Monday, December 23, 2013

Tomato Pickle with Sukuti Fish - (गोलभेडा को अचारमा माछा को सुकुटी हालेको)

Enjoy freshly-made Tomato Achaar with Maachaa ko Sukuti (dried fish) 
(गोलभेडा को अचारमा माछा को सुकुटी हालेको)

Golbheda ko achaar (tomato pickle) has been one of the most popular and well loved pickles in Nepal. Achaars are an important and almost necessary accompaniment to most dishes in the Nepali kitchen. Achaar is also served with a variety of other Nepali dishes, such as rotis (breads), cheura (pressed rice flakes), snacks, and even alongside dessert dishes like sel-rotis and traditional sweets.  
This fiery tomato achaar will perk up any traditional Nepali Daal-Bhaat-Tarkaari and goes well with just about any Nepali meal. 

In this recipe, vine-ripe tomatoes are cooked with several herbs and spices until the moisture from the tomatoes has evaporated.  Then, add bite-size sukuti fish to enhance the flavor.
... cooking with home-grown tomatoes
The term “achaar” translates to pickles in Nepalese, and includes preserved or fermented pickles (lapsi ko achaar, kaankro khalpi achaar, moola ko achaar, ledo achaar), salad-like dishes prepared like vegetables (aloo ko achaar, koreko kankro ko achaar), no-cook chutney made fresh everyday (cilantro, mint), dry-powdered achaar, roasted sesame seed pickle (til ko chhope), or dipping sauces. 

There are numerous home-made variations of tomato achaar with or without adding dried fish. Some tomatoes are oven roasted, tawaa roasted (circular iron pan), or just cooked on top of a stove. Each family has their own variation and no matter what variety or size of tomatoes you use, and whatever method you use, the tomato achaar will taste better, if cooked with ripe, red and vine-ripened tomatoes.

Here is my classic, tangy and spicy recipe and directions for a easy quick and, most importantly delicious tomato pickle with maachaa ko sukuti (dried fish). The achaar will even taste better next day as the sukuti will be marinated further with the cooked tomatoes. This achaar will keep well at least 4/5 days in the refrigerator. 
¼ cup mustard oil
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
8-10 medium tomatoes, any variety, chopped
4 fresh hot green chilies, halved lengthwise
Salt to taste
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 ½ teaspoons peeled and julienned fresh ginger
1 cup maachaa ko sukuti (dried fish)
½ cup finely chopped cilantro

Dry-roasted whole spices
1/3 cup sesame seeds
3-4 dried red chilies, stemmed and cut into several pieces
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon mustard seeds

Heat a small skillet over medium heat and toast the sesame seeds, chilies, timmur, cumin, and mustard, stirring constantly to prevent the seeds from flying all over, until they give off a pleasant aroma and darken. Remove the spices from the skillet, pour them into dry container to halt the toasting, and let them cool. Transfer the cooled spices to a spice grinder, grind to a fine powder, and set aside

 Here's what you will need to make tomato pickle - sesame seeds, dried chilies, timmur (szechwan pepper), cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, ground turmeric, jimbu, fresh garlic and ginger, green chilies and mustard oil.
Preparation Instructions
Heat the mustard oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium high-heat until faintly smoking. Add the fenugreek seeds and fry until dark brown and fragrant, about 5 seconds. Ad tomatoes, green chilies, salt, and turmeric and cook, covered, until the tomatoes soften. Adjust the heat to medium and cook stirring from time to time, until the liquid has evaporated and the mixture has thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, mix the dry roasted spices (see method above - szechwan, sesame, cumin, mustard, dried chillies) and cilantro and set aside.

Remove the bone and skin from dried fish and break into bite-sized pieces, set aside. Heat the vegetable oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking. Add jimbu and cook until darker and fragrant. Add the garlic and ginger, and fry, stirring until golden and slightly crisp. With a slotted spoon, remove the garlic, ginger with jimbu, draining as much oil as possible, and add them to tomato mixture. Adjust the heat to medium-low, and add the dried fish to the pan. Cook stirring constantly, until slightly crisp. Transfer the fish to the tomato achaar and let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes for flavors to develop. The fish sukuti will soften further and will become flavorful. Transfer the achaar to a serving dish and sprinkle with cilantro. the whole spices in a small cast-iron pan

...dry-roast until the spices gives off a pleasant aroma and darken, and remove the spices from the pan and pouring into a dry container to halt the toasting, and let it cool.

