The Proven Platter – Nepal
We are off to Kathmandu this month. I’ve always wanted to go there. Since I’m stuck in Seattle in front of my computer though, I will have to find another way to experience Nepal. That’s one of the great benefits about being a Dining for Women member: armchair travel, through our monthly grantees and exploring the cuisine of different countries feels like I’m there – almost. So let’s go!
Nepali cuisine is influenced by neighboring India and Tibet, as well as the indigenous Newari culture that exists in the Kathmandu Valley. My recipes for this month focus on contributions from the Newari tribe. Typical Newari dishes include Chowela (grilled meat) and Woh (lentil patties). I’ve tested both of these recipes and had great success with both of them. The Chicken Chowela is easy to make, you can customize the spice level to suit your taste, and it travels well. The Woh are great served along with the chicken, but they would also be fun served as an appetizer with a little chutney or salsa.
I focused on Woh this month because I was intrigued by the recipe, and just a wee bit skeptical that it would work. Basically lentils are soaked for hours, pureed raw, and the resulting batter is cooked like a pancake. Could this possibly be good? Surprisingly, yes! I discovered this recipe on Jyoti Pathak’s blog called Taste of Nepal; she also has a cookbook out by the same name, and kindly agreed to share her recipe with us. I highly recommend you visit her blog and click on the link provided at the end of the recipe to see her step-by-step photos on how to make these patties.
You will have to search out split black lentils, or Urad Dal. I found some at a local Indian grocer, but I’ve also included a link within the recipe to purchase some if you can’t find them in your area. I did not try to substitute other kinds of lentils so can’t advise you there. You can also opt to stir some ground or minced chicken into the batter if you like, I’ve seen this done in other recipes, but I’ve chosen to keep these vegetarian.
I was also concerned that my food processor would not be able to make a smooth puree out of the soaked lentils. But I knew I had the mighty Vita-Mix standing by in case of a call to duty. Turns out my food processor did a fine job. If you have a regular blender I suspect that will work too, but you may have to blend in smaller batches.
And finally, I also couldn’t believe that I would achieve a light and spongy batter without the aid of baking powder, or some other kind of leavening. Just pureed lentils – really? I can’t explain it, but it worked, and you should try making this recipe!
Lentil Patties (Maas ko Baara, or Woh) (Tested)
Yield about 24 patties
Maas ko Baara or Woh are made from ground split Urad beans. They are light and spongy daal patties that resemble small flat pancakes. If you know how to make pancakes you won’t have any problem making these! Woh are best served fresh, but can be stored overnight. The difference between Baara and Woh is that Baara is deep-fried, and Woh is only pan-fried in a small amount of oil. If you don’t have a source for split black lentils, click here.
2 cups Urad Dal (split black lentils)
1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. garlic, finely minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 pinch asafetida (Hing)
2 mild green chilies, finely chopped (seeds removed for less heat)
½ cup cilantro, finely chopped, can include tender stems
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp. kosher salt (or to taste)
vegetable oil for frying
Soak the lentils in a large bowl overnight.
To prepare the lentils the next day, rub the lentils (still in the water in the bowl) vigorously between your palms to loosen the skins. The skins will rest on top of the lentils, and if you tip the bowl slowly and let the water drain out, the lentil skins will be easy to push out of the bowl. (Note: there will be a LOT of skins, and you probably don’t want this stuff going down the garbage disposal, so make sure you have a sink strainer in place so that you can dump the skins in your compost bin.)
Drain and repeat this procedure several times until most of the black skins have been removed. It’s fine if there’s a little bit remaining.
Place the drained lentils in a food processor (you may have to do this in two batches), adding just enough water, a few tablespoons at a time, to make a semi-thick smooth puree, very similar to thick pancake batter. Add water carefully. You can always add more later if the batter needs thinning.
Pour the batter into a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Whisk until light and spongy. Cover the bowl and allow the mixture to rest at room temperature for at least 10 minutes. If the batter looks too thick, you can still adjust by adding more water.
When ready, heat a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Ladle about ¼ cup of the daal mixture into the pan. Moving with the back of the spoon in a gentle circular motion, lightly spread the batter evenly into circles. Place 3 to 4 patties at a time, without crowding.
Cook until the edges start to crisp and the underside starts to brown, about 3 minutes. Turn the patties over and drizzle more oil around the edges and top. Cook about 2 more minutes to brown.
Transfer to a serving dish and keep warm until served. These would be good served with tomato achar, or even regular Mexican salsa.
Recipe credit with permission from: Jyoti Pathak
Photo credit: Linda McElroy