Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Swiss-ish Chrismas

If you know my family -- you know that we are part Swiss ( my father is from Switzerland) .  Most of the year we forget about it and live pretty much like the  average urban middle class Bhutanese family ( except for a bit of chocolate and coffee snobbery). But Christmas is a little different. Its carries no religious meaning for us but because as children we spent so many Christmases in Switzerland with our Swiss grandparents and relatives, its the time of year that we really feel is both about family and honoring my father's Swiss roots.
 Its also very much about food. Christmas is about a big family meal and its about cookies. Lots and lots of cookies that we inevitable feel, given that this is season of gifting, we have to give away. We try to look for recipes that remind us of the cookies our grandmother and Swiss aunties made for us and with us. This year we made three kinds(starting from the top left hand and moving clockwise), Mailanderli ( a sort of butter, sugar cookie with a touch of lemon) with marmalade centers, Zimsterne ( with lots of cinnamon and almonds) and Basler Burnsli ( with hazelnuts and chocolate).  

We also tried to have a fancy dinner ( for us that means a tablecloth, non-plastic plates and glass of wine) which we attempted to make Swiss-ish but as you can see we also included chilli for those of us who can't do without it, even at Chrismas!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hoentoe ( Buckwheat dumplings from Haa)

Earlier this week it was Lomba or New Year in the districts of Paro and Haa ( in fact this year it happened to fall on the auspicious date 12/12/12).  Interestingly, while Losar is the official new years,  there is a lot of variation in new year across the country. ( Here is an interesting article that describes some of the various new years across the country.) My immediate family is from central Bhutan so this is not my celebration but every year I hope that someone will share the amazing delicious buckwheat dumplings or Hoentoe that are an important part of the celebration. When my family lived in Bumthang, our neighbors were from Haa and so we were insured a supply of Hoentoe this time of year. This year it looked like we had missed the boat. But then a day later, our cousin's girlfriend who is from Paro had her father hand-deliver a bag of Hoentoe right to our doorstep! My sister quickly whipped up a batch of chilli paste to eat with the Hoentoe.

Hoentoe look very much like the more common Momo and are similarly steamed but there are very important differences. The first is that the outer wrap is made of  buckwheat rather than flour  and the second is that filling is tangy mixture of dried turnip leaves, chilli and fermented cheese. Very delicious.

As Bhutanese have become more mobile, living and working in districts that are not their own, many people from Haa and Paro will return home for their new year while others will make a huge batch of  Hoentoe to share with friends, neighbors and co-workers.  These are newer traditions that I adore!

We did very well with the batch we were gifted. Here is the final Hoentoe which was fought over ( I won!) .

PS If you are interested in learning more about Lomba, here is a post by a Bhutanese teacher explaining what Lomba means to him.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Reading Note: NPR on the dangers of Tea Drinking and Pressure Cookers

Recently I read two delightful articles on the NPR blog that discussed topics that have come up on this blog. The first was on the"dangers" of tea drinking for  19th Century Irish women.  Apparently if "women had time to sit down and enjoy a tea break, this must mean they were ignoring their domestic duties and instead, perhaps, opening the door to political engagement or even rebellion."I am going to be thinking that as I savor my tea today! The second looked at pressure cookers and more specifically why they are less common in American kitchens.The great article includes some wonderful recipes to get first time pressure cooker users started as well as this lovely line describing the sound that a pressure cooker makes as it warms up, " wheezing like an asthmatic cobra."  I have never ever actually heard an asthmatic cobra but it does convey how dangerous a pressure cooker  can sound when its in action .