Dal Bhat

Photographer: Sara
Serves 4

When I heard the news that Nepal had been hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, I immediately thought of a few people. I thought of my flatmate James, who had just luckily just returned from a trekking holiday there. I thought of Edmund Hilary, who with Nepali Sherpa Tenzing Norgay was the first to climb Everest, and whose work building schools and hospitals in the region has formed a bond of friendship between our country and theirs. I thought of myself and my university friends, living through the Christchurch Earthquakes, which were smaller in magnitude and occurred in a place with much newer infrastructure.

And I thought of my mate Uzol Rai. Uzol is a Nepali trekking guide who I met recently while traveling in Myanmar.  He and his friends were in Kathmandu when the earthquake hit, survived and are now using their trekking skills to get aid to cut off areas. I fondly remember Uzol’s mountaineering stories, his photography, and his hilarious ability to ride a bike while facing backwards. And his love of Dal Bhat. Dal Bhat (lentils and rice) is the staple food of Nepal, he told me “I am never full until I have eaten rice” and then proved it, ordering two side orders of rice after consuming a massive burger and chips. He LOVES dal bhat. So when I was thinking of ways to help Uzol and the Nepalese in this time of need, dal bhat was the obvious answer. I looked up a few recipes, sent out a few emails and in a couple of days we had over 50 takers lining up for a hearty ladle of lentils and rice. We raised over $400, (it costs less than a dollar per person to make!) to help buy lentils, rice and aid equipment for Uzol and his friends to transport to hard hit areas.

Its moments like this that remind me why I love food. This is not the most flavorsome meal (although Uzol would disagree), it is simple, cheap and super nutritious. But for me, this means helping out a mate in need and bringing my workplace closer together for a good cause. People were so keen to help. When a colleague’s family found out about it, they made a chickpea curry and 50 (!) roti bread’s to go with the meal. Another colleague set up a clothes collection to send over. So I encourage you to try this recipe, one kiwi’s take on a Nepalese staple food. Eat it with friends or family on a cold day and, if you can, contribute to one of the many charity’s that are aiding Nepal.


Baht (Rice)
2 cups basmati rice
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp ghee or butter

1.5 cups of lentils (I used brown lentils)
3.5 cups of water
1 large onion, chopped
3 big cloves garlic, minced
1 large knob ginger, minced
1 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds, ground
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 star anise
1 400g tin of tomato puree
2 carrots, chopped
Coriander, stems and leaves
Lime wedges


Baht (Rice)
Cook the rice via your preferred method. I like to use a method I learned from an Indian friend. Heat the oil in a pot, add the fennel seeds and leave to pop, about 30 seconds, then add the dry rice, stir fry 1 minute, then add 2 cups of water for every cup of rice. Leave to cook via absorption, about 20 minutes.

1. Heat the ghee/oil in a large pot over high heat. Add the fennel seeds and mustard seeds, leave until they pop, about 30 seconds.
2. Add the onions and fry for 1 minute, then add the garlic, ginger and the rest of the spices. Stir fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots and lentils. Stir fry for 2 more minutes.
3. Add the tomato puree, coriander stems, salt and brown sugar.
4. Add the water and stock, bring to a boil. Simmer on a low heat, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes. Stir more frequently towards the end, as the lentils will absorb the water and it will be easier to burn the lentils.
5. Serve with rice, lime wedges and coriander.