The peas came up days ago, and are now lush and lovely looking. And finally, today, I spotted the tiniest seedlings of what I hope is lettuce. Of course germination times vary from one vegetable to another, but it also got me wondering if the peas sprouted so early because they’re local, fresher seeds that I dried myself here, rather than the others which were from commercial seed packets that I’d purchased years ago while in the US and England. I’ll have to research that. But something simple, local and Nepali working better is an idea that makes me happy. A potato has also sprouted, and in the back of the house by the two avocado seedlings, I just planted basil, round zucchini, green beans, and a few other vegetables that I can’t remember at the moment. I’ve also begun planting out bits of mint from my pot in a border back there that’s too thin to grow much in. It’s so tiny that only weeds flourish there. Mint has the honour of being able to grow like a weed, and also, you can never have too much mint.
Archive for the ‘Food’ Category
A few days ago I dug into the garden. I’d just got home and went out there and started pulling weeds and turning soil. I think I’ve been subconsciously putting it off because it hasn’t worked out so well for me in the past. I’ve always rented here in Nepal, and I’ve often had to move abruptly and unexpectedly. Sometimes it was my choice, of course, but often it wasn’t; a true example: “I have just bought this house from the owner. Can you be out in a week?”
So even though I love planting and watching things grow, it’s hard to commit when I don’t know how long I’ll be living in this house. And I remember how I felt when I saw the new tenants of a place rip up the avocado sapling I’d planted. Of course my many pots of flowers, herbs, and small trees always come with me when when I move, but I haven’t had much success growing vegetables in containers, and I want to grow more of what I eat.
I’ve come to love this little pink house, and I hope to be here for a long while. Last year I planted out two small avocado trees in the back patch that I’d grown from seed, and it’s time now to get serious with vegetables.
Two lettuces and some garlic survived from a half-hearted attempt a few months ago, and I think they were happy to be free of their weed-bed. For starters this time around, I planted a bunch of mixed salad greens, and two different kinds of peas and some sprouting potatoes. The salad was from a packet, but the peas were local varieties that I’d saved and dried. The potatoes; tiny ones that I’d ignored while cooking and which had begun sprouting all by themselves in their bowl on the dining table.
There’s more to come; I’ve determined not to let worry and uncertainty stop me from leading the life I want. If and when I should have to move, I will have enjoyed this time in my lovely pink house to the full.
in art exhibition, Food, Japan, Kathmandu, restaurants
Yesterday, by serendipitous chance, I was near the Japanese embassy and saw a banner outside announcing an art exhibit, Sharaku.
Of course I had to pop inside.
The exhibition contained high-quality woodblock prints, posters by graphic designers, a few sculptures and porcelain items, and two large paintings, these last being my personal favorites. Another great display was three wooden music boxes, the likes of which I have never seen before. They were very tactile and fascinating to touch and listen to.
From the handout I learned that Toshusai Sharaku was a well-known artist from the Edo period; his specialty was woodblock prints (ukiyo-e) of Kabuki actors. The woodblock prints in the gallery were reproductions of his work, while all the other items–from the graphic posters to the paintings and porcelain and yes, even those music boxes–were re-interpretations of his work by Japanese artists working in a wide variety of mediums. Fascinating to read about, and I found it interesting to have experienced the full impact of the the works before reading about the artist and displays.
All in all, while not a large exhibit, it’s a great way to spend half an hour, especially considering that there’s not a whole lot of this type of art in Kathmandu. And did I mention that it’s free?
The Sharaku exhibit is on display at the Japanese Embassy through March 11, 2014.
And if, after having had your fill of Japanese art, you feel a hunger for something more…filling, just a few minutes walk from the Japanese Embassy up Lazimpat (going north) on the opposite side of the road you’ll find Kotetsu, one of my favorite Japanese restaurants. While they do have a full menu to choose from, I usually go for the bento lunch box, which costs 500 nrs. and changes every day. It’s a great way to sample unusual Japanese flavors and textures, all of which are delicious. The relaxed atmosphere and seating arrangement that allows you to watch the chefs at work is also fantastic.
On a completely unrelated note, yesterday’s copy of The Himalayan Times informed me that “The Ministry for Home Affairs has fixed the number of public holidays other than Saturdays for the year 2071 BS.” The year 2071 refers to the Nepali calendar, which is lunar based; we still have a few weeks left of 2070; the new year, 2071, will start in mid-April. The number of holidays allotted is 50 (in addition to those 52 Saturdays, Sunday being the first day of the week in Nepal). This led me to wonder, is this number of public holidays a lot or a little? I’ve been here too long to tell; Nepal has myriad holidays and religious festivals, some of which are only marked by certain ethnic groups. But considering that Nepal has only a one-day weekend instead of a two-day one, I think it’s just right. So many years, and so much left yet to learn.
This evening I went for a run, something which I used to do regularly but have not done for a long time. It’s been winter, of course; I was sick, yes; Kathmandu’s ongoing road expansion is not conducive to running at the moment, also true; but it’s been more than that, too. And I needed to get out there again.
Running after such a long time was exhausting, embarrassing, satisfying. I was surprised at what I could still do.
I’d been wanting to go for mo:mo, and so, partly as motivation I ran north towards the hills before doubling back, past my house, to find the mo:mo I had in mind.
Mo:mo of course, being the wonderful dumplings that can be found everywhere here. Originally thought to have come from Tibet or China, they have over the years been adopted, adapted and improved; they are now Kathmandu’s quintessential fast food: delicious, widely varied, and inexpensive.
The place I went to tonight is around the corner from my old flat, not too far from where I live now. Originally an alcohol wholesaler, they had, after a while, put out a plastic table and chairs for the customers that preferred to drink their purchases on the spot. Eventually, the enterprising family produced a snack to sell to go with the drinks. That snack was, of course, mo:mo.