... transferring the roasted spices into a spice grinder
... grinding into fine powder
....mix the dry-roasted and ground spices into cooked tomato.
... here is a close up image of home-made fish jerky from Jyoti's kitchen
Rich-flavored and delicious home-made fish jerky (trout) made in a food dehydrator.
Dried fish sukuti from Malekhu ko Bazaar, Nepal - the fish from local rivers are dried in a traditional method.  First, the fish is cut into pieces, weaved into thin bamboo skewers, placed next to wood-burning store until the moisture from the fish is evaporated and slightly hardened.  Then, the fish is preserved further by sun-drying.  Please check my previous posting regarding "Malekhu ko Maachaa" to learn more about fish sukuti by clicking here.
Special treat from Malekhu Bazaar, Nepal - sun-dried fish on a wooden sticks for sale - the small whole fish is weaved into a thin bamboo skewer, and dried in a traditional way.
Here comes the another picture of curled-up dried fish from Malekhu Bazaar.  Before adding to the cooked tomato pickle, the skin and bone of the dried fish needs to be removed.
The dried fish is torn into small bite-size pieces  then fried in the oil until crisp before adding to the tomato achaar.  The fish will slightly soften once mixed with cooked pickle and you will be savoring the delicious flavored achaar.
Enjoy the freshly made Tomato Pickle with Sukuti Fish - (गोलभेडा को अचारमा माछा को सुकुटी हालेको)
Serving Nepali Daal-Bhaat-Tarkaari with tomato pickle 
Every year in the late Spring, when we plan our vegetable garden, we always plant different varieties of tomatoes.  This year we were fortunate to have an abundant harvest of tomatoes, so I hope you enjoy these four pictures from my home garden - eating right off the vine - flavorful, ripe tomatoes straight to mouth - with a salt shaker in another hand. 
From my home garden - bright red, vine-ripened cherry tomato ready for harvest.  This variety of tomato will make most delicious oven roasted chutney.
Early ripening clusters of cherry tomatoes - some of them have already split opened on the vine....
Checking for ripeness - 3 fully ripped tomatoes and 6 slightly unripe ones on the vine.  I hope you enjoyed these pictures!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Dubo Grass Garland - (हरियो दुबो घास को माला)

A traditional decorative ever-green Dubo grass garland (हरियो दुबो घास को माला) 

If you are a new visitor to Nepal, you may have come across elegantly hand-woven and decorated green grass garlands (dubo ko maalaa) either in the many tourist areas and alleys of old Kathmandu, wrapped around the temple deities, or simply hanging in the flower shops for sale. In today's blog posting, I am happy to share one of most uniquely Nepali “traditional dubo grass garland” made from ever-green sacred grass. When researching for the scientific name of the dubo grass for this post, I found the grass is called Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers, also most commonly known as Bermuda grass. Nepalese call it dubo ko ghaas (panjaa, seto duvo, narkabam). In Sanskrit, it is called (dhurva, durmara, durva). It is an evergreen perennial creeping grass common in warmer regions in Nepal. Many people believe that the grass has medicinal value. The grass can be easily planted from grass seed, sod or grass plugs. 

Some useful information about dubo grass can be found here.
To read about Nepal marriage ceremony and grass necklace, click here.

Dubo grass has a deep religious significance and special meaning in Nepali culture. They are used during many festivals occasions, social and religious ceremonies. No Nepali Swayamber ceremony, स्वयम्बर  (part of Nepali marriage) is complete without the most auspicious grass garland. The bride and groom exchange the garland to each others during the religious ceremony. According to the spiritual belief, the purifying quality of the grass offers everlasting love and relationship. The grass does not dry and wilt so easily after it is pulled from the ground, so the evergreen dubo grass blesses newlyweds with fertility, prosperity in every step of their newly married life. The garland is used in many important ceremonies including:

Janmostav (जन्मोस्तव) - birthdays
Tihar-Bhai-Tika (तिहार-भाई टिका) - brother's sister's Days
Bratabandha ceremony (ब्रतबन्ध- उपनयन) - sacred thread ceremony, young boys journey into manhood
Pasne ceremony (पास्ने) - child's rice feeding ceremony
Ghatasthapana (घटस्थापना) - the 1st day of 10-day religious festival of Bijaya Dashami 
Naag Panchami (नाग पंचमी) the day of serpent god
Dubo garland is offered to deity (भगवान लाइ चडाउने) - as a mark of devotion during many auspicious celebration

It is also presented to honorary guests to welcome, honor and show the respect (अथिति सत्कार)

Garland makers are often busy making the maalaa for special orders. They have mastered weaving the grass into a beautiful work of art. Apart from using as a garland, just plain small bundles of dubo are offered to deities during Pooja ceremony.  The sacred grass itself is considered auspicious and is used in many religious rituals. During Tihar-Bhai-Tika ceremony small bundles of grass are dipped in oil with holy water and applied in the floor for purification of the place before the ceremony starts.  Small bundles dubo grass are used as a brush to apply oil in brother's hair by sisters during the ceremony.
While walking through the narrow streets of Bhedasingh near Indrachowk area of Kathmandu, during Tihar-Bhai-Tikaa festival time, what really caught my attention was several ladies creating traditional dubo grass garland, weaving in such a beautiful way -- a true work of art. I asked the lady in the corner if she minded me photographing and observing her method of creating the garland.  She delightfully agreed to my proposal, but asked that I do not show her face in the pictures.  
Discover how easy it is to create the beautiful dubo garland from the delightful lady who sits in front of the temple daily. If you ever get hold of perennial creeping grass, dubo and want to re-create the most important grass garland of Nepal, here is her step-by-step tutorial pictures. If you ever create the garland, please take a picture and post in the comment section of my blog.

