When I read Anup Kaphle’s Article on preparing the ultimate goat curry, it took me on a journey, a journey back home. Of the many things that you associate with your home: the food, the aroma, the excitement to dig in, will surely find its place on the list. It so happened that I had accidentally hit a winner in my kitchen a few days back and I was still enjoying the fruits of it while I read Anup’s article and so I decided to be inspired with the article and create one of my own.
For me, being raised in a Newar community in Kathmandu meant that I enjoyed “Buff” delicacies, yes you heard it right, buff and not beef. The water buffalo meat, buff, was my staple protein while in Nepal, and one that I dearly miss. One of the favorite delicacy was chhoela, – a simple yet mouthwatering dish. Smoked and grilled pieces of buffalo meat that is then mixed with roasted red chilies, salt, garlic, and ginger; then cured with oil, fenugreek seeds, and turmeric powder, and finally garnished with chopped cilantro.
Chicken has become a staple protein here in America, so this one fine day when I was able to turn the oven grilled chicken thighs into my version of chhoela, I was on cloud nine. I love cooking; in fact, I pride myself in being able to cook for 50 people or more during our gatherings. But, it wasn’t until working alone in my kitchen and talking to myself like when Chef Gordon Ramsey and many others demonstrate cooking their dishes, that I started to understand how temperature had a profound effect on the texture of the dishes. Experimenting with new dishes and mixing new ingredients with the old is something that I enjoy, some days when I feel like cooking.
So, this particular day, I had not quite made up my mind on which way to go with the oven grilled chicken thighs. So, I decided to stir fry the chicken that I had now deboned and cut into long French fry like pieces. I kept frying it in medium high flame, stirring constantly until the chicken was brown all over and tough. Then I poured some vinegar and soy sauce to give it an even darker brown color. I fried red chilies and ground them along with salt, few cloves of garlic, and ginger. I mixed them all in, separating some of the chicken fibers to make sure that the seasoning was well incorporated. Finally, I sprinkled some olive oil and then garnished it with cilantro. After 10 years, I was finally enjoying one of my favorites, without the original ingredient.
The chhoela stayed fresh for a week because I had fried it, till it was a little tough. The whole week was an absolute bliss when it was time for my lunch and some days I even made it my dinner. Inspirations from here and there and tinkering with food has given me a lot of aha moments just like the kicks that I get from solving math word problems, or finally finishing this article.
Now on to creating other aha moments!
Chiura (Beaten Rice): I popped the store bought thin poha (beaten rice) in the microwave for 1 minute and out came the crunchiest beaten rice, ready to be served.
Wo or Bara: This traditional black lentil based pancake/patties is very filling and delicious.
Golveda ko achaar: Tomato pickle with green chilies, garlic, ginger, and the garnish of cilantro goes equally well with beaten rice or plain rice.
Aloo ko achaar: Often prepared with tiny green peas that is not available in the US (to my knowledge), the lapsi powder from home in place of lemon juice, boiled potatoes, daikon, cucumber, red chili powder, cured with fenugreek seeds, turmeric powder, and oil, and the garnish of cilantro. This salad style pickle helps your digestive juices to keep flowing.
Caramalized onion and sweet peppers: Surprisingly this caramelized onion and pepper recipe which I am quite sure that I saw Chef Gordan Ramsey making, complemented the platter very well.
Stir fried potato: With some extra potatoes, I simply stir fried them with green chilies and then sprinkled some cumin and coriander powder, salt, lemon juice, and cilantro on top.
Chicken curry: For those who would prefer some gravy with their beaten rice, chicken curry will assist your meal. I used goat curry masala instead of chicken curry masala coupled with garlic powder, ginger powder, cumin and coriander powder, tomato, onion, salt, and cilantro to top it off.
Saag: While I forgot to take a picture, sautéed mustard and turnip greens, completes the platter.