Unlike restaurants, many local eateries provide only one variety of mo:mo, as this place does–unusually, here it’s pork. Buff or chicken or vegetable are much more common.
The pork in these dumplings is mixed with chopped onions, garlic, and ginger, and as the onion to meat ratio is unusually high, the resulting mo:mo is exceptionally light. The dough is also very thin, and the achar, or sauce, is uncooked, which also adds to the simplicity of it and makes it much less heavy than some other mo:mo. The achar is simply tomatoes, green chili and fresh danya–also known as coriander or cilantro–smashed up, raw, in a flat mortar and pestle. It’s spicy, fresh and delicious.
After many years and multiple attempts, I still suck at making mo:mo, but I want to come back sometime when the power is on to watch the woman who makes them at work, and, maybe, learn something.
So as not to seem greedy, I had a plate there with my beer, and ordered a plate to go. A dog came and sat quietly, at a polite distance, but even in the darkening twilight I could see his puppy-dog eyes, absolutely living up to cliché, so of course I had to share a few mo:mo with him, though I did it carefully so the wonderful mo:mo maker wouldn’t think I didn’t love her food. Of course that meant I broke into the second serving, but I made sure to save some for my own dog, Lazarus. She loves these.
Walking back, there was a lovely moon shining, with the effect known as ‘earthshine’ (yes, I did have to look that up to learn the correct name) where the thin crescent moon is bright, but the rest of the moon is still dimly and fully visible. Unfortunately, my camera didn’t do it justice, but never mind that, seeing it made me happy.
When I got home, Lazarus and I sat outside in the dark, sharing the remaining mo:mo, waiting for the lights to come on.
in children, Food, Kathmandu, Newari Food, Newars
For the curious, here are a few more details about the photos in the last post, which I took on December 29th, when invited to the name-day ceremony for the new baby girl of a Newari family who are good friends of mine.
This event is held on the 9th day after a baby’s birth. While I can’t claim to understand all the nuances of the day, the simple explanation is that it is a religious ceremony performed by a Brahmin priest where the baby receives its auspicious religious name. This is not what the baby will actually be called, nor even her legal name, but is nonetheless a very important part of culture and society. You can see the name written in Sanskrit on the pipal leaf.
Also involved was lots of incense and ritual offerings of banana leaf bowls filled with flowers, rice, fruit and other foods, each laden with symbol and meaning.
At the end of it all, delicious celebratory Newari food. A young member of the family really, really wanted one of my peas!
Yesterday I enjoyed a late breakfast at Mike’s Breakfast’s new location. For anyone who lives in Nepal, Mike’s needs no introduction. For everyone else, the short version is that it’s an eatery–specializing in American style food, especially breakfast–that has been around longer than I’ve lived here. It was opened by Mike, a US Peace Corps volunteer who loved Nepal so much he stuck around for decades. He passed away some years ago, but his namesake restaurant continues.
The lease on their old location in Naxal was up this December, and they’ve been slowly moving to their new place in Baluwater for a few months now, while still keeping the old place open. When I drove past their old location this week, though, it was empty. Sign gone, construction for something new in full swing. Even though I knew it was coming, it still hurt a bit. I know change is supposed to be for the better, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it. In the last year, a lot has changed–in big ways with friends moving and family illness, to the trivial of places I love in Kathmandu being demolished by the ongoing road expansion, or just closing, never to be seen again.
This time, though, I knew where Mike’s Breakfast was moving to. So I went there yesterday. And guess what? It was great. In some ways, even better; larger, more peaceful, just as much if not more greenery. Some construction is still ongoing, and those unique mosaic benches still need to find their place, but it felt right.
I had what I always have–a large mushroom cheese omelette with toast, and coffee made fresh from local beans, both of which are wonderful, unpretentious, simple things made well. And while I ate I thought that perhaps I need to give change a chance. While I won’t ever not miss people and things that are gone, sometimes what’s new can be even better. Here’s hoping!
in Food, Kathmandu, mo: mo, restaurants
Today I had the wonderful experience of discovering a tiny, lovely piece of Kathmandu I’d never seen before–thanks to someone who’s been here just months. When I met a friend for lunch, she took me down an alley which I’d seen but never entered; it opened up into a small courtyard rimmed with eateries and shops. Up some steps was Phat Khat, a small restaurant with friendly staff, good food, and wonderful wooden tables (something I notice). Half of the tables are on their outside balcony, where an overhanging tree makes you feel as if you’ve just climbed up a treehouse and are now sitting up there looking down at the world. We enjoyed the spinach and cheese mo:mo, as well as the chicken variety, with cold local Gorkha beer. The spinach and cheese, a recommendation from my friend who’d had it before, was definitely a winner.
I kept thinking how many things I have yet to discover in Nepal, even after all these years, and how great it is to be introduced to something by someone seeing the city through new eyes.
Thank you, Christina!
Cakes! From the simplest of ingredients—a little bit of flour, sugar, oil or butter, a few eggs (or a substitute), a rising agent, plus the flavoring of your choice. With these ingredients that can be found in almost any home, a miraculous alchemy transforms them into something so much greater than the sum of its parts: cake.
Read the rest here: http://www.fridayweekly.com.np/gourmet.php?id=1445
in Food, Nepal, Newari Food
The weather’s getting colder, and people’s minds are turning to hearty, warming winter fare. There’s another kind of winter food though, special because it is made only in the cold season. It’s also exceptional in that it takes a full day’s work to make, and then a whole night to set. I am speaking of course of the Newari specialties takha: and sanyakhunya.