You may or may not be aware that our family attempted a week-long dal bhat experiment a couple of weeks ago.
First, some history:
When Kadi and I were in Nepal with Tiny Hands International, we learned that most Nepali people eat dal bhat—and only dal bhat—twice a day. Dal is soup made out of lentils and bhat is rice. When we were visiting one of Tiny Hands’ children’s homes, we were treated to some yummy dal bhat. Upon our return, we’ve told others about the practice of eating this staple twice a day—every day. The discussion has ensued multiple times that it’s hard to imagine eating anything twice a day, every day.
Somehow this resulted in me spontaneously asking my family if they would consider a dal bhat “fast” or experiment for a week. Could we eat dal bhat twice daily for a week without grumbling? Truly? I don’t know what I was thinking other than that it would be an incredible opportunity for us to set aside our fixation with food and focus on prayer for Tiny Hands and those doing God’s work in Nepal. The whole family agreed.
Seriously … all 3 kids (18, 14, 12 y.o.) ALL said they wanted to do this. There was no trickery and no money exchanged hands.
I promised you blog posts, recipes, and many updates. Yeah, about that …
Here’s the thumbnail version of how that went down …
We planned to do our experiment from Sunday through the following Saturday. Then all of my kids made plans to be away from home that Sunday night. (Welcome to life with teenagers!) Later that evening we lost a dear friend to a heart aneurysm and the rest of the week was insane, but that didn’t stop us!
Monday morning I woke up early to make my first dal bhat for the kids to enjoy for breakfast. Note: I did not get up early ENOUGH! I did not put nearly enough water in my pressure cooker for the rice and lentils that I attempted to cook together. (The Indian guy at Rice N Spice told me I could do it that way, but it was the only time I made that mistake. If you’re a pressure cooker guru – knock yerself out!) Let’s just say we had something akin to a softball and nothing that anyone could eat more than 1 or 2 bites of. Kadi’s comment … “I see some weightloss coming my way this week.” (Indeed!)
That said, we had a football player starting practice that day and I knew he and the rest of the crew had to eat something. The dal bhat hit the garbage can, so the boys ate frozen pizza for lunch. #fastfail I didn’t join them.
By supper time, I had invested 90 minutes in our dal bhat supper and it was worth every minute of it! I tweaked the recipe over the course of the week, but here’s the recipe I ended up with. Mind you, I was feeding 3 teens, including 1 football player and 1 who we can almost watch growing (it’s freaky)! We also wanted enough left over for people to have a small dal bhat lunch at noon the next day if they chose to do that.
Soak 2 cups dal (lentils) – (Nepali is black, red, or yellow. Get what you can find) in several cups of water for 20-30 minutes. You will dump that water and anything that floats. Add 6 cups water and bring to a boil. (I actually used 3-4 cups chicken broth with 2-3 cups water)
Meanwhile, in a small pan melt 6 T. butter (ghee), 1 onion (diced), 3 cloves garlic (crushed/pressed)(This is my favorite part of making the meal. There’s something very satisfying about squishing that clove through my press. #easilyamused), 2 cm piece of fresh ginger (chopped), 2-3 red chilies. Cook these up until translucent.
When the lentils come to a boil, add the cooked spices to the lentils. Turn the lentils down and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add 1 tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. salt, 8-10 curry leaves (we got this at the Indian store), 1 tsp. mustard seeds (crushed) (I bought a mortar and pestle … something I’ve always wanted because crushing fresh spices … well, YES! Second favorite part of making this.)
While ALL of this is going on … Make your rice.
I used Basmati rice— “Nourished by the snow fed rivers of the Himalayas” that I picked up at the Indian food store.
2 cups Basmati rice – soak in water for 30 minutes. Discard water. Add 3 cups fresh water (again, I used 3 cups of chicken broth) and 2 T. melted butter (optional). Bring to a boil. Cover pot with a tight lid, turn the heat to low and cook for about 20 minutes.
Once you have your Bhat on low and your dal simmering … I would take the meat off a rotisserie chicken that I picked up at Sam’s Club. (I bought 2 chickens every other day). In Nepal, this would only happen once a week or less. Truly, the lentils are loaded with protein and other great nutrients, so the chicken isn’t necessary, but we were eating this for a week and I needed to keep my family on board or I’d be eating a LOT of dal bhat by myself!
