Often described as one of the tastiest wild fruits, Kafal, is a berry found on the foothill of the Himalayas. This raspberry-looking fruit with sweet and tangy flavors has a thin fruit coating with a large stone core, thus it’s a drupe. Eating kafal requires you sucking on the fruity outer layer followed by spitting out its pit.
Kafal is picked from a dozen-meter long wild trees during May and June. Kafal trees are found on hills of Nepal and Northern India, between the altitudes of one and two thousand meters above the sea level. Kafal changes to reddish purple color ellipsoid-shape fruit at its maturity. In scientific journals, kafal is mostly called Myrica esculenta, but also often referred as Myrica integrifolia and Myrica nagi. In ancient Sanskrit language, kafal is often called Kaiphala or Katphala, and believed to have a medicinal property in its tree bark.
Still today, street hawkers go door-to-door to sell kafal from a bamboo baskets in Kathmandu. Once ordered, kafal are measured in a rusty tin container called manas (~ half liters), poured into a paper cone made from old newspaper, and sprinkle with spicy salt seasoning. Since the shelf life of kafal is very short, only 2-3 days, people interested in eating kafal are recommended to fly to Kathmandu during May-June.
Kafal is celebrated with unprecedented number of songs and stories unlike any foods in the region. Even a surname “Kafle” is said to be in honor of those kafal trees that gave fruits to people for millennia. There are many songs about kafal such as Reli khola bagar kafal pakyo lahar (Nepal) , Kafal gedi kutukai (Nepal), Kafal pakyo hola banma (Nepal), and Rangeelo kumaon kafal kheja (Uttarkhand).
There is much folklore interwoven with kafal and life in Himalayas than any other fruits. Here are my two favorite tragic tales about why birds sing during kafal season.
A Nepali tale of a brother who leaves his sister to join an army. He promises to return every year to enjoy kafal together. He never returns, but she continues to send message every year when kafal ripens. Even after her death, she now returns as a bird to let us know “kafal pakyo” or “kafal is ripe”.
Another story from Indian state of Uttarakhand is about a mom, who picks up a basket-full of kafal to sell. She asks her daughter to look after the kafal basket and not to eat any fruit. When mom returns, she realizes the kafal has lost some weight. Suspecting her daughter must have eaten some, mom punishes her by beating. The daughter kept on crying that the she didn’t taste any kafal. It rains and kafal gain back some weight that they had lost due to scorching summer heat. Unfortunately the girl died, and now she comes back every year in kafal season as a bird to sing “kafal pakko, meil ni chakkho” or “kafal has ripened, but I didn’t taste them”.
Often these stories are tragic, may be ripening of kafal symbolize change of season and end of beautiful spring, kafal being one last sweet fruit of spring before a harsh summer.
Posted in: Food - Food Culture | Tags: Himalayan Fruit, Kafal, Kafal Nepal, Kaphal, Wild Berry
I wanted to make an entire meal made of all pig meats after watching the TED talk by Christien Meindertsma. She is the author of the book “Pig 05049″, which discusses at least 185 non-pork pig products, from soaps to artificial hearts. I would call it – “The Pig Out Dinner”.
All of the invited friends were Nepali expats. I wanted to make the dinner in a style of a typical Nepali meal, but with non-traditional ingredients and using spices outside of the Indian subcontinent. The challenge was to make each dish consisting of pork from different parts of the world as well as to cook something that brings back memories of a typical meal from Nepal – dal, bhat and masu.
Here’s what I made for the pig out dinner;
Bacon Vodka – Pig Out Signature Drink
To make: add the left over bacon fat from cooking the bacon to vodka (or bourbon) in a mason jar, shake, let it stand, freeze it, remove the top hardened fat portion, filter the vodka through a paper coffee filters.
Fat from 2 lb of bacon
The bacon flavor in the vodka was too strong. In order to reduce the total alcohol content and the bacony taste, I served the drink with twice the amount of chilled lime seltzer.
The bacon vodka was not a hit. People stuck with the beers and wines they brought. It might have been a more successful if I had delivered the bacon vodka differently. Next time I plan to serve the bacon vodka in Bloody Mary – that should work.
The Pig Out Appetizers
Pork Salami and Prosciutto with Brie and Bleu cheese
Even though, the guacamole was little toward the salty side, my guests still liked it. Note to self; add less salt if adding bacon.
