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21 January 2011

Nepal #5: Daal Bhaat. It's what you eat.

"Daal Bhaat power, 24 hours!" 

These wise words were coined (I believe) by Zac (Ji-dac) Edwards to express that Daal Bhaat is what you eat and what powers you every day in Nepal!

Daal = Lentils (usually split black gram and spicy)
Bhaat = Rice (always white)

 Porters serving Dhaal Bhaat on the 5th morning of the trek. Zac looks excited.

The meal schedule in Nepal looks something like this: wake up, morning chiya (tea with some cookies) around 7am, morning daal bhaat around 10am, afternoon caja (snack - something different and delicious every day) around 3pm, evening daal bhaat around 7pm, bed. All other parts of the day are planned relative to these meals.

Sometimes daal bhaat is fancied up with treats like tarkari (vegetables), chicken, dried buffalo, or achar (pickles - NOT of the cucumber type, thank god). For example, a rather complex/fancy Daal Bhaat with a rather low ratio of rice to everything else is pictured below:

More commonly you would receive a HEAPING (I mean heaping) plate of white rice with a small scoop of curried veggies and a bowl of spicy black lentils on the side. The ratios of carbs to veggies/protein were very different from what I'm used to in the US, so it definitely took my stomach some time to adjust... During the first couple days in the village it was a huge struggle to finish my plate (it's considered rude if you don't finish everything on your plate). We all agreed that by the end our stomachs had stretched to a deliciously dangerous size. We graduated from hopelessly trying to fight off that second/third/fourth helping of rice that so often came flying out of nowhere to watching it zoom in and land on our plate without the least bit of hand waving. It was quite magical.

A Short How-To: Daal Bhaat Eating!
Oh, another thing misleading about the above picture (taken in a restaurant), is the cutlery. Did I mention that we only ate with our hands in the village? And by 'hands' I mean our right hands exclusively. It's an art that we clumsily developed over the weeks. I recommend you try it - it's quite fun, and you get used to it rather quickly. A common novice would try to pinch the food from above, but this results in leaning back your head and trying to drop the rice in. This also results in serious embarrassment/soiling of clothes. A true hand-eater scoops in from the right with palm up. Then you spin your hand around so your fingers are facing your mouth. Once finger tips are close enough, use your thumb across your hand to push the rice into your mouth. Easy as that!

Stay tuned for posts with videos/explanations for how to make delicious Nepali foods like tarkari, roti (round fried bread), and chiya! 

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