Each day I’d also cook up/steam other vegetables that I’d add to the dal. Each day was different, but I used: Broccoli, cauliflower, garden green beans, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, zucchini …
I also made Alu dum (curried potatoes) twice.
2 pounds of potatoes
1 cup chopped onion
1 tsp garlic (pressed/minced)
1 tsp fresh ginger (minced)
1 tsp red chili pepper
1 ts. coriander powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp. Garam Masala (available at Indian food stores)(Mentioned in my new favorite movie: “100 Foot Journey.”)
Boil potatoes until 1/2 cooked. Drain. Slice and brown in butter.
Cook onions in butter until light brown.
Add ginger, garlic, red chili powder, garam masala, coriander powder, and turmeric.
(The real recipe says to add 1.5 – 2 cups of water at this point, boil it, and add blanched beans or spinach. We didn’t do that.)
Time Out for a Trailer!
When the lentils are soft (not mushy) and the rice is finished, remove the big red chili’s and the curry leaves. Then it is time to eat. This was the best part. The house smelled yummy. We put bhat (rice) on our plates, followed by a hearty helping of dal to which the veggies and chicken had been added. When we had potatoes, we just piled them in there too. Then we mixed it all together with the fingers of our right hand! (In Nepal, you eat with your hand and only your right hand! The left hand is considered unclean and is used for personal hygiene in the bathroom. Ah-hem.)
In Nepal, our friends taught us to form our 4 fingers into a scoop shape. Scoop up the dal bhat, then scrape it off your hand and into your mouth with your thumb. All of us ate this way for the entire week, with the exception of Ben, who refused to use his fingers after the first day. (Who knew?) Caleb, on the other hand …
In case you’ve heard our oldest imply that our dal bhat experiment was an epic failure, let me explain. SHE had photo shoots and out of town commitments several nights that week, so SOMEONE (all fingers pointing at Kadi) was only able to actually be at the dinner table 2 nights. One of those nights we were at the visitation for our friend until 8 p.m. and the idea of STARTING a 90 minute prep. meal was inconceivable. #Dominostotherescue
The rest of us did eat dal bhat Monday through Sunday (we shifted the days back from our original plan). The boys added a lunch in there as they have those football and growth issues, but Mike and I stuck to dal bhat for breakfast and supper for the 7 days (minus one supper).
So what? We ate the same thing for 7 days. What was the point? What came of this little “experiment”?
1. For 7 days I never heard, “What’s for dinner?” I also never heard one kid … not ONE … complain about eating the same meal again, and again, and again.
2. We talked about Tiny Hands ALL WEEK LONG! They were forefront in all of our thoughts and prayers.
3. Speaking of prayers … We decided that first night that we were going to pray “Nepali style” all week at dinner. In Nepal, people pray out loud all together. When Kadi and I were there we were captivated by this noisy, passionate, God-focused prayer that eliminated any “speech making.” No one worried about whether they were praying well, using the right words, remembering everything that might offend someone if it’s forgotten. We loved it. The first night we prayed this way at dinner, it was honestly awkward. The boys finished in 30 seconds flat, and I interrupted my own prayer to sternly instruct, “You are NOT done praying! Keeping going!” … So, it wasn’t a very spiritual moment, but you have to parent in the moment.
Nights 2 – 7 were a totally different story! Our prayer time at the table will always be some of my fondest memories. Even as I carried my own pleas to the Lord —for Tiny Hands, those who would be intercepted from sex trafficking, the children in our children’s homes and those waiting to be in a safe home, the house parents, the president and his wife, the rest of the Tiny Hands partners both in Nepal and the U.S.—I could hear my husband and children doing the same. They were sold out prayers, filled with emotion and longing. They were hope-filled and grateful requests for more of HIM in a world filled with injustice. We added prayers for friends who are suffering and hurting – who have lost and are losing loved ones. We prayed for our church and this world whose pains cry out, “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!”
Tonight my boys came home from youth group and Ben (14) shared that he asked his small group to pray Nepali style. Bless.
There’s more to tell about our week-long dal bhat experiment, but this has already crossed the line of how much I’d expect you to read. If you’re still with me – God bless! I’ll tell you the rest of the story soon.
Until then … Jai Mashi (Christ is Victorious)