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Bring on the Dal

The past four weeks in Nepal has brought a variety of smells, colors, flavors and to the senses. Not only is the food in Nepal flavorful, it is litterally "finger lickin' good"! I say this because here in Nepal you eat with your "hand"(always the right). It is customary in this part of the world to do so for various reasons.

On my trip down to Janakpur I joined my driver and his brother to a plate full of rice, dal, chutney, sag, and masala stewed chicken. Glancing out of the corner of my eye, I watched as a handful of rice and dal, was being scooped into their mouths. Disregarding the dangers of bacteria and sanitation, I put my spoon down and went for it. Immediately their faces changed, smiling at me and then turning to each other and bobbing their heads. I think I "made the team" so to speak. Soon after, a young boy, not more than 13, brought over a bucket of rice, spooning out another family sized helping on to my plate. His younger brother followed, carrying more dal, chutney, and sag. He drenched my rice with dal, and I again mixed and mashed the dal with my hand(always the right). All restaurants have sinks and soap in the dining area where you can wash your hands before and after the meal. Knowing that you will eat with your hands, guarantees your own cleanliness before and after the meal.

The traditional meal of Dal Bhat exists not only in Nepal, but also in Bangladesh and certain parts of India. Rice being a staple crop here is filling and delicious, but is quite different than the short grain varieties of Japan. Various spices like garam masala, cumin, turmeric, and coriander are used heavily. The Dal Bhat is one that never gets old, and I may have had this meal at least 14 times out of the 25 days that I have been here. From road side stands to home made meals, the dal Bhat seems to remain relatively the same. Other than the addition of some seasonal vegetables, straying from the typical blend of flavors, might upset some people.

During my homestay we had dal bhat for lunch, and dinner. It was during this that the meal was a bit too much for me. Not knowing how to say "I'm full" the rice seemed to pile up before my eyes. However, one great thing about the village life, is that no food goes to waste. Our hosts were raising cows for milk next door. The cow, a living garbage disposal, seemed to throughly enjoy our left overs Not only did the cows enjoy it, but the daughter of our host was more than happy to finish off what we couldn't! Bring on the Dal!

Mukaishimacho, Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture 722-0071, Japan

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