Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Grilling & Cooking Kathmandu Style

 So we finally got a grill. After a few unsuccessful searches through town our friend Akshay recommended a welder who could make us a custom one based on the grill they use at Wunjula. Because the guy didn't speak much English the process took a bit, as we had to fall back on Akshay to call him for us. Anyway after about  a month or two we have a great custom grill, which should be quite handy. One would think our difficulties would be over at this point, but like everything in Nepal, you have to learn how to do things a little differently. I went to the super market near the house and was able to find some charcoal, but each bag was almost $10, which is pricey for these parts. When I picked up the charcoal I had thought it was ready light, you know the stuff that is infused with lighter fluid or what ever makes it flame up. Well last night I went to light it and no luck, a close inspection of the bag, and sure enough it's the original stuff. Hmm. 

No problem, I'll just go pick up some lighter fluid. I checked the nearby stores and no luck.
 Due to the time of night and a strained calf I wasn't going to walk to any of the super markets. Looked like I'd make Mexican instead and grill for lunch tomorrow. So the next day I went to the super market, and sure they have the charcoal, and these Himalayan Lighter Brick things, but no lighter fluid. I pick up the brick things and hope they light easy, and thus can get my charcoal going. Upon return I try in vain to get anything lit. I use paper, the brick, and the better part of a cardboard box. Finally after much fanning and burning I get enough smoldering heat to cook the chicken a vegies over, though at no point do I actually get a real flame.

It never gets quite hot enough to cook the skewers as Id like but the potatoes and onions wrapped in tin-foil and the BBQ chicken come out good. As a humorous aside, while I was dealing with this Kim had gone off to Bluebird (another local supermarket) and had found some zippo lighter fluid...not perfect but it would do the trick. In an attempt to get things going a little better I had been trying to throw some of the fluid on the brick in the grill. Flames proceeded to follow the stream back to the bottle (yeah I'm smart!) and I proceeded to throw the can on the ground. After warning Kim to stay in side I ran up to the roof got a bucket of water and eventually got  the flaming canister put out. Not my proudest moment. With a few lessons learned we hope that the next time we use the grill and have guests over it will go a bit more smoothly.

Cooking Kathmandu Style
So cooking here is a little different, you can't just get any ingredient you want, you can't aim to try to recreate exactly what you eat back home, such endeavors are almost certain to come up just a little short and not taste quite right. The food available here is excellent though, and when you start experimenting with things a little differently you can come up with some surprisingly good dishes. All recipes are roughly for two people

Goat Cheese Stuffed Eggplant & Pasta with Tomato-Mango Sauce
This came out surprisingly tasty, and all the ingredients are local, cheap and fairly easy to get.

2 Round medium sized Eggplant
1 Lb Tomatoes
2 Ripe Mangoes
1/2 Cup olive Oil
1 Medium Sized Red Onion
2-3 Chilly Peppers
6 Cloves of Garlic
8-12 Sun Dried Tomatoes
1/4 Cup (roughly) Goat Cheese
1 Egg
1/4 Cup Flour
Fresh Rosemary
Dried Oregano

Chop the Eggplant into large circular pieces, try for about 8 all together. Put some olive oil in a sauté pan and heat with medium or so heat. Dip the eggplant into the flour then egg (which has been beaten) and then bread crumb, once coated cook in the sauté pan until golden brown on both sides. Do this for each piece of eggplant, and then set them aside. Clear out the pan, and add 2 diced cloves of garlic and the some chopped sun dried tomatoes, cook in just a little bit of olive oil at a low heat until the garlic is fragrant and the sun dried tomatoes get a little soft, then mix in the chopped up fresh rosemary and goat cheese, stirring over low heat until you have a sauce with an even consistency. Set this aside.

Chop the Tomatoes into quarters, dice the onions, garlic and chilies, and chop the mango into pieces about equal to the tomatoes. Add the rest of the olive oil to a pot and sauté the onions first over a medium high heat until they are translucent. Add the tomatoes, using a slotted spoon to kind of squish them into sauce and stir every so often. Reduce heat to medium. Add garlic, chillies, and mangoes, a couple good dashes of pepper and oregano and a healthy sprinkling of salt. Stir all together until the tomatoes have mostly disintegrated into a less substantial form and looks like tomato sauce. While you're doing this cook whatever quantity of pasta you want.

Add the cheese mix to the top of a piece of eggplant and make a sandwich with a second one. Do this with a few at a time, placing them in a pan with some sauce on them to heat them up. Serve with pasta also covered in sauce. Lots of different flavors, and quite tasty.

Smith-Kathmandu Salad
lacking safe leafy greens you kind of have to make up new salads, with the variety of peel-able vegies and fruit it's not too hard.

2 Medium Sized Cucumbers, peeled
4 Small washed plumb tomatoes
2 Mangoes
1 small red onion
1 Pomegranate
2 Green Onion
Fresh Cilantro
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Goat Cheese (Optional)

Slice the Cucumber into round pieces and then halve. On top of them add some diced tomato and onion. Chop the mango into roughly quarter inch squares and on top of this add chopped green onion, cilantro and a handful or more of pomegranate seeds. Garnish with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I also occasionally add some goat cheese to the top of this, and it compliments it quite well.

Pan Seared Bruschetta
With ovens being a rare appliance you need to find other ways of cooking some treats that are otherwise very available. This bruschetta comes out surprisingly well.

1/2 Pound Tomatoes (diced)
1 Medium red Onion (diced)
Fresh Basil
1 Loaf French/Italian Bread
Mozzarella/ Goat cheese
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar

In a sauté pan add the onion, tomatoes and cover them in a mix of 2:1 olive oil and balsamic vinegar, add a dash of salt and pepper. Heat on low, stirring occasionally. After a few minutes add the chopped basil and let it soak in and heat up a bit. Cut the bread into roughly one inch thick segments, possibly a bit thinner to let the oil seep through. Kill the heat on the tomato mixture and set it aside. Heat a skillet with medium heat and place some of the bread on it, with just a pit of olive oil coating the surface. Flip the bread when it starts to brown then cover it with the tomato mixture and then place some of the cheese on top of this. Cook until the bottom of the bread is brown and the cheese has started to melt. Adjust heat as needed to keep the bread from burning.

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