Take a hearty lentil stew, pair it with steaming rice, and you havethe backbone of daal-bhaat, often cited as the national dish of Nepal.
Traditional accompaniments are simmered vegetables, meat–usually insmall portions–and at least one type of pickle or chutney. Daal-bhaat is popular in Nepalese households and back-country reststops catering to foreign hikers. Because the ingredients, seasonings,and techniques are compatible with Western kitchens, a daal-bhaat dinnermakes an economical, informal meal for guests or family. In our version for 6 to 8 people, a garlic-scented chicken dishwith tomatoes and spinach is served with rice and accompanied by lentilsfragrant with coriander seed and tangy with lime juice. Make the sour-hot lemon pickle in a microwave oven, a modern touchthat works well. Or buy an Indian lemon or lime pickle, or a favoritechutney, at a supermarket, Indian, or Middle-Eastern grocery. Shop forblack (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 yogurtdrink. Slice fresh oranges and pineapple for dessert; offer dark brown orcoarse 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 KoMasu) 1 tablespoon coriander seed 1 teaspoon whole black pepper 1/4 cupwater 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 1/8teaspoon cayenne 1 can (1 lb. 12 oz.) tomatoes 1-1/2 to 2 poundsspinach Salt Large, washed nontoxic leaves such as aralia (optional) 4to 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 brownbreasts, a few at a time, in 3 tablespoons oil; set chicken aside. Addremaining oil and the onions to pan and cook, stirring occasionally,until onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add coriander mixture andcayenne and stir about 30 seconds. Spoon any excess oil from pan. Stir in tomatoes (mash slightlywith spoon) and liquid. Stir to scrape any browned bits free in pan.
Return chicken to sauce, bring to simmering, cover, and cook untilbreasts are just slightly pink in the center (cut to test), about 8minutes; turn once or twice. (If made ahead, let chicken cool; coverand chill overnight; reheat in pan to continue.) Meanwhile, cut off and discard spinach roots and any yellowedleaves; wash spinach well and drain. Coarsely chop green leaves andstems.
Add spinach to chicken, cover, and simmer over medium heat; stiroften until spinach is wilted and breasts are white in the center (cutto test), about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt. With a slotted spoon, lift out spinach and tomatoes and place in abowl; set aside and keep warm. Line a platter with leaves, if desired,and spoon the hot cooked rice onto the leaves, then top with thechicken; keep warm. Turn heat to high under frying pan and boil, uncovered, until sauceis reduced to about 3/4 cup; stir often. Spoon sauce onto chicken.Makes 6 to 8 servings. Curried Lentil Stew (Daal) 2 tablespoonscoriander seed 1 cup coarsely chopped shallots or red onions 1/2 cupwater 6 tablespoons salad oil 5 teaspoons ground turmeric 2 tablespoonschili powder 1/2 cup thinly sliced chives or green onions 2-1/3 cups (1lb.
) lentils, sorted for debris and rinsed 2 quarts water About 3/4teaspoon salt 1/3 cup lime juice Cilantro (coriander) sprigs Lime wedges Whirl coriander seed in a blender until finely ground, about 2minutes. Add shallots and water; blend to grind coarsely. In a 5- to 6-quart pan over medium-high heat, combine oil andshallot mixture and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid hasevaporated, about 5 minutes.
Add turmeric, chili powder, and chives;cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir lentils, water, and 3/4 teaspoon salt into shallot mixture.Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer,stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender to bite, about 35minutes. Stir in lime juice and salt to taste. (At this point, you canlet lentils cool; cover and chill up to 2 days.
Reheat to simmering.) Pour lentils into a bowl or tureen and garnish with cilantrosprigs. Offer lime wedges to squeeze over individual portions. Makes2-1/2 quarts, 6 to 8 servings.
Sour-Hot Lemon Pickle (Nibuwaa Achar)1-1/2 tablespoons black (or white) mustard seed About 1 pound lemons (4or 5) 1 fresh hot chili (optional) such as jalapeno or serrano, stemmed,seeded, and finely chopped 2 tablespoons salt 2 teaspoons cayenne 1/4cup salad oil In a 6- to 8-inch frying pan over medium heat, toast mustard seed,shaking pan occasionally, just until seeds begin to pop, 2 to 5 minutes.Set aside. Trim ends off lemons. Cut lemons in half crosswise, then cut eachhalf into about 1-inch wedges; pluck out obvious seeds. Place lemons in a nonmetallic 2-1/2- to 3-quart bowl; stir inchopped chili, salt, cayenne, salad oil, and mustard seed. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; cook at full power in microwave ovenuntil mixture is slightly thickened and lemons are easy to pierce, 16 to20 minutes.
Every 4 minutes, stir pickles (bowl is hot); let cool.Serve; or store, covered tightly, in refrigerator up to 4 months. Makes2 cups. Nepalese Yogurt Drink (Lassi) 1 quart unflavored yogurt 1 quartwater About 1-1/2 teaspoons salt or 1/2 cup sugar Ice (optional) In a 2-1/2- to 3-quart pitcher, combine yogurt and half of thewater; whisk to blend smoothly. Stir in remaining water; season totaste with salt or sugar.
Serve over ice, or cover and chill as long asovernight. Makes 2 quarts, 6 to 8 servings.