mountain life & sidu

Hi there! I’m finally coming up for air to check in and share some photos, stories and a recipe. I don’t even know how long its been since my last blog post but it feels like forever. I hope you can accept my apology in the form of this extremely cute puppy…
For about a week, we are staying in Himachal Pradesh region, in a large town called Manali. We are in a valley nestled in the foothills of the Himalaya. Ryan has friends here from a previous stay.
Peter Dorje: the Tibetan Jacques Pépin?
We are enjoying the hospitality of Ryan’s friend Peter Dorje, an outdoor guide and personality extraordinaire. Here is a link to a really funny article about one of Peter’s previous undertakings. Although born and raised in India, Peter is Tibetan to the core. So we’ve been enjoying all kinds traditional and local dishes prepared by him and his wife, and learning how to make them. Manali is a place that you can find the food and culture of the Tibetan Diaspora. Colorful prayer flags hang throughout the city, on homes, in the market and spanning river and valley.
There are both Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples here, nestled in next to a lively market and avenues of sweet shops, puri vendors and pure-veg food stalls, Tibetan momo and noodle joints, Nepalese restaurants, wine shops and oodles of Kashmir wool vendors. Some are basic and some specialize in delicate, soft, hand embroidered scarves made only from the wool of the neck, or the side of the breast of the appropriate sheep.
Lunch in a Tibetan monastery school, part of our next student travel project.
We’ve been too busy eating, hiking, and having adventures with motorcycles that are not fit for the roads we took them on to buy any wool scarves, but I’m sure that there will be time for shopping as well, before we leave.
giving a tow
The last time I checked in with you we were in Mumbai. An overnight train from Mumbai to Delhilanded us in the capitol city for two days, one night. As we fly out of Delhiin a couple of weeks, this will now be the hub of the remainder of our journey. I’ll report more on Delhi soon…this city is famous for its street food, which is my second-favorite type of food here (I save the #1 spot for home-made).

 

 

For now, let’s jump right in to one of the foods we’ve been enjoying while staying with Peter and his family.
March is the time of transition between winter and spring here. There is snow on the peaks surrounding the town but the valley itself is relatively warm and quite lovely right now. We are in the foothills of the Himalayamountain range right now. During the winter the diet shifts more to what Peter calls “flour foods”, or wheat based dishes. Rice is the base of the warm weather diet, which has not quite come into full bloom here, making us well placed for trying all the dishes of the area.
For me, wheat is a travel-only ingredient. I am so glad that I have this rule or I would be missing out on so many wonderful dishes right now, but at the same time I can’t help but devise in my mind possible gluten-free versions to try once I get home.
For the time being, in the spirit of cultural preservation, I have recipes in their original format as prepared and served in the Dorjee family home.
The first one I’d like to share with you is called Sidu, and it is absolutely delicious. Please give it a go. For all my GF friends out there, just wait for a month or so and I’ll get back to you. I’m thinking that rice or chickpea flour, flax meal, and possibly eggs would do the trick.
ready to be cooked

Sidu, as a dish, is relatively new. According to Peter, the settled Tibetans of the Himachal Pradesh region were inspired by momo, which are Tibetan dumplings not unlike potstickers or gyoza. They are served with a fiery hot sauce and come in a variety of shapes. Some call sidu “big momo”. I am absolutely enamored with momo and have a whole blog post planned just for the little buggers, but I’ll include a picture of some now so you can get an idea of the ancestor of sidu, the star of this post.

momo: sidu’s ancestor
Sidu is a large yeasted and steamed dumpling, filled with some kind of vegetables, cheese or meat. We had a version with a green leaf not unlike spinach mixed with onion, oil and crumbled yak cheese. Once cooked, the dumpling is sliced into chunks, drizzled with ghee and served with a dipping sauce or chutney. Our chutney was tomato based, cooked with green chilis, salt and oil in a pan like a marinara dipping sauce. It was so flippin’ good.
If you’d like to try this at home, and you just can’t seem to find dried yak cheese, please don’t let that stop you. You can substitute anything. Some other cheese, more vegetables, or chopped mushrooms come to mind. And if you don’t have any ghee, just use real butter, coconut oil, olive oil, or just the dipping sauce. But I must admit that the ghee was really nice. I don’t have perfect measurements, but I watched, took notes and pictures. If you try this, let me know if something is way off and I’ll fix it.

Sidu 
(Dorje family style)
 

BREAD

  • 3-4 cups wheat flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1½  teaspoons yeast
  • small amount of hot water

 

Mix the dry ingredients. Add hot water a small amount at a time until the dough forms a ball. Knead for about 2 minutes, or until it is elastic. Set in a bowl and allow to rise for about 20 minutes.

 FILLING

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch spinach or other dark leafy greens, chopped
  • 1 cup dried yak cheese (or other cheese)
  • 3 TBS olive oil or ghee
  • salt to taste

Chop the onion and spinach, crumble the cheese. Mix all together and set aside.

SAUCE

  • ¼ cup hot green chilies
  • 5-6 medium tomatoes
  • 4 TBS oil, ghee or other
  • salt to taste

 

Chop the chilies and tomatoes. Heat the oil and add them to the pan. Cook until it is saucy. Salt to taste. This is a Nepalese style sauce.

ASSEMBLY & COOKING 

Fill the bottom of your steamer tray with water and begin to heat, so that by the time that you finish forming the sidu the water is hot. Knead dough back down. Make balls about the size of a plum or a tangerine, and then roll the balls into disks that are approximately 6 inches in diameter and ¼ inch thick. Place about ¼ cup of filling into the center of a disk and fold in half, making the top of the half circle join first. Pinch the edges together firmly, starting at the top. Then, fold and twist the edge together starting at the beginning of the half circle and ending at the other side. Place the entire dumpling on the counter so that the folded edge is pointing up, and then gently bend it at the middle to give it a crescent shape. Gently place on an oiled steamer tray and continue with the remaining dough and filling until all the sidu are shaped and placed in the tray, each one not touching each other.

Place the lid on the steamer tray and put this over the water that is already hot. Steam the lot for about 20 minutes, until puffy and cooked. Once finished, take a sidu and place it on a plate. Slice it into several pieces. Drizzle a few spoons of ghee or other oil over the top and serve with a pool of dipping sauce. I dare you to only eat one of these guys. It’s hard for me to believe that this is such an obscure, local dish…it should be famous.

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