• Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

  • product-image-quickten.png.a40203b506711f7664fc62024e54a584.pngDid you know that these all-volunteer forums are operated by the 501(c)3 not-for-profit Society for Culinary Arts & Letters? This holiday season, consider a tax-deductible Quick Ten Bucks to support the eG Forums and help us remain completely advertising-free. Thanks to all those who have donated so far!

Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Dianabanana

Identify these flavors in Indian/Nepalese food

13 posts in this topic

We had an early lunch at a little Indian/Nepalese place last week. I satisfied my craving for poori, potato masala, and a cup of chai, and my husband had some kind of Nepalese vegetable curry, and a Nepalese spinach salad with roasted soybeans. Now I have questions.

1) The spinach salad was like cooked spinach wrung very dry, with (according to the menu) roasted chopped soybeans on top. To me these tasted almost exactly like wasabi peas, except not as pungent and not lurid green (they were regular tan soybean color). Definitely a horseradish type of flavor. What was it, and is this common in Nepalese food?

2) Both my chai and my husband's curry had a delicious, elusive smoky flavor. And please note that I have a horror of most smoke flavors added to food. These things tasted like they were prepared over a high-mountain campfire, but this restaurant was tiny and in a basement and I'm very sure that the only flames in there were from a gas range. And anyway, how would that flavor get into chai or a curry in which nothing was roasted? It had to be some ingredient they were using. I bought some Tao of Tea "Pine Smoked Black" tea and added it to chai in an effort to recreate the flavor, and it's similar, but very crude in comparison to the delicate smoke flavor at the restaurant.

Yes I am kicking myself for not asking while I was there . . . I could call but thought I'd ask you guys first.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay, I've been Googling . . . could it have been black cardamom?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Black cardamom does have a sort of smokey flavour. Never had it in chai before though, but that doesn't mean much as I haven't drunk all the chai in the world!

ETA: Forgot to say that in some North Eastern areas, fermented soybeans are used. Perhaps that was what was in your salad - fermented, spiced soy beans.


Edited by Jenni (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lapsang Souchong tea is the basis of all good Nepali chais, as is black cardamon and a teensy piece of galangal root (which would definitely give that smokey flavour that's eluding you).


Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Apart from the Lapsang, galangal, and black cardamon, a small amount of dried gingerroot, green cardamon pods, three star anises (broken into teeth), a healthy stick of cinnamon, about 10 whole cloves, black peppercorns, allspices, and a whole nutmeg (which lives in the chai pot for the entire week of chai drinking, and is then rasped into its own special jar, because it takes on the other flavours a bit). That's my friend Ngawang's recipe; he's from a small town close to the Bhutanese border.

1 person likes this

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, how interesting about the nutmeg! I've never thought of infusing a spice with other spices. Wow. Do you rasp the outside of it before putting it in the pot? Seems like no flavor would get out unless you did, but I've never tried it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also, what would you then use the special flavored nutmeg in? Traditionally, I mean. I'm sure it would be good just about anywhere you'd use nutmeg but I wonder what they use it in.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Apart from the Lapsang, galangal, and black cardamon, a small amount of dried gingerroot, green cardamon pods, three star anises (broken into teeth), a healthy stick of cinnamon, about 10 whole cloves, black peppercorns, allspices, and a whole nutmeg (which lives in the chai pot for the entire week of chai drinking, and is then rasped into its own special jar, because it takes on the other flavours a bit). That's my friend Ngawang's recipe; he's from a small town close to the Bhutanese border.

I never saw galangal or smoked tea in 2 years of living in Bhutan, but then only so much makes it up the hill. Both sound delicious, though! Bhutanese would always put a bay leaf in the chai. Well, some sort of leaf that was elongated and that IIRC we used as bay leaves, but was not an english bay laurel.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The boiling action of making the chai seems to help extract the nutmeg flavour; I've tried rasping it a bit before throwing it in and it overloads the other flavours (apart from the ginger, which it amplifies). Hence, I've been tending to just throw it in whole lately, so that it adds a hint of nutmeg at the end of the flavour complex.

To make this properly, you bring lightly salted water to a boil and then throw in the loose tea and spices and boil for at least 5 minutes, although Ngawang always swore that it was better if you let it boil slowly for half an hour. Then add cream until it's a medium milk chocolate colour, and sugar it to taste. Simmer another 5 minutes to marry the spice to the fat and fully dissolve the sugar, then serve hot. Ngawang uses about a cup of sugar when he makes chai; I prefer only about a tablespoon in the whole pot.

My friend Lobsang adds salted butter at the cream point, and omits sugar entirely; he's Tibetan and will generally then take the tea and use it to roll up small balls of tsampa (roasted barley flour) for snacking. I'm partial to this on cold days, but I normally use sweet butter and salt the tea to taste. (Machica is the Ecuadorian highland equivalent of tsampa, as I was thrilled to discover when served buttery hot chocolate and a bowl of it visiting some highland Quichua friends a couple of years ago - the tradition is almost exactly the same. I'm now never without machica in the house.)


Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi folks, I enjoyed reading this thread. I'd like to offer some really grass-roots suggestions. And since I am new here, if there are chefs or cookbook authors here, do forgive me. I am a really good cook, even if just my friends and family say so, and my experience tells me to suggest these two scenarios:

1. The smokey flavor in the tea was from burnt milk. This could happen in two ways. If the milk was heated in a separate vessel to cook and thicken it, and reboiled in the same vessel every time new tea was going to be prepared, the second or third time the milk was poured, it would have picked up a slight burnt flavor. Another way is if the tea was already prepared and reheated in the tea vessel again and again to pour more cups...that would result in a burnt flavor too.

