopped
3 TBS fresh cilantro (Coriander) chopped
1 TBS Fresh Ginger minced
1 TBS Fresh Garlic minced
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 TBS curry powder (Or momo masala if you have an international food store available in your area)
3 Red Chilies, seeds removed minced/finely chopped
Generous seasoning of Salt and Pepper. I would almost say that you could give a TBS of Salt.

It's time to get dirty.. take off your wedding ring and watch and mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Or if you are like me you can get one of your handy kitchen elves to do it for you.
My Kitchen Elf.. a happy worker.

Cover and refrigerate. Like I said before it's good for it to let all the flavors marry together ... making this part the day before is a good idea, and a lot easier for you!.

Assembly of the Momo
Give the Dough a final knead.
Then enlist the help of your kitchen elves to  create 1 inch balls of dough, it's much easier with helping hands.
Kitchen Elf #2.. I find elves are much more inclined to eat this food when they help prepare it!
Cover your balls with a large bowel or tea towel while you do this as they will dry out during this process.

Dust your working area lightly with flour.
On the work area firmly flatten the dough ball with the palm of your hand to create a circle that is larger in the middle than on the outside. This happens naturally when you use the palm of your hand.
Make a few of these and then cover again to keep from drying out.
Try your best to keep the middle of the dough slightly thicker than the edges.
(After reading and researching momo's I didn't understand why it is stressed to keep the middle slightly thicker than the edges. As you fold the momo and push the filling down it will thin out the middle..if you don't you will most likely have some split dumplings!)
Hold the dough in one hand and with the other spoon some filling into the center. 
Use your thumb in the dough hand to press down on the filling to keep it away from the edges as you fold it shut.
Pinch the end of your momo together then pleat and press a fold (making sure you keep that filling down and away from the edges as you go. Repeat .. pleat.. press, pleat... press. 
It takes practice.. by the end of your dough you will be a pro, don't be disheartened by your wobegone first attempts.. keep at it!
I read many recipes to try to understand how to do this and the best explanation was a video I found. I think this one is the best visually, watch closely as he shows you more than one way to fold a momo!
My First attempt at Momo's .. they are not perfect but I'm so proud of them!
Heat up your steamer.. oil your rack well, place your cabbage leaves completely over your steamer (especially if it is metal) This will prevent them from sticking. Do not let them touch each other (A mistake I made). You might have to cook them in batches if you have a small steamer like me.

Cook for approximately 20 minutes. Break one open to double check the meat is cooked through.
Serve with the warm, spice infused Tomato achar recipe that follows!
Note: use freeze your left over meat in a zip lock bag for use later. I plan on concocting a Himalayan meatball recipe for my family!

Tomato Achar
Translated the word Achar is used to describe a chutney. Authentically this is blended to create a smooth texture, but I left my roasted tomatoes chunky.. what can I say I am a chunky girl!. I will be honest.. this was my favorite part of the entire dish.. I would absolutely make this again and again.The secret to this awesome flavor is the infusion of the oil. That is probably one of the most important things I discovered while creating this meal.
4 TBS Vegetable Oil
1 TBS Cumin Seeds
1 tsp Mustard Seeds
1 TBS Garlic minced
1 TBS Ginger minced
1 tsp Turmeric
1 small can of fire roasted diced tomatoes(fire roasted is best!)
2 TBS freshly chopped cilantro (coriander)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Gently heat oil in a small sauce pan.
Add cumin seeds, mustard seeds and gently cook until they are fragrant and their smells really start to open up. Don't have your temperature so high it starts to burn. They are done when they start to gently brown.
Add your garlic and ginger
Continue sauteing your spices.
Add can of tomatoes.
Stir and allow the infused oil to warm up the tomatoes. When hot all the way through add in remaining ingredients of Turmeric and cilantro.
Allow it to cool slightly before transferring it to a blender or if you are like me you can eat it chunky.
Season with Salt and pepper to your liking. Serve with freshly steamed momo's!

A lassi is a cool and soothing yogurt drink. I preferred to create a sweet version of the drink. Perfect for some of those warm spices and it's great for cleansing your palate. Feel free to throw in some fresh fruit for different tastes.  This was put together in 3 minutes flat, how awesome is that!.

2 small containers of plain Greek yogurt
3-4 cups of milk (depending on how thick or runny you want your drink)
2 TBS freshly chopped mint
1/4 cup fine sugar.

Place all ingredients in a blender. Pulse until it is well combined, taste to make sure it is flavored to your personal liking and adjust where needed. 
Serve nice and cold!
And there you have it... a meal bursting with warm flavors. So you and your family can experience a taste of Nepal right at home.


  1. I think your PFB challenge #2 post was the most innovative - Nepal??? Wow, you did a fantastic job and it looks great! You've got my vote.

  2. Very nice entry -- and I so agree about involving the kitchen elves! Good luck in the challenge.

  3. Great to see the little ones participating the job! Fantastic entry. Good luck!

  4. Awesome!! Great job on a wonderful cuisine. :)

  5. I feel like I just went on a mini vacation. Love that you got the kids involved too. Sending some Foodbuzz ♥ your way. Hope we both make it to the next round ;-)

  6. thanks for all the love everyone! cross your fingers the judges feel the same way!

  7. I love your little helpers! Great post on Nepal! Good luck and you've got my vote for sure!

  8. Mmmmm! Wish I was there too. The 98 year old grandma would have to have fought me for that share. She'd probably win. Nepalese food - how unique & imaginative can you get. Love the elves too. Pete & Becc