Nepal – Land of Colours and Flavours

Food

I am inviting you to join me on my trip to Nepal that was not only eye-catching but was also very interesting on the gustative level.

 

It has been a week or so since I have returned from Nepal, and I still can’t get over the fact of how much the Nepali people love colors! In a way or another, colors are just part of their lives. You can find it in their buildings, prayers, clothes, streets and certainly in their food. In food, not only do I mean because of the spices. But also, the flavors of whatever food you are having just bursts into your mouth giving you many sensations such as sweetness, spiciness, and even bitterness. I went there, thinking that the local food was limited, and I could taste everything in two days maybe. BUT! little did I know, turns out Nepali cuisine is very rich and there are a lot of specialty delicacies.

Dal Bhat

dal-bhat

First things first. Dal Bhat. The national dish of Nepal. Just like its name says it: Dal meaning lentils and Bhat meaning Rice. This dish is a mix of many combinations: of course, there is the steamed or boiled rice. From left to right, some fried potato wedges sprinkled with a few dry herbs. Then, comes the radish that lifts the whole dish by giving it a fresh taste and a lot of crunchiness. The fried omelet provides the proteins (as if Dal wasn’t enough :P) on the right a small number of scrambled eggs if I may say, with also potato and coriander. The Goblets above contain some steamed spinach (The best spinach I have ever tasted) and this one provides the bitterness to the dish; Last but not least, the Dal. It’s a lentil soup made with onions, coriander a bit of ginger and fresh herbs.
Now to the eating part: all these “side dishes” are combined in one plate, and traditionally, it is eaten with the fingers. Let’s face it. I wanted to try it the traditional way but it was too much for me as a first visit. So I stuck to the spoon and combining Dal and Bhat. I ate all the other sides…aside.

Next up:

MOMOS!!

momos

This version is an open version of the momos. These dumplings are made with wheat dough, filled with your choice of veggie, chicken or meat and steamed. On the side, a sauce is served, or in this case three sauces. The spices included depending on the recipe or the area you are tasting the momos from. I think this was the best thing I tasted in Nepal…Right after:

Naan Bread

 

 

Naan is the amazing hand kneaded bread, baked in a hollow oven heated from underneath. True it has a plain flavor but the buttery aftertaste is unbelievable! It can be paired with pretty much anything. From Dal to apricot curry to chicken…. the choices are endless. It pretty much resembles the Lebanese Tannoor bread which by origin, comes from Iran.

 

naan-and-bhat

Naan is not the only food that resembles a Lebanese one.

 

Sel – Samosas

Please do not be confused. These are two separate and very different dishes but I have combined them into the same category because of their resemblance to Lebanese dishes.

This round fried bread infused with cardamom and cloves (sometimes a bit of cinnamon) tastes like Lebanese “Zlabiya”. Not only do they look alike, the recipes are also very similar and the reason why they are made also match. They are both made for celebrations: The Zlabiya are made while celebrating the epiphany, as for Sel, they are mainly made while celebrating Tihar.

 

sel-and-puri1.jpg

Another Lebanese lookalike dish is the Samosa. And this one not looks like “Sambousak” but they even kept the name!  So Samosas are, again, veggie, chicken or meat filled small doughs, this time fried and served as snacks with a side sauce. The second dish that you can see down below, are grated vegetables that are rounded and deep fried also served as a snack with a side sauce.

 

samosas

Speaking of snacks, this type of meal is very important for the Nepalese because of eating Dal Bhat as a main dish before going to work and for dinner. So the variety lies in the snacks. Some fresh snacks include watery cucumbers sprinkled with some salt and spices, sliced coconuts and even peanuts from the cart.

 

Puri is also a snack that you can find all over Nepali corners and streets. The puffed fried bread is cracked open and filled with spices. You can eat it while wandering between the many temples of Kathmandu. I had the chance to watch the making of this small bread, the authentic way on my way to “Manthali”.

 

 

Al Falamanki Brunch

Food

Sodeco, Beirut, Lebanon. On a Saturday Noon, you can not miss the crowd around Al Falamanki Restaurant.

We have decided to celebrate my birthday by going out to a Lebanese brunch. And Al Falamanki was the destination. After parking the car, and entering the warmed up terrace, the delicious smell hits you and right away, you realize that it was a good choice.

The moment you step into the indoor space, the retro mood invades you. The walls are filled with Tarabeesh, Oud, Tawlet Zaher and all kind of authentic Lebanese gadgets.
But also a lot of small black and white with wooden frames are scattered here and there. A Closer examination led me to some pictures of Alfred Hitchcock, Grace Kelly, and other American stars.
At first, I thought they were out of the concept. BUT!! WHAT DOES AL FALAMANKI MEAN??

Well, Al Falamanki is not a nickname. It is a name. Khalil Al Falamanki was a boxer who later on became a bodyguard, has traveled to the U.S and met many stars like Alfred Hitchcock and Grace Kelly 😉

 

Now, to the food. The open buffet includes a variety of Lebanese delicacies. Of course, no Lebanese brunch without Labneh, Shankleesh, White cheese, some vegetables, and olives.

Then, come in the warm dishes: Hummus Balila, Foul Mdammas, Fatteh. The more you walk in, the warmer the food: Saj bites always warm and ready to be served, as well as eggs on the barbecue – or as we say the “Manaal”.  Prepared to order, you can choose between sunny side up; eggs with kawarma, or even a nice shakshuka[eggs with diced onions and fine tomatoes].

