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Base Camp Secrets
Base Camp - Friday, May 09, 2003


Everest 2003 Dispatch Photo
Base Camp
High-altitude Chess

Hello again in cyberland,

While the team's away, the BC mice will play - and here at Base Camp that can mean only one thing: SHERPA POTATO PANCAKES! Yes you read that right. You see, Sherpa Potato Pancakes take quite a long time to make, so it's hard to make enough of them to feed the whole group. But as soon as they are gone - YUM! Here's how it goes:
(Ong Chu says these are instructions to feed two people)
The ingredients are:

  • 4 or 5 medium sized potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • enough flour to make the thickness of pancake batter

The first step is to peel, boil, and grate the potatoes. The secret is that they have to be grated really really fine so they come out like mush. Many Sherpas say that commercial graters that you can buy in stores don't really do the job right, so they make their own graters. Recommended is driving the fine point of a nail through a metal plate over and over to make many little holes and rough spots. I don't think the potato mush actually goes through the holes, the potatoes just get more or less liquefied. I suspect your average kitchen blender would do the job, but I have yet to see one of these in the Khumbu.

Next, mix in the eggs and flour and fry in a frying pan just like the pancakes we know. The Sherpas make them big so one pancake covers the entire bottom of the frying pan. It's finished when it's cooked and brown. The Sherpas make them of a consistency that does hold together. If they fall apart, the batter is too dry (too much flour).

Now for the magic touch: the sauce. We Westerners are used to eating sweet things on our pancakes (syrup, jam, honey, etc.) In typical Nepali fashion, the Sherpas go for spicy. The closest I can come to describing the sauce is to tell you to buy an individual yogurt-size container of sour cream. Into that mix ground/grated up fresh hot red pepper to taste. If you like hot, go for it! I don't know if the blender would work for grinding the peppers, or maybe a mortar and pestle. The Sherpas do it the basic way, grinding the peppers with one rock against another. Experiment.

When the pancakes are hot and ready, spread with nak (female yak) butter and the special sauce and enjoy. Believe me, it's GREAT. I'm almost ready to not let the team come back down just so we can have them again soon.

So even though the team deserts Camp II and comes tumbling back down the Icefall to get in on the pancake feed whenever they hear me say it: this is Ellie Henke signing off for Alpine Ascents International, Everest Base Camp (Burp!)

Ellie Henke, Alpine Ascents International Guide and MountainZone.com Correspondent

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