Dal bhat is Nepalese national dish and a traditional Nepali staple food consisting of cooked or steamed rice, cereal bhat and lentil soup. It is generally eaten twice a day during mid morning and early evening.
Bhat means boiled rice. At higher elevations where rice does not grow well other grains such as makai (maize), fapar (buckwheat), jau (barley) or kodo (millet) may be substituted in a cooked preparation called atho or dhido. Bhat may be substituted with roti or chapatti (unleavened Indian bread).
Dal bhat is traditionally served with vegetable tarkari (a mix of seasonal vegetables) and also known as Dal bhat tarkari. Along with this they also have yoghurt or a curry made of chicken, goat meat or fish and a small portion of chutney or pickle (achar). The Dal is cooked with tomatoes, onion, chili, tamarind, garlic and ginger in addition to lentils or beans. It also contains herbs and spices such as coriander, garam masala, cumin seeds and turmeric. The recipe of Dal bhat can vary from locality, family and ethnic groups.
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. 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. It is the most common and classic Nepali dish and is also the staple daily diet of the majority of the population living in Nepal.
Dal bhat consists of various sized portions of different food groups. The meal centers on white rice (bhat) which is often served in mountainous proportions. The second cornerstone part of the meal is the “dal” which is like a lentil soup, often served in a bowl and then poured on the rice to add flavor and moisture. Dal comes in several varieties, including yellow dal and black dal, both of which are often cooked in a pressure cooker with spices, garlic and sometimes ginger.
The Dal bhat is a comfort food rich in proteins and liked by many south Asians. It is more Indian than Nepali in the spices it calls for. The dish is excellent, flavorful and makes a hearty and scrumptious meal. It provides plenty of much needed carbohydrates and proteins. It is a rich and energetic dish and fantastic as a main meal rather than a side dish. The main source of protein in the Dal bhat is the dal or lentil sauce which is served on the rice. There is a variety of dal like the black dal, yellow dal etc. 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 all your greens!
For preparing the Dal bhat, wash rice and soak for 5 minutes. In a pan bring water to boil over medium heat. Add lentils. Reduce heat and simmer covered until the lentils are tender and soft cooking for about 15 minutes. The lentil should break easily when pressed between thumbs and index finger. Remove from heat. Puree this mixture with ginger and garlic pasted in blender until smooth. Return to pan and bring to simmer. Add salt, sugar, and tamarind and stir to dissolve the tamarind. Remove from heat.
Heat oil in a 6-inch skillet over medium-low heat and fry black mustard seeds for a few seconds. As soon as the seeds start popping remove from heat and pour contents of pan over the lentil mixtures. Simmer 2 to 3 more minutes. Stir in five spice. Cover and let stand for a few minutes to help develop the flavors. Garnish with lemon wedges and cilantro and serve with boiled rice.
Do try this speciality and common dish from the Nepali cuisine and enjoy its taste. Click on the link for the recipe: