I first found out about the great flavors of Nepali cuisine about ten years ago… thanks to Hugues, a dear French friend of mine in Shanghai who took me to this restaurant called Nepali Kitchen! In 2006, Nepali Kitchen was the only Nepalese restaurant of the city, but I heard that now there are several of them in Shanghai, that are all pretty successful. I can still remember the bright colors of the decor and the nicely arranged geometry of the restaurant we went to. I can still picture all the beautiful embroidered cushions, the woven tapestries on the walls, and all the wooden square or rectangular low tables, set on a single floor somehow arranged on various levels, one step here, one short staircase there, another small step over there, giving every table of the common room a chance for a more intimate atmosphere in some areas, even though all customers were technically sharing the same space as they would in any other restaurant. Here are 2 pictures that represent best my memories of this place (photo credits: Sugared & Spiced, and TripAdvisor). I miss my friends in China, so this post helps bringing back nice memories to honor them and their dear friendship.
I am not sure why this particular restaurant left such an impression on me, but maybe it’s because it was the very first time I experienced eating on the floor with my shoes off? or maybe because the service was absolutely impeccable and full of joy? or was it because the combination of flavors was something totally new to me? The influence of this cuisine mostly is Indian, but I found Nepali cuisine has got interesting additions of its own such as nice fried items or cheese based entrees, croquettes, and more. Here, for my Nepal food challenge, I have decided to go for a Nepali-style platter composed of some of the most common foods you’d find if you went to Nepal. I have made the typical Spicy Butter Chicken that is very popular in India too, served with white rice and homemade cheese naans, and a side of chopped lettuce with fresh cucumber slices to cool down the heat.
I have also served Fried Momos, that are Nepalese vegetable dumplings (served with a red chili and ginger garlic dipping sauce), similar to the ones they make in Tibet and North Eastern India – which totally makes sense as they are neighbor countries. I have first heard about momos only 6 months ago though, when I hosted the Travel theme of Our Growing Edge in July 2016, a monthly event that incites bloggers to try new things. One of the bloggers who posted in regards to my theme mentioned she had momos in Tibet (read here) and that they were delicious. It’s only when I researched about Nepalese food that I found out Nepal had them too, only in Nepal they often eat momos deep-fried. I thought it would be a good chance to try them. I confess that I did not manufacture them myself though, but simply went to the store and bought dumplings with a filling that sounded the closest to the online description of momos, then deep-fried them at home. I used the chili garlic dipping sauce that can be bought in any good Asian grocery store. They were delicious and very crispy, which was a good change of habit for me as I am used to the regular steamed or boiled Chinese dumplings with soy and oyster sauce.
I have to admit that this blog post and this choice of cooking something as new to me as food from Nepal has pushed me to finally give a shot (and successfully pass the test) at cooking this Spicy Butter Chicken recipe that I have seen everywhere online and eaten numerous times in real life. Same deal for the Cheese Naans that I have tried making several times with no real satisfaction before, and that I think I can finally validate today the recipe of. Normally, from what I understand, naans are baked in the oven and then brushed with melted butter just before serving. I have picked the option that most bloggers pick too, which is to melt butter in a pan and cook the naans one by one. I find it more efficient to put a lid on during the first minutes, it helps the naan rise and get this typical swollen look that proves the cooking is undergoing as it should. When flipping your naan in the pan, don’t freak out if your naan is really colored (like golden brown), it is the “butter effect”. The naans shown on my pics here just reflect the other side of the naan that benefited from less butter in the pan, that is all.
I realize I am often attracted to dishes loaded with spices. I find their exotic value very appealing, and sometimes, when the balance of spices and creaminess is right, I feel like it’s even almost orgasmic to eat through these dishes. Some spices often are classified as Aphrodisiacs by the way. We all know about Ginger, but we know less about Coriander that seems to be aphrodisiac for women thanks to its richness in plant-based oestrogen. Chilies and hot peppers can have that aphrodisiac effect too, because they develop that physiological effect of heating up the body by dilating the blood vessels. Which leads me to my participation this month again to Our Growing Edge under the theme “Aphrodisiacs” that is hosted this month by Amanda at My Everyday Homemade.
Now, let’s hop to the recipe and directions just below.
For the Butter Chicken
- 350 grams of chicken thighs, or 2 nice chicken breasts
- 25 grams of unsalted butter
- 1 small yogurt or Greek yogurt
- 20 cl of cream
- 300 grams of canned peeled tomatoes with their juices
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 tbsp of Cumin
- 1 1/2 tbsp of ground Coriander
- 1 tbsp of ginger powder
- 1 tbsp of lemon juice
- 1 tsp of Garam Masala
- 1 tsp of Chili powder
- 1 tsp of Cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp of Cayenne pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp of sugar
- A bit of chopped fresh coriander for topping (I used parsley, as I was out of coriander)
For the Naans (4 large naans)
- 250 grams of all purpose wheat flour
- 90 to 100 ml of lukewarm water
- 1/2 yogurt (about 60 to 70 grams)
- 2 tbsp of vegetal oil
- 1/2 tsp of sugar
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 1/2 bag of baking powder
- 4 portions of Vache qui Rit or a similar spread cheese
- about 20 grams of butter to melt in the pan
For the Butter Chicken
- Dice the chicken breasts into decent bite size pieces.
- Heat a bit of vegetal oil in a saucepan, and cook the onion, garlic, ginger and lemon juice.
- After about 3 minutes, add butter, all spices and sugar.
- After a minute, slide the diced tomatoes and their juices. Stir for about a minute.
- Next, add the yogurt and the cream (save a tiny bit of cream for the end of the recipe). Combine well and let simmer for 8 solid minutes.
- During the simmering, sauté the chicken in a pan with a bit of oil. Salt and pepper.
- When chicken is ready, serve in a bowl, then pour the spicy butter sauce over.
- Drizzle a bit of unheated cream on top of the dish.
- Sprinkle a bit of chopped fresh coriander (or parsley in my case).
- Serve immediately and very warm with white rice, cheese naans, and a fresh side of lettuce and cucumber (sprinkle dried mint leaves over the veggies for even more coolness). Yummy!
For the Naans
- Combine all ingredients except butter and cheese, and form a ball.
- Let it sit for 15 minutes under a dry kitchen towel.
- Divide the dough in 8 small balls.
- Now work at flattening the balls with a rolling pin on a lightly floured baking sheet. Make one disk of dough, set aside on another baking sheet, make the second disk, set aside. Only start with two.
- Spread cheese over the first disk, and immediately cover up with the second disk of dough. Seal the edges properly, then use your rolling pin to spread the cheese inside the naan more evenly.
- Repeat it all with the other 6 remaining dough balls.
- Heat butter in a pan.
- Set one naan in the pan, cover with a lid and cook about 2 minutes or until the naan has completely risen, showing a very swollen look. Flip the naan over and cook for 2 more minutes. Set aside on a serving plate.
- Repeat for the other naans. Start with butter for every single naan, but watch out! As the pan is already hot, you will need to decrease the heat and check your naan coloring if the rising is not up to speed. If the naan is not yet swollen but has already turned golden brown, it means the heat is too high. Learn your lesson for the next naan!
- Serve warm, along with your delicious Spicy Butter Chicken. Namaste!
Created and Written by Sophie Rebibo-Halimi. © 2017 All Rights Reserved.