A Momo Moment
There is always the hope among food-loving travelers that someday, somehow, whatever city we may be in, we will uncover the most prized possession: a local hotspot that (gasp!)… no Westerner knows about. We dream of the mouth-watering food it will offer, and when our stomachs are up to it, we carouse back alley-ways and follow a hungry-looking local to find it.
Lucky for me, I had an insider’s perspective. A few weeks of Nepali language lessons and a sweet host family helped me to, rather than stumble upon, be pointed a few blocks down to the best momo’s in town.
Never did I think I would put so much thought into the texture and elasticity of a dumpling, the freshness and flavor of its filling, and the spicy contrast of its accompanying sauce. But then again, never did I think I would be living in Nepal. When your Nepalese aamaa is force-feeding you daal baaht (the national dish of lentils and rice) twice a day, you crave something, anything else. Thanks to the Tibettan influence in this primarily Hindu city, the dumpling made its way down the Silk Road and has been transformed into the “momo”, another popular Nepalese favorite.
Like most stores in Nepal, the shop has no name, and is simply identified by the color of the curtain hanging in its storefront. Part of a three-room house, sitting at the table gives you the feel that you are eating in someone’s kitchen, precisely because you are. The only difference is the massive, steaming pot sitting on the gas stove, cooking a days worth of the delicious, juicy little mouthfuls for the neighbors and loyal customers like me.
Don’t be fooled, however. Although the momo’s are the family’s livelihood, they don’t go above and beyond for their customers. Veggie momo’s and a sauce no less then HOT on my spice-o-meter are the only things on the menu, besides a lukewarm Coke. And in true Nepali fashion, it doesn’t open until 1 p.m., so don’t think it’ll substitute for morning daal baht. Nevertheless, the momo’s speak for themselves, and the good news – they have take out, so dinner is another story.
After experiencing these perfect little capsules of freshness, I went on a quest for a momo recipe to take home with me. I stumbled upon this one in a cookbook during my stay at a Tibettan Monastery, and it has been both delicious and fun to make over and over again. Enjoy!
Makes approximately 24 dumplings
¼ cup butter
1 tbsp. fresh ginger root, minced
1 tbsp. fresh garlic, minced
1 cup red onion, diced
1 tbsp. masala (buy in store, or make your own)
1/2 tsp. chilli powder
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 cups mixed vegetables, boiled and chopped (carrot, spinach, green pepper, cabbage, cauliflower
1 cup tofu, crumbled
4 cups of flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 cups water
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tbsp. fresh ginger root, minced
1/2 tbsp. fresh garlic, minced
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 tsp masala (buy in store, or make your own)
2 cups tomato, chopped
1/8 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. chilli powder
2 cups water
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. vinegar
Melt butter in a wok or skillet over medium heat.
Add ginger, garlic and red onion. Stir-fry for 1 minute over medium to medium-high heat.
Add masala, chili powder, black pepper, salt and soy sauce. Stir-fry for another ½ minute.
Add vegetables and tofu. Stir-fry a few minutes more until mixed well.
Remove from heat and place in a bowl. Allow mixture to cool.
Sift salt into flour, and mix well. Slowly add water to the mixture. If the dough is too sticky, add extra flour. If the dough is too stiff, add more water (one teaspoon at a time) to get the right consistency. The dough before resting should be slightly sticky.
Cover the dough and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
Roll dough into a long sausage shape about 1 in. in diameter. Cut into 1/2 in. pieces or about the width of a finger.
Dust pieces with flour and flatten into rounds with the palm of your hand.
With rolling pin, roll out each piece to approximately 3-3 1/2 in. in diameter. The center should be a little thicker than the edges to prevent filing from leaking during cooking.
Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.
Add ginger, garlic and red onion. Stir-fry over medium to medium-high heat for 1 minute.
Add tomatoes, masala, turmeric and chili powder. Mix well and continue to stir-fry for 2 more minutes.
Add water. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
Add pepper, salt, soy sauce and vinegar to taste. Mix well.
Serve hot in bowl.
To Finish Momos:
Put 1 tbsp. of vegetable mixture in the center of a momo wrapper, pull the edges up around the filling and pinch closed. Repeat with remaining filling. I have found this video to be very helpful in this process.
Place momos in greased steamer 1-2 in. apart. Steam for 15 minutes.
Serve hot with momo sauce.
Photo Credit: Katey Parker
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