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What Is Baji?

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  • Written By: Bryce Clinton
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 29 July 2014
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Baji is a type of flattened or beaten rice that is a staple of Newari cuisine in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal. In the language of Newari, one of many languages in Nepal, the beaten rice is known as baji. The same beaten rice is called "chiura" in Nepali, Nepal's official language. The flattened dry flakes of rice are used in many types of meals and celebrations.

Making baji involves soaking grains of white rice and pounding the grains flat with a heavy wooden mallet. Usually, it is purchased as a dry, already flattened product that is sold in any store or market. Different varieties of beaten rice, some more expensive than others, come in different thicknesses. Red, which is the thinnest, is considered the best.

Part of a daily urban and rural diet, as well as many elaborate meals and festival dishes, baji is eaten raw or mixed with other foods. It is eaten both dry and moist. When mixed with liquids, such as water or milk, the flattened grains of rice absorb the liquid and become thicker.

Beaten rice dishes come in many forms and preparations. As a popular midday meal, baji is sold at lunch stands and snack bars throughout the city of Kathmandu. It is also eaten as a snack and consumed by workers and farmers in rural areas, often with tea as part of a morning break.

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Flattened rice is considered to be a convenient food for quick dishes. For example, it might be mixed with water or milk to make a kind of porridge. It might be dry roasted and mixed with sugar and yogurt. In some preparations, it might be lightly fried with oil, dried fruit, nuts, and spices. When served as poha, it is steamed with mustard seeds, chili powder, turmeric, and chopped onions.

At more formal occasions, baji is often prepared as Samay Baji. This dish is part of many festivals and is usually included in Newari feasts. It is a mixture of many ingredients and can be prepared to taste in different ways. Samay usually includes many of the following: smoked fish, roasted water buffalo meat, eggs, vegetable curry, yogurt, lentils, spiced potatoes, ginger, garlic, and mustard greens.

Baji is part of most Newari festivals, which are based on the Nepal Sambat, Nepal's national lunar calendar. These festivals happen throughout the year and may last for more than a week at a time, with beaten rice served at many meals. Additionally, it is served at many family celebrations involving social rituals and rites of passage.

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