Mark arrived home from the grocery store late Friday morning just in time to beat the snow storm. He then spent the afternoon cooking spicy Nepalese dishes which he proceeded to serve in courses spread out over a couple of hours. He cooked, we ate, we read by the fire and then he cooked some more.
Strange as it may seem, Madison has a wealth of fabulous Nepalese restaurants. We've been going to the grandmother of them all, Himal Chuli, for more than twenty years. We finally decided we needed to learn how to cook some of our favorite dishes at home, which is how Mark wound up buying Taste of Nepal by Jyoti Pathak.
We began our meal with Taareko Alu or Spicy Sauteed Potatoes from that cookbook. Mark had made these before and this time decided to cut them like chunky French fries and to serve them as an hors d'oeuvre with a glass of Guinness Black Lager. They are fabulous and would work well as a starch with any number of grilled or roasted meats.
This was followed by bowls of Dal a la Himal Chuli. There is nothing more comforting, more warming, more sustaining than Himal's Dal. We'd tried to replicate it at home without much success. I decided to look on-line to see if the restaurant had ever published the recipe; no such luck. But local blogger Jessie Bluejay experimented until she came up with her own recipe to recreate Himal Chuli's Dal at home.
We tried it and thought it was a match. This time Mark served us leftover Dal that we had frozen when we made it after discovering Bluejay's recipe not long ago. De-frosted, and heated up, it still held up quite well both in texture and flavor. Mark served the Dal with Capital Brewery's Winter Skal. We emptied our bowls before I thought to have Mark snap a photo.
(Note that Bluejay's recipe has a couple of visual glitches in it; they appear to be related to accent marks and do not affect the recipe itself or ingredient amounts).
The Dal was followed by Tsak Sha Momos or Tibetan Beef Dumplings, a recipe that appeared in the New York Times not long ago. Momos are a staple at Himal Chuli and these were close enough to their version to satisfy us. Mark served them with Potosi Brewery's Cave Ale and a No Cook Tomato Chutney from the Taste of Nepal cookbook, similar to the way they are presented at Himal. The Tibetan Hot Sauce in the NYTimes sounded too hot for the subtle flavor of Momos.
He was going to also make a stir-fried Ramechhap-style cabbage (from Taste of Nepal), but we ate so many potatoes that we decided to forego that dish.
Huma Siddiqui is a native of Pakistan who has lived in Wisconsin for quite a number of years. She's well-known locally for her televised cooking show, spice blends, and her evocative book, "Jasmine in her Hair." Part-memoir, part-cookbook, this little volume focuses on "culture and cuisine from Pakistan." It is a touching family saga filled with fabulous recipes.
Here you can find more versions of Dal, as well as a recipe for Saag Aloo (spinach with potatoes), one of Mark's favorite dishes from Himal Chuli; though they add black-eyed peas. And Huma also has a recipe for Samosas: pastry stuffed with spiced potatoes. Huma deep-fries hers while they are baked at Himal Chuli. Either way, another great dish winter or summer.
Here's a little video of Huma cooking. Having worked as her assistant during some of the cooking classes she taught at Orange Tree Imports, I want to point out that — though you can't tell from this video — Huma is always wearing heels and never wears an apron. You will also notice that she never seems rushed or tense when she cooks. Being in a kitchen with Huma is an almost meditative experience. If you live in Dane County, consider taking one of her classes or sitting in on the TV tapings. At the very least you will want to add her lovely book to your cooking library.
Editor's note: Just caught up with last week's edition of Isthmus where I read that Himal Chuli was the first Nepali restaurant in the country when it opened in Madison in 1986.