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In Nepal and India, pumpkin is never sweetened and served as a dessert like pie. It’s always spiced up and prepared as a savory dish. Farsi tarkari can best be described as a pumpkin stew. It originates from the Jyapu agricultural caste of the Newari people in the Kathmandu Valley. The mode of preparation differs among households, depending on the availability of ingredients. Its fragrant combination of flavors and nutrients not only awakens the senses but boosts the immune system, leaving you with a clean, alert feeling.

Farsi Tarkari

Serves 4-5


  • 8tbsp any oil (except flavored oil or olive oil)
  • 1tbsp fresh minced ginger
  • 1tbsp fresh minced garlic
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1tsp Sichuan pepper
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper (or paprika for a non-spicy substitute)
  • 6 cups bite-size cut pumpkin (half a small pumpkin””ideally kabocha or buttercup pumpkin; if you use another kind you may need to adjust the water amount and cooking time)
  • 4 cups water
  • 10-12 sprigs of fresh chives (traditionally we use zimbu wild dried chives)

Step 1: In a medium heavy saucepan gradually bring 6 tbsp oil to medium heat, then add ginger and garlic. Sauté until light golden brown. Add the pumpkin and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the spices and salt and sauté at medium heat until the spices nicely coat the pumpkin (3 to 5 minutes). Add water and let it simmer for 15 minutes.

Step 2: Beat the fresh chives with the side of a knife to extract the juice from the chives, which will later create a nice flavor and fragrant smell, then cut chives into 1-inch pieces. In a separate small saucepan heat the remaining 2 tbsp oil until very hot, then toss in the beaten, cut chives. Quickly stir and then pour the oil and chive mixture over the stew. This toasting step should be done within 10 seconds.

Step 3: Adjust the spice and salt seasoning to your preference. Enjoy as is or serve with rice or bread.

About the Contributor

Dawa Bhuti is the chef and co-owner of Dawa’s restaurant in Queens. Her family is originally from Tibet, and she was born in Nepal and grew up in Tibetan refugee boarding schools in India. In school and college she learned about different cultures and cuisines. She realized that many cultures share the same concept of a dish but prepare it differently according to the availability of ingredients and local traditions. In this sense food creates familiarity and unites us.

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Photographs courtesy of the author