The Pig Out Dinner Entrée
Beans with Smoky Shredded Pork
Rice with Pork Kielbasa Sausages
Slow-braised Pork Tenderloin
The 3 cans were a bit too much of heat. I should have stayed with the 2 cans as I initially planned. The pork dish was similar to chipotle chili verde I made half a year ago.
The Pig Out Dessert (Idea only)
Making bacon cookies can be a separate pork related project sometime in the future – maybe all bacon dinner. Any takers?
Posted in: Food - Food Culture | Tags: All Pork Dinner, American Pork Rinds, Bacon Guacamole, Bacon Infused Vodka, Bacon Vodka, Beans with Smoky Shredded Pork, Black Beans and Shredded Pork, Chipotle Pork Tenderloin, Guacamole with bacon bits, Kielbasa Fried Rice, Kielbasa Rice, Pork Kielbasa Sausages Fired Rice, Pork Rinds, Pork Salami, Slow-braised Pork Tenderloin
One of my favorite salads growing up in Nepal was Pomelo (Chinese grapefruit) salad made in a similar style as coleslaw. However, instead of a mayonnaise-based dressing, which is used in coleslaw, pomelo salad has a yogurt based dressing. The pomelo salad is known as Bhogatee Sadeko in Nepali, which roughly translates to marinated/seasoned (sadeko) pomelo (bhogatee, often spelled bhogate and mistranslated as grapefruit). It is also known as bhogatee (polmelo) paun (sour) in Newari language.
Pomelo, Citrus grandis or Citrus maxima, is perhaps the largest citrus fruit, about 7 inches or more in diameter, with a pale greenish yellow rind, which is a inch or so thick. Pomelo tastes like a bit like grapefruit but is sweeter, less tart, and is not bitter.
Pomelo is native to southeastern Asia, and is cultivated and consumed in countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Thailand , Nepal, Philippines, Vietnam, etc. The attempts to introduce pomelo to the United States in the beginning of the twentieth century failed mainly due to inferior cultivar and enthusiasm. Currently, pomelo isn’t easily found in your everyday local grocery stores in the United States. However, it can be easily obtained at most local gourmet, Asian grocery stores and often in big box discount stores such as Costco.
In Nepal, pomelo is harvested around the beginning of the winter. A typical warm winter weekend may involve the family basking in sun on roof deck or porch and peeling off thick pomelo rinds for salad. The chef of the house, which is usually mom, marinates/spice up (sadeko) pomelo, while kids make hats out of pomelo rind and play.
During this thanksgiving, my cousin Sabi surprised us by making this traditional pomelo salad. This is how she made it. There is no exact amount for the recipe because there is no standard way of making it. Sugar and salt is added according to taste and also depends on the flavors, sweetness, and tartness of fruits used.
1 part pomelo
1/8 part vegetable oil
Peal citrus fruits and add cut fruit pieces. You can substitute pomelo with sweet grapefruit, if you couldn’t find pomelo.
Yogurt is used as the base for this pomelo salad dressing.
Spice up salad dressing by adding spices.
Yogurt and ground roasted sesame are the key ingredients for the pomelo salad dressing. Add roasted sesame powder. You can make your own roasted sesame powder. Start by pan roasting sesame until it slightly browns, but be careful as it will start crackling and jumping off the pan. Let the roasted sesame cool. Ground it.
In the final step of its preparation; you temper the fruit salad mixed with yogurt and spices by adding warm oil seasoned with fenugreek. To season the oil, heat it with fenugreek seeds as shown in aloo sadeko. After fenugreek seeds turn black, turn off the heat, wait a bit and add the warm (be careful!) oil to the salad. Mix and eat.
Eating the pomelo salad after a long time brought back fond memories of my childhood — next time I will be sure to make a pomelo hat for myself.
I wish I took a second serving….
Posted in: Cooking - Food | Tags: Bhogate Sadeko, Citrus salad, Grapefruit Salad, nepali salad, Pomelo rind hat, Pommelo salad, Pummelo salad, Yogurt and sesame dressing, Yogurt salad dressing
Summer is over. I am sure to miss my weekend morning ritual of walking to the farmer’s market, buying groceries for the week while sampling various produce. In farmers markets, I find uniqueness in commonest ingredients (e.g., heirloom tomatoes) and often run into an uncommon gem. One of the things I grew to love this summer were tomatillos, pineapple tomatillos to be precise.
