Nepal,  Recipes,  Travel,  UNESCO Heritage

Bori Tarkari/Beans Curry & Maithili Art – Chitwan, Nepal

Though I don’t run my household in the manner of taking Geography lessons, but subconsciously our kitchen does turn into a lab. Probably I must have done a Geography Major in my previous birth. I believe in the concept of Reincarnation according to my own convenience. When I cannot explain any particular characteristic (bad or good) in myself, I push the ’cause’ to my previous birth and if I really want to do something but do not have the courage to do so, I try to cajole myself by saying – ‘Maybe in my next birth!’ For example – Bungee Jumping.

My previous articles have touched (though touched it too mild a word) upon our amazing stay in the Machan Paradise View Resort in Chitwan (Gift Wrapped & Preserved For Each Tourist – Chitwan, Tharu Village Walk).

Machan offers only Full-Boarding option. No complaints on that since each meal was an absolute wholesome experience. One such fabulous dinner consisted of Chappatis (Indian flat bread made with Wheat-flour) freshly made in a traditional Tandoor (clay oven used in cooking and baking) where the heat is generated by wood fire, accompanied by a light Masoor Dal/Orange Lentil Soup, a Potato and Peas Curry, a String Bean preparation and followed by a slightly spicy Chicken Curry. Big Z went crazy over the Bean preparation and S went head over heels with the Chicken Curry. So I pestered our shy Chéf (the person on the extreme right in the picture below) into giving us the recipe which later unfolded onto soft paper napkins. Post-Nepal, we have tried cooking both of these with great success. Multiple photo-shoots after, these two recipes have joined my blog-queue. Releasing the String Bean preparation – Bori Tarkari. The second picture (below) is the original preparation from Machan.

Don’t forget to scroll down for some sensory stimulation – Maithili Art!

The combined effort in writing the recipe of the String Beans

Bori Tarkari/ String Beans Curry

Category – Veg Side-Dish; Cuisine type – Nepali

This String Beans Preparation is mildly spicy. Not spicy as in the hot chilli kind but slightly tangy pickled kind. Maybe, because of the tomatoes. Though the English translation says it’s a Curry, Bori Tarkari is a dry vegetable preparation. Interestingly, most Nepali cookbooks that I have come across refer ‘Tarkari’ as Curry. Do not hesitate to add more information to this.

For the printable recipe→

Serves 5-6 persons

Preparation time – 45 minutes (preparation – 15 minutes; cooking – 2 hours)
String Beans – 1 kg, cut into 2 inch long pieces
Tomatoes – 2, chopped into small pieces
Tomato Paste – 1/4 cup (You may use puréed tomatoes as well. Well, I asked if we could use only tomatoes instead of purée, I was told that the latter gave a pickled taste. So we decided to go for the purée!)
Onions – 4, cut into slices
Curry Powder – 4 tsp
Cumin Powder – 1 tsp
Garam Masala Powder* – 1/2 tsp
Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
Salt – as per taste
Mustard Oil – 1 tbsp

[*Garam Masala Powder used in Nepali dishes is slightly different from the Bengali or Indian Garam Masala. I have come to realise that though some ingredients like Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cloves are common to Garam Masala being used in various regions, each region or culture probably adds its own touch.

The proportion of ingredients that goes into making the Nepali Garam Masala (from The Nepal Cookbook)

Dry roast the following whole spices separately until fragrant:
5 ttbsp Coriander Seeds
3 tbsp Cumin Seeds
1 tbsp black pepper Corns
2 tsp Black Cardamom Seeds
2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Whole Cloves
1 tsp ground Nutmeg

Grind the above roasted spices into a fine powder.]

Method of Preparation
– Heat the oil in a Wok
– Add onions, chopped tomatoes and fry till the onions turn brown and the tomatoes turn tender
– Add the Tomato Paste, Turmeric, Curry Powder, Cumin Powder and the Garam Masala Powder (Note: Keep stirring slowly to prevent the Assorted Masala paste from burning)
– Add the String Beans and stir in with the other Masalas over high flame for just a minute. Turn the heat down to the lowest level and cover the pan. Let the beans get cooked. (Note: It shouldn’t be over-cooked and soggy)

Serve with Chappatis (Indian flat bread made with Atta/Wheat-flour), Tandoori Nan (Indian Flat Bread) or plain white Rice with some plain hot Dal/Lentil Soup.

