KNOW YOUR ONIONS (and maybe not only your onions)
Shopping isn’t an easy job especially when it comes to groceries. A lot of hard work is needed from selecting the kind of veggies to getting and organizing them in the kitchen. Then, you need to get your groceries sorted, that too with a proper understanding. Why? Because you wouldn’t like your potatoes to taste horribly sugary and turn a hideous dark color once you mindlessly refrigerate it. Or your unrefrigerated cauliflower spoilt with unpalatable odor.
To keep such gastronomic blunders at bay, keep a mental note or better yet, create a chart and stick it in the visible part of your kitchen.
The next step is to grasp the “vegetable market dynamics”. Vegetables are a significant part of Nepalese staple diet, therefore can be found anywhere – starting from street vendors, “kharpans” (local hawkers with woven basket) to packets in supermarkets. Basics like tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, ginger, onions – these are some veggies that are needed in every cooked meal therefore are absolutely never out of season, and thus have less fluctuation in price, except in festive seasons.
That’s when you’ll have to be super careful about where you’re getting your veggies from; some sellers love to charge you an arm and leg. If you prefer buying your veggies from a certain shop in your neighborhood, it is safe to maintain a good “PR” with the retailer. Mark these words, this friendship comes handy when it’s nearing Dashain and you need a considerable amount of groceries without having to pay unnecessarily higher.
Having said that, it is also important that one should know about the seasonal vegetables since they also add up as factors to price unrest. Such as, caulifl owers grow on dewdrops so if you go for cauliflower in peak summer, chances are you’ll either not find it or you’ll empty your pockets for an inedible bunch of leaves. Similarly, runner beans cost you a lot in winter because it would not be as abundant as it is in summer.
As much as it’s healthy and important to have fresh, green, vegetables every day, sometimes some inadequacies occur which forces us to look for alternatives. Now, being Nepalese, it doesn’t even politically sound correct to have rice without some vegetables with it. Therefore, it is also important to know what else can work as a substitute for green vegetables. Dried beans, mushroom (dried or not), soya chunks, Nepalese produce “msyaura”, are all healthier options to fill in as vegetables.
Now, addressing the elephant in the room – English names for Nepalese vegetables and vice versa. Let’s face it, we aren’t that good when it comes to recognizing a certain vegetable by its name because either we’ve only heard the local or the English name for it. The key point to understanding Nepali cuisine better is to know both names. Therefore, we have come up with a list of day to day groceries with their Nepalese as well as English name:
- Basil: Tulsi
- Fenugreek: Methi
- Yam: Tarul
- Mountain Ebony flower: Koiralo
- Turnip: Salgum
- Jalapeno: Mexican khursani
- Black salt: Birenoon
- Asafoetida: Hing
- Cardamom: Sukumel
- Okra/Lady’s Finger: Bhindi/Ramtori
- Calabash/Bottle Gourd: Lauka
- Hog Plum: Lapsi
- Kohlrabi/German turnip: Gaathgopi
- Mint: Pudina
- Capsicum/Bell Pepper: Bhede Khursani
- Beet Root: Chukandar
- Taro Stalks: Gabhaa
- Taro Roots: Pidalu
- Taro Leaves: Karkalo
- Asparagus: Kurilo
- Mustard Greens: Tori ko saag
- Chayote: Iskus
- Pak Chhoy/Bok Chhoy: Chinese saag
- String Beans: Ghiu simi
- Hyacinth Beans: Hiude Simi
- Bamboo Shoot: Taama
- Chinese Melon: Kubhindo
- Fiddlehead Fern: Niguro
- Windsor Beans: Bakulla
Words by Abhigya Subedi