Thursday, 14 March 2013

Delicious Echoes

The perfume of toasting cumin unfailingly transports me to Nepal, and evokes wonderful memories of that rich and vibrant country. During the six years I lived there with my family I grew to love our twice-daily scented rice with spicy lentils and curried vegetables. I began to understand why Nepalis remain unsatisfied and complain that they haven’t eaten unless they’ve eaten rice.

Many westerners overlook how varied food can be even if it does comprise just rice, lentils and vegetables. A huge range of spices, delicious fresh chutneys and yoghurt-based accompaniments as well as the individuality added by each cook, mean that each tali tastes deliciously different - and can be relied upon to transport me to the majestic mountains, swaying, snow-fed ricefields or even perhaps to the Kiplingesque jungles of the lowlands. The variety of flavours, textures and colours means that meat isn’t necessary and proves that excellent food can be healthy, tasty, inexpensive and good for the planet.

Especially now that I have a taste for spicy food, I was particularly interested to learn that chilli-eating cheers you up. They stimulate the production of endorphins - the body’s so-called natural morphine. The areas of the human brain that are responsible for interpreting smell and taste are in the frontal lobes which also happen to be the regions responsible for reward as well as long-term memory. Perhaps that is why scents can provoke such brilliant holidays in your head. So eating spicy Nepali food is not only pleasurable for its own sake because it tastes good, but it is full of healthful anti-oxidants and lift your spirits too. Ramro sangar khannus!

First published in Agena magazine, for the Nepalese Catering Association, UK

photo by Simon Howarth

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