The Himalaya, The Nepal Cook book, Kthmandu-Pokhta-Chitwan

A bit about Nepali Cuisine

Let me also share a bit that I’ve learnt from my stay in Nepal and also from my recent purchase from the Kathmandu airport – The Nepal Cookbook (Author: Padden Choedak Oshoe).

Nepali Cuisine is influenced by the cuisines of both India and Tibet. The use of ingredients is very similar and some of the most commonly used ingredients are as follows – Hing/Asafetida, Mungrelo/Black Cumin Seeds, Cardamom – Alaichi/Black Cardamom, Sukumel/Green Cardamom, Chilli Powder, Red and Green chillies, Hariyo Dhaniya Paat/Cilantor or Coriander leaves, Curry powder, Methi/Fenugreek (most importnat in Nepali Cooking), Saunf/Fennel Seeds, Garam Masala (dry roast of whole spices like Coriander Seed, Cumin Seeds, Black Peppercorn, Black Cardamom Seeds, Ground Cinnamon, Whole Cloves, Ground Nutmeg), Turmeric,  Garlic, Ginger, Onions, Scallions, Gundruk (Nepali vegetable dish prepared from green leafy vegetables that are fermented and then sun-dried  and is used in soups, pickles and other dishes), Jimbu (aromatic grass from the Himalayan regions and is sold in strands – a pinch is enough to flavour a dish; not available in Asian supermarkets, hence bulb garlic roots are used as a substitute), Jwanu/Lovage Seeds (Ajwain in Hindi), Timbur (another important ingredient used in Pickles), Tamarind pulp.

Dishes are cooked in Ghiu/Clarified Indian Butter (Ghee in Hindi) or Mustard oil, Corn oil and Soybean oil.

Achar/Pickles, a special condiment perfumed with ginger, garlic and hot chillies, is considered indispensable to a Nepali meal. They may be served as a vegetable dish in its own right or as a condiment and may use either raw or cooked cooked vegetables and may be preserved or prepared fresh.

Dal/Lentils, Bhat/Rice, Tarkari/Curried vegetable and a small amount of Achar/Pickle – this is the main staple diet of most Nepalese though festivals call in for more elaborate Nepali meal with Masu/Meat, Macha/Fish and other Nepali Desserts amongst which the most popular is Sikarni made with hung yoghurt/curd mixed with dried fruits. Regional variations in cooking styles and dishes quite obviously exist with the geographical/topographical variations within Nepal as the mountains in the North roll down into Tarai/Plains in the south.

Maithili Art or the Folk Art of Mithila

The dining room in Machan is pretty huge with unexceptional high ceiling. The walls have folk art painted on them by the local tribal artists, specially the women using natural vegetable colours. This is the folk art from Mithila or Maithili Art.

History of Mithila
At first the art seemed very familiar – regions of Bihar in India have similar art form. The ancient country of Mithila comprised of the present districts of north Bihar in India and parts of southeast of Nepal. Janakpur, the capital city of Mithila is situated in south-east of Nepal and is the centre of Maithili culture. Sita, the consort to the Hindu God Rama in the Indian epic Ramayana was the adopted daughter of King Janaka of Mithila and a princess heralding from Janakpur. This is the reason why Sita is also known as Janaki. God Rama and Sita are said to have been married in Janakpur and the city celebrates their marriage anniversary each year. People flock to the Janaki Mandir, a temple dedicated to Sita and Janakpur today is a very important Hindu pilgrimage site.

Maithili Culture
Maithili culture has its own language and rich literary tradition and the tradition of painting and handicrafts (specially done by the women) have been passed down from generation to generation. The Maithili Art form was based on ancient rituals and religious practises and had survived centuries. Traditionally, it was a floor and wall art done by the Maithili women and was an integral part of the region’s culture. The designs and motifs took their inspiration form the surrounding nature, people and animals.

