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Nepalese 9-Bean Soup (Kawatee)

Healthful and simple, this nutritious soup is named for the nine different beans that go into it. In Nepal, kawatee is eaten during the harsh winters to "warm" and protect the body. Restaurant owner Roshita Shrestha who hails from Kathmandu recommends it for women during confinement and while breast-feeding.

Roshita ate kawatee often after the recent birth of her daughter in Seattle and says it also offers a taste of home. You can use any type of dried beans or legumes to make 2 1/4 cups total.

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Ingredients

1/4 cup dried black beans

1/4 cup dried kidney beans

1/4 cup dried red or green lentils

1/4 cup dried azuki beans

1/4 cup dried black-eyed peas

1/4 cup dried mung beans

1/4 cup dried lentils

1/4 cup dried garbanzo beans

1/4 cup dried soybeans

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, grated (1 teaspoon), plus 1-inch piece ginger, cut into 1/4-inch-thick coins

5 cups water, plus more as needed

2 tablespoons ghee, margarine or butter

1/4 teaspoon ajowan seeds

1/8 teaspoon asafetida powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Directions

1. Rinse all of the beans and pick out any stones and grit. In a large bowl, soak them in enough water to cover by 2 inches for at least 8 hours.

2. In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it becomes runny and starts to shimmer. Add the garlic and grated ginger and cook until fragrant, 15 to 30 seconds. Tip in the beans and stir and cook until lightly browned and well coated in oil, 4 to 5 minutes. Cover and simmer for about 1 1/4 hours, or until the beans are tender and squish easily between your fingers.

3. Toss in the ginger coins and simmer for another 15 minutes. The soup should not be too thick but have the consistency of a thin vegetable stew. Add more water if necessary.

4. To make the tempering oil, heat the ghee in a small skillet over high heat until it melts and starts to bubble gently. Stir in the ajowan seeds and asafetida powder. The mixture will sizzle and sputter. Immediately stir the entire contents of the skillet into the soup. Add the salt and serve hot with basmati rice.

Takes 2 hours (20 minutes active) plus soaking.

Makes 4 main-course servings

From The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook, by Pat Tanumihardja

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