A traditional dal bhat recipe from Nepal

Dal is basically spicy lentil soup. Served with rice, vegetables and chutney (of which there are thousands of varieties and many of which include fresh lemon or lime) Dal is the staple diet for the people of Nepal. Traditionally the Nepalese people will eat squatting, though many urban restaurants now have chairs.

Dal will thicken up your curry sauce and give it one unique texture which affects the taste and adds nutrition. Red or yellow beans, dried split peas or lentils can be used in Dal Bhat which is the most common Nepalese dish and there are even black lentils too, thus this recipe will feed four people.

Ingredients 

200 g of lentils
2 chicken breasts cut into strips
1 chopped onion
1 can of tinned tomatoes
1 tube of tomato puree
400 g of rice
25 g of curry powder
100 ml water
5 g salt
5 g pepper

Method

1. Boil up your choice of lentils fiercely for ten minutes, skim the froth off and simmer for another thirty. Whisk to separate the lentils and add water to dilute if necessary to get the right texture, which should not be too runny and not too thick.

2. Fry the chicken strips with fresh, finely chopped onion; add a tin of tomatoes to the mixture with some tomato puree and put the curry powder in to a lesser or greater degree, depending on how hot the requirement is.

3. Spoon some cooked lentil mixture onto the meat sauce until you get the right balance and texture. The proof is always in the pudding, so only the chef can decide how much tarka dal is used and it then becomes your own recipe.

4. Boil up the rice, drain and serve on hot plates with the sauce. 

This meal always goes down nicely with a glass of Raksi, which is a traditional white spirit, often made at homes in Tibet. 

History

Bhat is boiled rice, roti is unleavened bread and both are traditionally served on a thali (a stainless steel plate) in Nepal, before being eaten with the fingers of the right hand. The left hand may hold cups and glasses, though it must never touch the food!

Only a wife may eat leftovers from her husband’s plate in Nepal and their children may eat from hers, thus the Rhododendron is the national flower of Nepal and sometimes used in their cuisine with certain dishes.

Nepal is in the Himalayas bordering China and India and Kathmandu is the capital city. Ten of the world’s tallest mountains – including Mount Everest – are actually in Nepal and the people of Nepal are mainly Hindus, though there is obviously a historical link with Buddhism to this part of the world.

Ruled throughout its history by the Shah Dynasty, the diversity of Nepalese cuisine is huge, however, dal-bhat-tarkari is eaten throughout the country and is easily their most popular dish. Isn’t Dal Bhat just that little bit more special in terms of colour, flavour and texture?