Sunday, March 6, 2011

Nepalese Dal made with French Lentils

This recipe came to me from my sister, whose family hosted an elite climbing Sherpa from the Kumbu region of the Himalaya in their home for many years. Nima Tashi has reached the summit of Mt. Everest at least 12 times, and that in itself is a feat that I can barely comprehend. Oh, and because Nima lives in the village of Pangboche, which sits at an elevation of 13k feet (3785M), he can stand on the summit of Everest sans oxygen. Truly amazing!

He shared much of his Nepalese culture with our family, a culture that revolves around the principals of kindness, compassion, and community as it's rooted in Buddism. Nima personified those qualities in all that he did. From his incredible skill and endurance as a climber who helped so many survive the grueling conditions in the Himalaya, to his gentle touch at landscaping a yard here on Cape Cod. He puts his heart and soul into everything he does, and his presence was a joyful addition to our family.

Nima Tashi on top of the world, photo from Joseph Acero

Part of Nima's job as a climbing Sherpa is to cook for his clients, and he's very good at it. He shared several of the traditional Nepalese dishes with us, and one of my favorites is momos and dal baat. The momos, or steamed dumplings, will have to wait for another post, as I still need a lesson from my sister for those. Today we'll tackle the dal, or lentils.

Nima's Dal
1 lb of dried lentils (I used small french lentils which are superb, but regular lentils are fine)
1/2 sweet onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
2 tsp of ground ginger
2 tsp of curry powder (yellow)
1 tsp tumeric
1/2 bunch of chopped cilantro

Wash the lentils and allow to drain:

Chop the onion and garlic:

Add about a tbsp of olive oil to a sauce pan, heat, then add 1/2 of the chopped onion and garlic, 1 tsp of curry, 1 tsp of ground ginger, 1 tsp tumeric and a pinch of salt. Saute for about 3 minutes, then add the lentils and saute for another 3 minutes:

Cover the lentils with water (about 1/2 inch above the lentils):

Cook over medium heat (gentle boil), covered, for about 20 minutes. Now add the remaining onions, garlic, ginger, curry, another pinch of salt, and a little more water so the lentils are covered by about a 1/4 inch of water. Continue cooking, covered, over medium heat for another 15-20 minutes, or until the lentils are almost tender.

Remove the cover and cook until the water is mostly absorbed. There will still be some water when you dig into the lentils. Add the chopped cilantro and combine well:

These are great served with rice, that's the baat part of dal baat. I'm off to purchase some fish that I'll poach and serve over mine. Enjoy!


  1. What an amazing experience, getting to know this kind-hearted man! Recipe sounds delicious too. In general, the Nepali people are lovely.

  2. Tara,they certainly are wonderful people. Thanks for visiting.