More than plain white grains

Food Issue 152 Jul, 2014

Daal-bhaat-tarkari may be the staple food of Nepal but there’s much more to rice (bhaat) than just that. 

Sel roti
Sel roti is a crispy, ring-shaped bread/doughnut, made from rice flour and sugar. Prepared by frying dough in ghee, sel roti is an indispensible part of Hindu festivals, Tihar in particular. Extremely popular, most teashops around the country sell sel roti which is usually eaten with tea, puri, and even with vegetables and pickles.

Chhyang is homemade beer made from fermented rice. For the Newars, it holds religious significance as well: chhyang is used as an offering to the deities and drunk during festivals. The drink can be found in any of the tiny eateries that serve Newari dishes. Many Newars prepare chhyang (a.k.a. thon) at home and it is served generously during Newari feasts (suku: bhwe).

Consumed during festivals, anarsa is a sweet dish made from rice flour and sugar. The addition of sesame seeds in the end gives it a different yet appealing taste. The preparation of a proper anarsa usually takes around two days as the rice is left to soak in water overnight before it’s ground, mixed, and molded into a shape resembling a large cookie. The dish is popular during festivals such as Mother’s Day and Tihar, and is even used as a prashad in pujas, especially within Kathmandu Valley.

Also referred to as “Nepali pizza,” chataamari is a Newari dish made from rice flour batter. The preparation process is simple and similar to that of a pancake. Traditional chataamari is plain without any toppings but the “modern” form of the dish is topped off with eggs, minced meat, and even chopped veggies (hence the “Nepali pizza” moniker). Many restaurants have chataamari on their menu and it is also served in small eateries in the narrow gallis of Patan and inner Kathmandu.