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A Nepali stomach in a foreign land

Bibek Bhandari

 
Miles away from home when your tummy growls, you can’t help but remember all those delicacies your mom used to feed you with love, especially daal, bhaat, tarkari, the diet of every Nepali. If you’re thinking, when you can opt for burgers and pizzas from Mc Donald’s or KFC who needs daal-bhat? Well in course of time burgers seem burden to your belly and pizzas with any kind of topping will fail to get your attention! Slowly, you elude your affair wi
th the fast-food and the love for daal-bhat escalates. Pots and pans become your peeps and you seem to like the part of the house you so often avoided - the kitchen.

For some cooking might be the favorite pastime, for the rest the kitchen might be the last place on earth you’d want to be. But spending time in the kitchen becomes a compulsion, not an option, when you leave your haven - home.

Cooking daal, bhaat, tarkari in an alien land where the native diet is unalike might seem eerie. But a hungry-man got to do what a hungry-man got to do, so you can’t abstain from cooking your version of the Nepali food.

The first attempts of your culinary practice might not meet your expectations. With high hopes and many trials, sometimes even burning your hands and cutting your fingers, you might just prepare the three-course gourmet to satisfy your appetite. Thought it might lack the tang from home, you’ll eventually like and appreciate your culinary practice, which might need to be honed further.


One might wonder where the ingredients can be found. Apparently, you wouldn’t have to go far- thanks to globalization and international commerce. There are many stores owned by Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and even Nepalis right around the intersections. You probably wouldn’t have imagined that you could find a mini Ason in America, but it exists. Vietnamese stores are another option to get your groceries for Nepali food, especially when it comes to mo
mo. You can find momo wrappers to minced meat and anything you would have thought that you’d only get it in Nepal. They’re all just a walk away or you can even order them online. Obtaining local groceries is that easy at the tip of your credit card.

  Getting groceries and cooking becomes a ritual. Rules are set in the house, especially when you live with your roomies and there is division of labor and specialization of work. Household chores are parted from dishwashing to cleaning but when it comes to cooking, everyone wants their favorite chef to cook for them- the one who cooks the best. So fingers point at the best chef and the rest is in his hands.


Everyday or say most of the times there is a cookout. Friends gather around pumping up 1974
AD in their computer with aprons and knives as their company. There are eyes loading with tears because of the onions, while there’s another busy cutting chunks of chicken, there’s some others lending a hand to make aloo-tarkari and some just boozing. After hours of chopping, mincing, frying, steaming, the food is ready. The Nepalese do what they’re best at- cooking Nepali food.

The aroma of the spices engulfs the room and the hungry stomachs are lured by it. Slowly they creep into the kitchen and grab their shares. Comments are passed and remarks made with each handful of everyone’s favorite- daal, bhat, tarkari. In no time the stomachs are full and the plates empty. Each grain of rice, every drop of daal and every piece of chicken is swallowed up. The food is over but the tang remains in the tip of their tongue.

The cooking affair continues day after night for the thousands of Nepalis who have been trying to make a foreign land their home.


The cook peeks at the once full pots and pans and hopes for some remains for the following day. Unfortunately, he will have to cook again the next day. The cooking affair continues day after night for the thousands of Nepalis who have been trying to make a foreign land their home.

Daal-bhat tends to remind us to stick to our Nepali roots as the taste takes us back to Nepal, where we belong. Although the essence of home might be missing, the flavors somehow evoke the sentiments within one. Lucky are people who can still cook and eat daal, bhat, tarkari amidst a heap of burgers and pizzas. In a foreign land, it’s definitely a treat for the tummy! No matter what or where, daal bhaat tarkari will always remain every Nepali’s favorite affair.
 
Bibek Bhandari is a student of International Communications in the U.S.A

 
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