Image on the left - artfully woven, enhanced with shiny silver metallic yarn (zari) decorated with pink beads and sequences -  special ordered garland ready to be hand delivered or picked up by a customer.  The garland maker prepares garlands for many occasions, usually completes in 55 minutes or less, but they have several helpers during busy festival seasons when there is a big demand.

 A large amount of bulk dubo grass has arrived to the florist wrapped in a plastic bag from a nearby warm (Terai) region of Nepal.  The grass is kept in a cooler spot, away from direct sun light to avoid wilting and getting dried up.
..... she is selecting only the freshest, bright green dubo grass and getting rid of wilted, yellowing and brown spotted ones
...before making a garland, she divides the grass into small bundles and measures a strong heavy red colored thread to wrap around the bundles
...starting with one end of the thread, she collects small bundle of grass with one hand and loops the thread over, under and back of the stem side of the grass facing the same way. She ties the grass into secure knots.
... She continues adding more bundles until the dubo ko maalaa is complete.
...close up image of securely tying the thread
... finally dubo ko maalaa is ready
She is attaching a decorative metallic silver zari work boarder in the garland
Beautifully hand-crafted zari work design frames are for sale at a store near the hidden alleyways in Indra Chowk, Kathmandu (cokhache galli). It is specially made to give decorative touch to completed  dubo ko maalaa.
Another shiny decorative enhancer for grass garland
The lush green auspicious grass garland getting ready to be decorated.
Picture of a traditional green garland especially made for a Nepali wedding - some garland maker will custom make  dubo ko maalaa according to customer's specification.
…carefully rolling  the finished garland into bundles before dipping in a bowl of cold water.
…sometimes, the completed garlands are covered with moistened towel to keep it fresh.  It is then stored in a cool place until ready to use.  The above two images show that the garlands are stored plain without adding metallic decorative enhancer.
... another picture of grass garland - on the right with metallic silver zari trim and the left is waiting for a decorative touch.
Vendor is selling simple dubo grass and marigold flower garland, lotus flower buds and other flowers for religious offerings in front of  a temple in Kathmandu.
 Another tray of religious offerings to deities - decorated grass garland, whole coconut, dubo grass bunches, traditional sweets - have an important role in many Nepali religious rituals.
Nepali Swayamver ceremony - exchange of auspicious grass garland
Image of traditional Nepali wedding ceremony - the dubo ko Maalaa is placed around the groom's neck which symbolizes everlasting relationship forever.
The ritual of Swayamvar ceremony during Nepali marriage. Swayamver is a kind of engagement ceremony, where the bride and groom exchange a traditional grass garland, rings and take a blessing from the family.
Here is another picture of bride and groom exchanging the auspicious grass garland during marriage ceremony.
Dubo grass and marigold flowers for sale in Kathmandu markets during Thulo Ekadashi (Haribodhini Ekadashi)
The bundled holy grass are for sale in Nepali markets to offer to deities.  It is believed that the grass has a purifying powers according to Nepali spiritual belief.
The street vendor is selling small bundles of dubo grass during tihar-Bhai-tika festival time.  He told me the grass has great medicinal value and said to have a strong healing effects. he added, "if you walk on the grass barefoot early in the morning, when the grass is still covered with dew drops, it has a great healing power."
Dubo grass bundles are an important items used during the auspicious festival of Bhai-Tika. 
... Purifying power of ever green Dubo grass ... cultural heritage of Nepal
The above two images of group Bratabandha ceremony (journey into manhood) in front of a temple in Kathmandu - Several young boys are receiving sacred thread during the ceremony.
Nag Panchami celebration - Nepalese devote is sticking a picture of a snake god above the doorways of a house with a offering of dubo grass, rice and red vermillion powder on the occasion of Nag Panchami.  Photo courtesy.  
My friend's son's wedding ceremony - sorting the dubo grass and trying to make "Dubo ko Maalaa"

listening to the famous Nepali folk song, while creating the garland "फ़ैलियॊ माया दुबो सरी, कहिले घटेन (failiyo maayaa dubo saree, kahile ghatena" - translation - how love spreads like the dubo creeping grass, everlasting) - here is the link of the song through you tube. 
Here is the picture of groom and bride exchanging the dubo ko maalaa during Swayamvar ceremony.