Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Love to Nepal: Mushroom Curry

I woke up on Saturday April 25 to realize that another massive earthquake had rocked the globe. This time, Nepal was the victim. I don't claim to know anything about this country, its people, or its traditions. But I can tell you this, I am human and I do hurt for Nepal.  Above all, this specific place has just come into my life in a whole new way. And it hurts a little more to know a place that I am just getting to know has been devastated by such a disaster. 

Much before the quake, I met Bria. She works with me at The Mountaineers. And I can tell you one thing, Anne of Green Gables knew what she was talking about. Bria is, "A bosom friend–an intimate friend, you know–a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul." 

She came to Seattle from Minnesota where she had worked as a teacher. But before that, she worked in Nepal and grew so close to that community she calls many folks she met during that journey her family. 

The day I went to learn how to make Challah Bread, Bria came with me to help me shoot. Later that day, she surprised me and cooked us dinner. We made mushroom curry. Now two things about me, I don't like mushrooms and I don't like potatoes. Bria being a vegetarian, she could only leave out one of those two items. So thank god it was potatoes!

Just kidding..... I had to put my brave toes on for this food adventure. And bravely I did!

She took me into her retro Ballard kitchen, which has the BEST light, and I was transported to a whole new world. Grabbing a huge cookbook, which I refer to as the Nepali Food Bible, thumbing through the dogeared pages, and smelling all her ingredients, Bria began to cook me the BEST  mushroom potato dish I've ever had.

From Bria's kitchen to yours, let's travel to Nepal. 

Mushroom Curry
(Chyau ko Tarkaari)
  • 1LB fresh oyster mushrooms
  • 2 tbls mustard oil (good luck finding this in seattle, i just used peanut oil with fresh ground mustard seeds)
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek
  • 1 onion chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 green chili, halved (seeded for seattlites)
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric (use additional fresh minced)
  • small pinch asafetida
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
Rinse mushrooms and drain. prepare, cut off very bottoms of stems etc. heat oil in a wide skillet or wok over medium high heat until faintly smoking. add fenugreek and fry until browned (5 seconds) too much and it adds a bitter taste to the meal. add onion, green chili, garlic, ginger, turmeric and finally asafetida and fry until onion softens (5 minutes) ad the mushrooms, coriander, cumin, salt, and cayenne and cook uncovered, stir frequently until most liquid has evaporated (about 10 minutes). Then EAT IT

Radish Pickle
(Koreko Seto Mula Achaar)
  • 1.5 LBs white radish. cut however you lie. julliened. grated. thinly sliced. Go crazy. 
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3-4 tbls fresh lemon/lime juice
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 2 tbls mustard oil (someone find mustard oil!!!!!!!!)
  • 1 dried red chili, seeded
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric (fresh or otherwise)
  • pinch chopped garlic greens
Combine radish and salt, let stand for 10 minutes and then press and squeeze liquid from the radish. transfer to a bowl and stir in lemon juice and cayenne. heat oil in wok, medium high heat. when faintly smoking, add fenugreek and the chili, 5 seconds. sprinkle the oil with the turmeric and immediately pour over the radish. mix it up, let it stand, add some garlic greens and cover and refrigerate if not eating right away.

Mustard Greens
  • 2-3 bunches dark leafy greens. mustard greens. radish greens. spinach. throw em all in there. 
  • 3 tbls MUSTARD OIL 
  • 1/4 tsp ajowan seeds
  • 2 red dried chili,halved and seeded
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Tear greens into bite sized pieces, rinse, drain, reserve for later. heat the oil, faintly smoking, add the ajowan and chili (by now you know the drill, just a couple seconds). add the rest, including the greens, cover pan and cook, stir occasionally, until your greens are (quite) tender and liquid has evaporated. EAT THAT UP.

*Side notes on cooking Nepali food* 
Don't be too particular. Really. It's going to taste great, just use your best judgement. The mustard oil is a key component to the flavor profile, perhaps not across the board but certainly in anything you're pickling. I've looked high and low. Someone the other day at the grocery thought I was making it up -- they didn't even believe mustard oil existed. That's how hard it has been to find it here. But I'm not crazy. It's real.
These recipes were adapted from the book Taste of Nepal. I use it as a back bone and just infuse whatever I'm making with the know how passed on to me from amazing sisters, mothers, aunties and grandmothers in Nepal. 

About me, love Bria:
I grew up in Minneapolis Minnesota. I grew up paddling the lakes and rivers with my mother, fording creeks and eating raspberries with my sister, and watching airplanes take off while eating ice cream cones with my dad. I've never had a clear picture of what I want to do, just live life everyday to the fullest (AKA have fun). I moved to Nepal during the summer of 2011 and stayed. I acquired 3 amazing sisters, 2 mischievous brothers, and parents that took care of me when I was sick and sad and tired. I fell in love with my life everyday, every morning, all over again. But then again, I always have. I struggled, I was challenged, and eventually I learned how to live in a completely different way. The food I ate was whole and life giving and delicious. The meal I made is lacking a main component, which is Daal. So, this is just a starter guide at some of my favorites. Don't forget the rice. Make lentils. Eat well. Live well. Love a lot. 

<3 Karen and Bria

P.S. Don't jump on a plane to Nepal. They will be okay, eventually. What will really help is your thoughts, prayers, and money (if you have any at all to spare). Read this article to learn more

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  1. Just made this last night, and it was delicious. Removing half the seeds in all of the chilis gave it a nice heat. I was lucky to find mustard oil at a nearby Indian grocery. Thanks!

    1. That's awesome!! I am so glad you found some mustard oil.


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