Introducing 'With love from Nepal', here we have a brief history of what's on our plate today. A gastronomical journey through time, two staple foods in one
By Chef Sandeep Khatri-Pak Shastri
Nepal is a nation with age-old traditions and a mix of culture, it is no wonder we have so many heritage sites listed by UNESCO. Our culture is a beautiful amalgamation of festivals and along with it festive foods. I would say it was just another reason to cherish or celebrate life in the olden days. While socialising during festivals, food always played a vital role. Our economy was solely based on agriculture and self-sustainability where eating habits and food for occasions were not just co-incidental but also scientific.
The entire sub-continent saw drastic changes in the late 13th to 14th century, especially in India where the Turks invasion came into full force from Kabul. Many Khastriya clans had to flee to the safe haven of the Himalayas and hills during this time. This brought varied changes to our country where food habits also altered. In due course of time Meritage food became something we identified with, which is still going strong. Religion played a strong role in festivities and nutritious meals became rituals.
Secondly, Nepal blessed with four amazing seasons saw the changes in humidity and temperature which in turn caused illness. The festivities as per the lunar calendar makes an impact on everyday life as the festive food ensures good health for the upcoming weather changes.
Every year during the mid of August comes a special festive called ‘Kwati Purne’ or ‘Kwati Punu’ which marks the beginning of the end of monsoon. Coinciding with Janai Purnima, the pleasant temperatures and cool breeze signal how Dashain is just around the corner.
Kwati Purne is a festivity where especially nine beans are sprouted and savoured in the form of soup, broth or even curry. Every ethnic community has its own variations and sprouting beans a few days earlier is a common sight among local households.
The sprouted beans are a rich source of protein, vitamin, minerals and others for the body. During the festival of Dashain, a significant amount of meat is consumed and Kwati Purne is just another festivity to help you prepare over time.
During this full-moon day, ethnic groups like the Brahmins and Kshatriyas take a bath in the holy river and change the holy thread called the ‘Janai’. On the other hand, ‘Rakshya Bandhan’ is another festivity observed on the day. This is a common sight where sisters tie sacred threads for their brother’s safe keeping. The Newari culture in Kathmandu Valley give offerings to frogs thanking them for calling upon Lord Indra, God of rainfall.
With feasts and festivities seeped in myths and legends, down the lane every household has come up with their own stories, making their own version of Kwati broth with mutton leg, buffalo meat or even special dumplings (Mo:Mo). If you are in town, don’t miss this delicacy. Every ethnicity has their own style of cooking yet the basics Kwati (Sprouted Multi Beans) remains true to its roots.
Recipe: Kwati with Mo: Mo
Serves 8 pax
Cooking time: one hour
- Mo:Mo as per your appetite (easy to purchase frozen or ready-made ones)
- 2 cups of Kwati (Sprouted two days in advance or get the sprouted ones day before or same day)
- 2 Table spoon Ginger paste
- 2 Table spoon of Garlic Paste
- 1 onion peeled and chopped or ½ Dried Shallots
- 2 Table spoon of Oil
- 1 tea spoon of Turmeric Powder
- 1 table spoon of Cumin Powder
- 1 table spoon of Coriander Powder
- Pinch of shredded nut meg
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick or ½ tea spoon of cinnamon powder
- Chili as per your taste (optional)
- Salt to taste
- First, put the soaked or sprouted Kwati in a pressure cooker adding salt, turmeric, bay leaves, cinnamon powder and chilli powder (optional). Top with water and wait for at least 4-6 whistles.
- In the meantime get your mo:mo steamed and keep aside
- Then once kwati is almost of the skin then take skillet and oil
- Add ginger and garlic paste and keep cooking it for a good five minutes until the aroma engulfs you
- Then add onion or shallots and keep stirring it until it sweats
- Then add the cumin and coriander powder to it and check salt, if needed then add more
- Then once cumin and coriander is cooked for three minutes add on the Kwati
- Let it simmer in low flame and keep stirring it so it won’t stick to the bottom
- Keep adding water to thicken the broth
- Then once thick take the cinnamon stick and bay leaves out and add water just to semi-liquid soup thick consistency
- Place steamed Mo:Mo in a bowl and top up the sauce and sprinkle some chopped coriander or spring onion on top
- If you want to savour this as broth add more water to it
- If you prefer the thick consistency then wait for eight whistles of the pressure cooker until it starts to break down
- Don’t use Garam Masala or ready-made spices