Nepal: Sel Roti

Posted by on Sep 2, 2014 in Recipes | 3 comments

The second stop on my VeganMofo 2014 world tour is Nepal. I think Nepal just may be one of the most magical places I have been.  To me, it felt somewhat pristine, not too touched by the outside world. I had some genuinely unique experiences there. And the whole time I was there, I ate really, really well.  

Nepalese cuisine is influenced heavily by its neighbors, China to the North and India to the South, and combines those ingredients and flavors in truly distinct ways. For example, one of Nepal’s staple dishes is a curry with bamboo shoots and potatoes.  In Kathmandu I savored vegetable-filled momo (dumplings), ate delightful dals and takari (vegetable curries), and feasted on flavorful vegetable pulao. I don’t think I was forced to stick to rice even once. The one thing I had to look out for was ghee, used in some dishes. But I actually found that in most of the places I ate, vegetable oil was more commonly used than the clarified butter. 

Nepalese culture also is a bit of a melting pot. While the majority of the population identify as Hindu, there is a small but significant percentage of Buddhists and both Hindu and Buddhist temples dot the landscape. I was lucky enough to have a stellar view of the Boudhanath Buddhist temple from my hotel room.

Boudhanath Temple

Boudhanath Temple

Prayer wheels

Prayer wheels

After exploring it one afternoon, I went to grab something to eat at a nearby restaurant and was joined for lunch by a Buddhist Monk who sat down with me and started chatting for the better part of an hour. 

An impromptu lunch meeting…

An impromptu lunch meeting…

Bhaktapur, about a half hour drive outside of Kathmandu, is one of the most special places I have ever visited. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is dotted with temples and palaces in various states of decay.  It’s name literally means “place of devotees.”

Old wheels in Bhaktapur

Old wheels in Bhaktapur

I spent the better part of a day there taking every piece of it in. 

Temple

Newar Temple

I loved the sculptures that guarded the entrances to the temples. 

Isn't he adorable?

Isn’t he adorable?

But most of all, I loved that despite the special nature of this place, people really lived and worked and played there. 

A universal game?

A universal game?

Drying grains and spices

Drying grains and spices

Rice Fields in Bhaktapur

Rice Fields in Bhaktapur

Another incredible place to visit was Pashupatinath Temple.  This is the oldest and most sacred Hindu temple in Nepal and is revered as one of the greatest Shiva sites. 

Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath Temple

A friend and I got up early one morning and ventured out there at dawn to take it in.  Only Hindus can enter the temple, so we sat on the banks of the river from the other side and watched as people practiced various rituals, including cremations, along the banks of the Bagmati River. 

On the banks of the Bagmati River...

On the banks of the Bagmati River…

A painting of Ganesh at the Pashupatinath Temple complex

A painting of Ganesh at the Pashupatinath Temple complex

The few hours I spent there will be forever etched in my memory…  

Cows are considered the most sacred animal in Nepal. But shouldn't all animals be considered sacred?

Cows are considered the most sacred animal in Nepal. But shouldn’t all animals be considered sacred?

There was so much more I loved about Kathmandu (like the silver jewelry and glorious massages), and so many more pictures I could share. But I’ll save them for another day.

When I was in Nepal there was one thing I wanted to try but couldn’t because the traditional recipe is decidedly not vegan: sel roti. Sel roti is a donut-like pastry that is made with rice and therefore is naturally gluten-free.

A stack of sel roti!

A stack of sel roti!

The original is made with soaked rice, ghee, sugar, sometimes banana, and occasionally milk. It was originally eaten only during Tihar, a Hindu Festival, but now its commonly sold by vendors throughout the streets of Nepal. Because I couldn’t have it in Nepal, I decided that for my VeganMofo tour I would make a very untraditional, but delicious and vegan version of this Nepalese treat. Instead of ghee, I used coconut oil and instead of the  milk, I used nice thick and creamy coconut milk. 

Don't they look delicious?

Don’t they look delicious?

Figuring out how to shape them was a bit of a challenge at first! To make sel roti’s distinct thin, round shape, you actually pour the batter into hot oil in a circular pattern. My first attempt was a bit of a disaster (too much batter!)

Sel roti mishaps…

Sel roti mishaps…

But, I soon got the hang of it.  The trick is using a flexible container from which to pour the batter, so that you can control how much you’re pouring out at any given time.  Too much and you’ll get a gooey mess. Too little and you’ll get thin strands. 

But without further ado, the recipe…. 

Sel Roti
Yields 12
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Total Time
13 hr
Total Time
13 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups white rice
  2. 1/2 - 3/4 cup coconut milk (Canned, not light).
  3. 2 tbsps coconut oil
  4. 1 vanilla pod
  5. 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
  6. 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  7. 2 cloves
  8. pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Rinse rice and soak in about two cups of water for at least 12 hours, or overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse rice, then add to blender, along with 1/2 cup of coconut milk and all other ingredients. If you have a high-speed blender, like a vitamix, you can chop up the vanilla pod into 1-inch pieces and add the entire thing. If you don't, slit the vanilla pod down the middle, scrape out the seeds and add them to your blender.
  3. Blend until completely smooth. The batter should be thick, but pourable. If it is too thick, add more coconut milk.
  4. Let the batter sit for 20 minutes.
  5. Heat about 2 inches of vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed, high-sided pan. I used my dutch oven and it helped to minimize dangerous splashes and contain the oil.
  6. The oil should heat to about 380 degrees, or start to release tiny bubbles.
  7. Pour some of the batter into a flexible cup or container and pour the batter in a circular motion directly in the oil to make a circle.
  8. Allow the sel roti to cook until a light golden brown, then using tongs, carefully flip it over to the other side and cook until it is also a light golden brown.
  9. Carefully remove from the oil and place on a paper towel to drain excess oil.
  10. Repeat until all batter has been used.
  11. Dust lightly with powdered sugar (or not), and serve!
Notes
  1. Sel roti are best eaten right away. They are okay the next day, but not nearly as yummy as they are fresh.
Vegan Sweet and Simple http://vegansweetandsimple.com/
They turned out better than I could have imagined! My partner and I devoured far too many in one sitting. 

Sel roti and strawberries! Oh my!

Sel roti and strawberries! Oh my!

Such an indulgence, but oh so good!

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3 Comments

  1. What a beautiful post! I’ve never been to Nepal, but this year I was fortunate enough to visit Darjeeling & Gangtok. As they are quite close to Nepal, the cultures overlap quite a bit.

    This Sel Roti looks AMAZING — and I love that it’s gluten-free — can’t wait to try it! What a treat!

    • PS. My favourite Indian sweets are jalebis — but as they are made with wheat flour, they aren’t gluten-free. I am really excited to try these and see if they hit the jalebi-craving spot!

      • Thanks so much for your comments Lindsay! Of course, I had to go look up jalebi. They look yum! I definitely have ideas about how to de-glutenize them and make vegan versions. Might have to try (after VeganMoFo is done of course). :)

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