2. The smokey flavor in the curry without a campfire around could be the use of a traditional cooking method called 'BHUNA'. If you want to impart a smokey flavor into a small amount of curry, you can take a whole onion, cut it in half horizontally, pull out some of the central rings, put in a piece of hot charcoal (heated on the gas stove till red hot) and a dollop of ghee (clarified butter) added on top after the charcoal has been placed on the onion. As soon as the smoke starts to emanate from the charcoal and ghee, you place the onion with the charcoal into a metal bowl inside the curry vessel. You can raise the bowl on an inverted cup or something, so that the charcoal does not touch the food. Cover the curry vessel with a tightly fitting lid. Wait for a few minutes. Then open the cover, and remove the onion, charcoal and the metal bowl it is in. Serve the curry. It will have a smokey flavor. In India we use this technique for a few specific dishes, but one can always enjoy improvising.

3. Now for the elusive wasabi flavor: I wonder, since the 'spinach' salad had wilted greens that had been squeezed out, could they be mustard greens instead? Or at least some of them? That would immediately impart the WASABI taste to whatever bean you had in there.

Just some thoughts outside the box. Hope you consider them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not sure about burnt milk adding 'smokiness', but maybe? I don't think Lapsang Souchong is used in Nepali chai, however some other tea dried over fire maybe, but mostly the tea used is not smoky. The restaurant, however, may use a special tea? However black cardamom, which is sometimes referred to as Nepali cardamom, is my guess as the culprit as it is quite smoky from being dried over fires. It also adds a camphor character - and would be quite noticeable. Black cardamom is not at all like the standard cardamom (green, white, or the seeds marketed as cardamom in the US) and is a completely different species (though in the same family) Green = Elettaria cardamomum and Black = Amomum subulatum. I have not noticed black cardamom in Nepali chai recipes, but perhaps it's understood to use black and not green? My last guess is that they use a method similar to Bhuna (as mentioned above) to impart a smoky character. They could do this to the tea (dried tea before it's used to make the chai), or simply burn some of the spices a little (especially the cinnamon or star anise over a stove burner or on a BBQ grill.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Similar Content

    • By Phill Bernier
      Hi There,
       
      I came across this term, Bunooing, which I'd never heard before. I had a look around to try and understand the method behind it, but came across a number of inferences on what bhunooing is and how it works, some of which were conflicting and a little confusing. I would be very grateful if someone could clear this up for me and perhaps answer a few questions. This is my understanding of bhunooing so far:-
       
      Essentially, this is a method of releasing essential oils that are cooped up in your dry spices and leaves too. The types of spices used are the hard spices such as cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon, mustard seeds etc. As I understand it powdered spice can be added, but nearer the end of the bhunooing process.
       
      The thinking behind this method is that spices take on moisture over time which dilutes the essential oils in the spices. By slow frying the spices you are gently evaporating the water and releasing the concentrated essential oils from the spice which enhances the power of spice, giving it more punch.
       
      The bhunooing process can be used to make a vibrant base for your gravy. To do this, heat a good amount of oil on high and then bring it down to a medium heat. Add your spices and onion and slowly fry until the onion turns a light brown. At this point add your liquid/ gravy.
      Some questions that I have are:-
      Why heat the oil to hot and bring to medium? Why not just heat to medium? Does bhunooing always have to include onions? The first time I tried this, the onions absorbed all of the oil after a while - is this okay? Or does it mean that I used too much oil? Is this the same, or does it have any relation to the bhuna? I have come across articles and recipes that refer to bhunooing and suggest that it's (perhaps) just the process of slow cooking ingredients on a flame/ hob - is this correct? How long should I be frying the spices for? I would be very grateful for any help you can provide.
       
      Thank you in advance
      Phill
    • By polly
      Lately i've been wondering about the use of food colouring in Indian food.
      Is there a traditional aesthetic use of it, or is it maybe to reproduce the colour that chilli powder or saffron would have given to a dish?
    • Guest nimki
      By Guest nimki
      Hi
      I just finished reading Flavours of Delhi. It was an interesting concept, though I found the descriptions too sketchy.
      Two points of note in the book -
      1) Connaught Place persistently spelt as Connuaght Place
      2) Description of Kachri as a dried melon, being used as a souring agent.
      To the best of my knowledge, and I do know about Kachris, they are small fruits (about the size of a large ber) that grow on climbers, in Haryana and Rajasthan. Both the fresh and dried kachri are eaten in different forms. The most delicious cooked chutney is made out of dried kachris and it is very popular in Haryana, though I haven't heard of it being eaten outside of the state. (It is also a bit of an acquired taste).
      Another thing I've heard described as kachri is by Punjabis. They refer to slices of baingan, dipped in a besan paste and deep fried, as Kachri.
      My question is, has anyone heard of a wild /dried or any other kind of melon called kachri?
      Or was it a factual error?
    • By Suvir Saran
      I have recently made trips to a Dosa spot that has been praised quite a lot around this site and elsewhere.
      I was terribly dissapointed.
      Dosas are one of my favorite foods. It is a pity that Indian restaurants in NYC have really not shared the magic that can come with each bite of a Dosa. Some friends of mine that have traveled to India and had loved Dosas even before making that trip, came back never wanting to eat American Indian Dosas again. There is such a marked difference.
      Why is that so? What makes them so different?
      Where do you find your favorite Dosa?
      What are you looking for in a good Dosa?
      What do you think the perfect Dosa should be like?
      What should the Sambhaar have in it? What consistency should it be?
      What should the chutney be like? What chutneys would you like to eat it with? What do you think are the authentic companions to a Dosa?
    • By TheCulinaryLibrary
      I'm thinking of buying a wet spice/curry paste grinder. Any ideas on what brands are the best?
      Premier super-g, Preethi ??
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.