Nepal, the land of mighty Himalaya and humble people. It is said that ‘you are what you eat’ and that’s what exactly is reflected in a typical Nepali’s character; simplicity, subtleness and sweetness. If you ever get a chance to explore Nepali cuisine, you will find that almost all Nepali traditional food preparations are simple to cook and easy to digest, but then there are few dishes which are deep-fried, irresistible and have been there on the Nepalese platters for ages. Sel Roti, Arsa, Fini and Anarasa are four such dishes which have their roots deep into Nepali kitchens and are part the dining table during every special occasion. Since Nepal is predominantly a rice-eating nation, the base of all these rotis is rice only. Let’s move on and figure out the significance and preparation of each item.
SEL ROTI – Nepal’s very own version of Donut
Sel Roti is a sweet, deep-fried, cylindrical type of sweet bread which arguably is a ‘must-have’ of all Nepali platters on all special occasions. This roti is star during the most celebrated festivals of Dashain and Tihar. It will not be wrong to say that it is the go-to dish in every elderly woman’s cookbook in the household when it comes to special preparation for a special affair in the family. Preparations include, coarsely ground rice which is soaked overnight beforehand, semolina, sugar, ghee, cardamom powder, clove powder, and oil for deep frying. The right amount of everything mixed with the bright emotions of festivities results in the crispy golden brown hot served Sel Roti ready to be devoured by the loved ones in the family. Traditionally, the batter mix is poured into hot oil using hands and given its round shape, but these days people avoid using their hands to not make them messy and keep the kitchen clean; in such cases, a special Sel roti funnel called ‘soli’ is used. Today, there is innovative and durable soli available in the market called Salcko Sel Roti maker, which is zero-contact sel roti batter dispenser/soli. Using this sel roti machine, you can control the flow of batter with the use of your thumb and avoid making your kitchen messy. Also, no more burning your skin with splattered oil while cooking the Nepali Sel roti traditional way because Salcko Sel Roti maker is food-grade, stainless steel soli. So, how to make Sel roti and how to make perfect Sel roti are no more questions that need to be answered!
FINI ROTI– the crispy white saga
Fini roti is multi-layered flatbread style preparation which also deep-fried and is bland in taste. Over time Fini has become an inseparable part of Nepali festive platter. Like Sel roti, you will find this roti on the Nepali festive platter during Dashain and Tihar. The base, like Sel Roti is rice flour batter, but all-purpose flour (maida) is also added to balance the batter. Its crispy, bland taste is often matched with different kinds of spicy pickle, aalu side dishes and meat in some regions. The preparation includes, maida, finely ground rice flour, ghee, pinch of salt and oil for deep frying. It is said that the reason behind Fini roti’s bland taste is to balance out the other sweet and spicy preparations on the Nepali platter. Being bland doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a taste or aroma of its own; the rice flour adds the hint of sweetness, the pinch of salt added gives that slight clue of saltiness, the ghee gives it that irresistible aroma, maida deep fried in vegetable oil gives it that ultimate crispiness, the sound of which resonates the festivities in the Nepali household.
ARSA ROTI- a jaggery-rice flour love affair
A deep-fried traditional delicacy, especially for those with a big sweet tooth; Arsa roti is a traditional sweet, deep-fried flatbread which is a sinful indulgence of almost all Nepali households. Its significance is doubled around the Nepali traditional festivals like Vijaya Dashami, bhai tika/tihar, etc. The base is rice flour and jaggery syrup mixed with lot love and festive mood and the result is perfect round-shaped sugar-sweet Arsa roti. The preparation includes a mixed batter of rice flour, jaggery syrup, ghee, fennel seeds, cardamom powder and oil for deep frying. People often eat Fini roti and Arsa roti to balance out the sweetness in Arsa roti with the blandness of Fini roti. The use of jaggery syrup in Arsa roti finds its roots in the abundant availability of sugarcane in and around certain hilly regions of Nepal. However sweet it may be, but a Nepali household never backs down on eating this roti on festive occasions because its taste reminds them of the true Nepali culture with every bite.