During our stay in Dhungkharka, our wonderful hosts kept us stuffed full of delicious Nepalese cuisine. A typical meal consisted of generous portions of rice (bhat), dal, vegetables, and achaar. At dinner we would sometimes have a nice serving of chicken choila as well (see my recipe here).
Achaar is a spicy pickle side dish and I couldn’t help but douse my dal bhat in. My favorite was the tomato achaar and which was always made fresh and extra spicy.
The amazing thing about the food we ate in Dhungkharka was that it was all fresh. Our family had no refrigerator (electricity is inconsistent and unreliable throughout Nepal) so any meat purchased any meat fresh from the market and any vegetables were grown in the garden.
The family’s kitchen and dining room consisted of a simple room with a gas stove top (that I only saw when used as a pressure cooker to cook rice) and a large rice cooker. The main “appliance” used was a beautiful wood burning stove in the corner.
To cook the tomato achaar one of our hosts would start a hot fire and toss in a few juicy ripe tomatoes right into the edge of the fire.
While those were getting nice and charred, she quickly crushed garlic, chili peppers and spice seeds on a large flat grindstone with a stone pestle (ps. I NEED one of these grindstones and pestles).
When the tomatoes were ready, she placed them on the grindstone and continued pounding it all in to a smooth paste, adding water as needed.
So simple. And so freaking yummy.
A big plate of dal bhat with a side of spicy tomato achaar is completely unassuming, but bursting with flavor.
You mix everything together on your plate and simply eat with your fingers (In Nepal only use your right hand to eat– Never your left).
I made the dal bhat and achaar for a quick and filling weeknight dinner. It was admittedly hard to photograph, so I gave up on trying to get anything too “perfect” which actually better captures what the dish looked like when I ate it in Nepal — messy but absolutely delicious.
I ate it with my hand for old time sake, but don’t be afraid to scoop it up with a spoon!
- 3-4 large tomatoes
- 2-5 birds eye chilies
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 tsp oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- fresh coriander, to garnish
- salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 200 C / 392 F
- Roast tomatoes in oven for 30-40 minutes until tomato skins are loose and blackened
- When cooled, remove skins and add tomatoes and chilies to mortar (or food processor)
- In a large, dry pan, toast cumin and fenugreek seeds over high heat until fragrant
- Reduce heat to medium
- Add oil and garlic
- Stir until garlic is golden brown
- Add spices to tomatoes in mortar (or food processor)
- Grind with pestle until smooth
- Garnish with coriander
- Salt to taste