Tomatillo (L is often silent) is a popular fruit/vegetable grown in Mexico. Tomatillos have been gaining popularity in the United States. It looks similar to tomatoes but has meatier flesh than tomatoes. The sticky glutinous pulp is covered by husk like in cape gooseberry fruits. Generally, tomatillos are a bit sweeter than sweet tomatoes. Many Mexican dishes contain liberal use of tomatillos. Tomatillos are still not a mainstream ingredient but most of us have enjoyed dishes made with it, such as salsa verde (green salsa) or many other Mexican dishes.
This summer, I tried pineapple tomatillos for the first time. A super enthusiastic vendor at my the farmer’s market was handing them out. I am glad that I was curious enough to try them.
Pineapple Tomatillo Classification
There is much confusion about pineapple tomatillos — if they are same thing as tomatoes or cape gooseberry, etc.
Tomatillos are not unripe green tomatoes although they are often called “green tomatoes”. Both are from same family, Solanaceae, but from different genus Solanum (tomato) and Physalis (tomatillo). Tomato and tomatillo has as much similarities as other familiar vegetables such as potatoes and eggplants, which belong to the same family, Solanaceae.
Pineapple tomatillo is a cultivar of tomatillo, which is Physalis philadelphica (or ixocarpa) while cape gooseberry is Physalis peruviana. Pineapple tomatillos are from the same genus but are from different species. They are similar in same way as a cow (Bos primigenius) is similar to an yak (Bos grunniens) and we (Homo sapiens) are similar to neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis).
Pineapple Tomatillos in the Farmers Market
The regular green tomatillos are becoming common and can be bought at majority of large grocery stores around the country. Pineapple tomatillos are harder to find cultivar of tomatillos often found only in farmers markets.
Pineapple tomatillos are smaller than regular tomatillos, similar in size and shape to cherry tomatoes. Like any tomatillos, the fruit of pineapple tomatillos are covered in papery husk. The flavor is unique a blend of tomato and sweetness of pineapple.
At $5.50 per pint, pineapple tomatillos were not super affordable. I bought them without any idea on how to eat them. After buying, I probed the enthusiastic vendor for ideas. His reply was to eat directly as a snack or add them in a summer salad. After probing further, he let me in his secret – he often uses pineapple tomatillos as toppings for vanilla ice cream.
Pineapple Tomatillo Recipe
After returning from the farmers market, I fixed myself a bowl of vanilla ice cream with pineapple tomatillos on top of it. It was a good excuse to eat ice cream. Pineapple tomatillos were a perfect topping for the ice cream. They were not too sweet to overpower sweetness of the ice cream. Pineapple tomatillo’s succulent texture complimented perfectly with smooth melting ice cream.
In coming days, I finished my first batch of pineapple tomatillos as topping to a half gallon of vanilla ice cream. If I have to defend myself, part of the reason was because I couldn’t find any recipes for pineapple tomatillos online. Most of them used pineapple fruit and regular tomatillos. The following week, I went to the farmers market looking for pineapple tomatillos – determined not just to use them as ice cream toppings but in few other recipes. They were out of pineapple tomatillos for this year. Definitely next season!
Posted in: Food | Tags: end of farmers market, farmers market tomatillo, green salsa, sweet tomatillos, tomatillo classification, tomatillo ice cream, tomatillo scientific classification, tomatillos
I don’t know much about “dragon fruit”. I was intrigued by it when I saw it in an Asian grocery store, H-mart, last weekend. I decided to buy it even though I had no idea how to eat a dragon fruit or which part of the fruit to eat. I was curious.
Internet (and youtube) came to the rescue. A quick research also told me that dragon fruit is also known as Hylocereus undatus, red pitaya, or strawberry pear. It’s popular in Southeast Asia (China, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, etc.) and believed to be native of Central America.
You eat the inner white flesh of a dragon fruit. The taste and texture of a dragon fruit is similar to kiwi because both have similar texture and contain small edible seeds. The flesh of a dragon fruit is uniformly distributed with black and crunchy seeds that give it nutty and somewhat oily flavor.
Dragon fruit is, perhaps, one of the least sweet fruits that I ever tasted. No wonder that it has low calories and consumed widely by diabetic people.
To eat dragon fruit, peel of the shell and eat its flesh. This is how I did.
Cut the fruit straight down the middle longitudinally through stalk.
Scoop out white flesh using a spoon.
Cut into cubes. Optional serving suggestion; serve the cut dragon fruit cubes in a boat made from its shell.
For those who have sweeter tooth, drizzle with honey.
Posted in: Food | Tags: dragon fruit, dragon fruit and diabetes, dragon fruit and kiwi, dragon fruit recipe, How to cut a dragon fruit, Hylocereus undatus, red pitaya, strawberry pear