The folk art can be divided into two forms:
1) Floor drawings or line drawings on the ground known as Aripana and
2) Wall arts or mural arts known as Mithila arts

An Aripana is drawn on clean swept ground of a courtyard or inside the house. It is a way of worshiping the earth by drawing different auspicious design before any domestic ceremony. The designs drawn are semi-geometric and floral. Each diagram has well defined center on which an installation of a sacred pot, a plate, a basket or a seat is made for ritual purpose. The subject matter of Aripana generally falls into five categories –
1) Images of human beings, birds and animals including fish, peacocks and snakes
2) Flower (lotus), leaves, trees and fruits
3) Tantric symbols
4) Images of gods and goddesses
5) Mountains, rivers

The technique of drawing Aripana though simple, requires a lot of expertise. The designs are usually drawn with fingers. Powdered rice is made into paste with water and is used to give the natural white colour. Turmeric is mixed to produce yellow while Sindur/Vermillion is used for red. The ground is smeared with clay or cow dung before drawing an Aripana. Wall arts are drawn on the occasion of some festivals and other important ocassions such as births, sacred thread ceremony, wedding etc. Each occasion and ceremony is marked by their own signature motifs, a wonderful and a detailed description of which can be found here.

Evolution of Maithili Art into the famous Madhubani Art

These traditional floor and wall art were temporary in nature. They either got washed away in the rains or were brushed over with new mud when the Maithili people repaired their crumbling mud walls. Though  this ritual of traditional floor and wall art by women were still prevalent in the 1990s, soon they started practising the painting on paper. This Maithili Art on paper is called Madhubani Art. Handmade lokta paper was introduced by Claire Burkert to the Maithili women of Janakpur and its neighboring villages. As the Art form found an expression on paper, the artists started experimenting with various techniques and ideas staring from using modern brushes, acrylic colours and newer subjects. Today, Madhubani Art has found its way into handmade cotton clothes, note-books, photo-frame, writing sets, recycled cards, mirrors, ceramics, bags and cushion covers, table cloth, ash-tray, T-shirts and tapestry. Its market value is increasing day by day thereby providing a much needed financial empowerment to the local women.

Colours used in Mithila Art
Bright colours characterise Maithili art. The three basic colours that are frequently used are Bright Red, Yellow and Black. Black is obtained from soot, Red from local clay and Yellow from petals of flowers or turmeric. Vegetable colours are also prepared from different flowers, fruits, barks and root. The gum prepared naturally from the Babul tree is mixed in the colours for durability. The bark of Peepal tree is dried at sunrise and then boiled in water to yield Pink. Blue is obtained by crushing the Sikkar or wild berries. Dark green is made from the leaves of the Saim creepers and Parrot green is obtained from the sepals of Gulmohar (Royal Poinciana or Flamboyant and is also one of several trees known as Flame tree). Watercolour mixed with Pithar/rice powder and Vermillion is also used. Though modern brushes are now being used by many artists, the colours are generally applied with a piece of raw cotton or lint attached to the end of the bamboo splint. Brushes are also by wrapping cotton around one end of a twig or matchstick and acrylic colours are also being used.

A small photo-journey follows below while you may enjoy many more here. Well, a simple recipe on a local Nepali dish culminating in a journey of learning… about a historical and a traditional folk art. That’s the charm and the blessings of travelling. One learns through the heart and soul and once that is done, it is imprinted in both places forever.

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Other articles on our Nepal trip
Innocence In Their Eyes, Joy In Their Faces
Gift Wrapped & Preserved For Each Tourist – Chitwan
Where The Buddha Only Sees!
Daal Maharani Befitting the Queen (And Also Us) – Recipe
Sikarni Raan/Marinated Lamb Shank from Yak & Yeti – Recipe
Flying over Mt Everest – Nepal
The Abandoned Women Amidst Many Prayers

Mithila Art @Jankpur online
Mithila Art

A Culinary Travel Blog by a Bong Gourmet. From Dubai, Kolkata & the world beyond, street food to fine dining, recipes to chef talks, it pens down experiences. With 2 kids in tow!


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