 

 

The service was amazing, the staff is great. We were served by Ahmad who helped us on the buffet as well as on the table. In the plate, you 20170128_125225can see a small variety from the buffet. Everything has been mentioned above except the Pink and Orange dollops. Beetroot and Carrot Hummus were the Lebanese twist within this authentic Lebanese assortment. Not too
overpowering, the flavor was good. To be fair, you could clearly taste the beetroot but the carrot was a bit difficult to taste. Maybe all this was for the color? All the dishes tasted great, with the feeling of homemade preparation. I have to admit that the beans [Foul] had a weird aftertaste, but the Fatteh took me to another world. That warm yogurt lying over fried bread and boiled chickpeas just tantalized my taste buds until I got to the table.

 

 

Last but not least, how can you end such a feast without dessert?!  Halawa, butter, jams, and marmalade were present. what I chose to show you is the amazing fruit assortment of orange, pomegranate, apple and juices including lemonade and Jallab.

 

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Mr. Falamnki, nice meeting you on this special occasion. I can not wait to try the experience again but maybe next time for a regular meal, just for a change.

A trip to fishers’ market

Food

 

Well, that was quite a year! Do not blame me for the late posting, but I have already warned you.

Anyways…A new year, a new post, a new adventure. I started my comeback with a trip to the fishers’ market. Located in Beirut’s port- Karantina, the market is a big hall, with a large number of fishermen, each with a small “kiosk” and a few polyester boxes displaying today’s catch on layers of crushed ice.

I have to admit, the market exceeded my expectations. The floor was clean, no major smell was noticeable, and the vendors were very friendly. As soon as you cross the entrance, the shouting starts. Every fisherman promotes the fish he is displaying. A small chit-chat and you can find out where the fish is from. Some are local and some are freshly imported from Turkey. Naturally, a closer look and examination should be made, as some may not be as fresh as claimed.

Small tips to know if the fish is fresh:

1- The eyes.

The eyes are number 1 to inspect. Clear eyes, with no cloudiness or blue glaze, are what you should be looking for.

2- The gills.

The gills ( in the back of the head) should be deep red. The fader the color, the older the fish. Of course, grey gills are a no-no.

3- The flesh.

Don’t be afraid to touch the fish. The flesh should bounce back when you press it. If the fingers sink in and the flesh does not come back to its place, then the fish is not fresh.

4- The smell.

Perhaps this is THE most important element on the list. The fish should not smell “fishy”. It should smell like the ocean, or salty water to be precise


 

After our fish passed the freshness test, we asked one of the workers to clean and “fillet” one of them. The knife used may not have been as sharp as it should have, but the guy knew what he was doing. He kept the scales on so that the skin keeps its strength, and started removing the guts. Then, he glided the blade along the backbone from one side to the other. Last, but not least, he removed the skin. Of course, he gave us the fillet in one clean bag, and in another, the head and the bones, so that we use the latter to make some amazing fish broth. And that is it! A good start and a new discovery. This will not be my last visit, and I hope the hygiene stays the same for as long as possible.

 

 

Al Mokhtar restaurant – مطعم المختار

Food

In the heart of south Lebanon, lies a famously known restaurant called Al Mokhtar.

Al Mokhtar is literally translated to “The chosen one” in the Lebanese system, he is a person that the villagers choose to keep track of the population -somehow, a mayor -. This wise man traditionally with the famous Tarboosh and pomegranate stick, is the typical Lebanese figure to whom one should look up to and resemble.

Even if that description is about a man, Al Mokhtar Restaurant fits these words. I had the pleasure to meet Ramy, A Mokhtar’s manager, and the owner’s son. A young man, with a fresh spirit, down to earth and of course a foodie. He made sure to let me know that all the ingredients used in the making of Al Mokhtar menu are fresh and homegrown on the farm near the restaurant.

The tour starts with the many spaces available for one to choose the mood he wishes his meal to be served in. Every corner is filled with a small antique detail along with the green scenery which is a must in every Lebanese garden.

lebanese-mezza

Every Lebanese feast has to debut with the traditional Mezza. From goat cheese to stuffed eggplants -no need to remind you that all the above are homemade in the Mokhtar garden- all the Lebanese small and endless plates are somehow your “amuse gueule” before the main dish makes it to the feast.

cherry-kaftaNow, to the specialité – Cherry Kafta- An amazing terracotta pan arrives at the table. Before you can see what’s inside, a sweet smell hits you. And then, a sizzling red glaze embracing some Kafta meat will make you want to dig in and experience that sweet and savory combination.

lebanese-sweetscoffee

Of course, no Lebanese feast ends without pleasing your sweet tooth. Al Mokhtar offers various jams and marmalades. From Bitter orange to dates and even Jujuba these homemade treats may surprise you with a few almonds or walnuts. YUM!

Last but not least, the Turkish coffee will be waiting for your palette to be cleansed. The cardamom aftertaste makes all the difference and kick starts the digestion process – much needed-.

 

From farm to plate, Al Mokhtar restaurant makes sure all ingredients are handpicked and fresh. All plates are cooked with love and by the traditional recipes which makes it the ultimate southern experience.