Friday, July 26, 2013

Momos - म:म: or मोमो (Dumplings)

Meat or Vegetable Filled Momo (म:म: or मोमो ) 
Enter the... MOMO  (म:म:) one of  Nepal's most cherished dishes.

Momos are bite-size dumplings with a meat or vegetable filling, wrapped in a dough accompanied by spicy dipping sauce.

When it comes to simple, delicious, one-meal dishes of Nepal, you can't beat the famous MOMOS म:म:  served with a variety of dipping sauces.
A traditional serving of meat-filled Momo dumplings, brimming with delicate and flavorful juices served with traditional tomato chutney and yellow chili-tomato-sesame seed sauce.
Deep-fried Momo - (तारेको म: म:)
Momo, म:म: - also known as momo-cha ममचा, is one of the most popular dishes in Nepal.  They are bite-size dumplings made with a spoonful of stuffing wrapped in dough.  Momos are usually steamed, though they are sometimes fried or steam-fried.  The filling of meat or vegetables becomes succulent as it produces an intensively flavored broth sealed inside the wrappers.

This history (origin) of momo in Nepal is uncertain and clearly rustic in their origin.  No one knows precisely how and when the momo traveled or originated in Nepal and why it was named momo.  Since this dish is popular among the Newar community of Kathmandu valley, one prevalent belief is that Newari traders brought momo techniques from Lhasa, Tibet.  They modified the seasonings of the dish with available ingredients, using water buffalo meat, and gave the dish a Nepali name.  Others believe the dish was introduced to Nepali cuisine by Tibetans who migrated to live in the mountains of Nepal.  Whatever its origins, the momo has since evolved to suit the Nepali palate.

Momos are a traditional delicacy in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling and Ladakh. They are one of the most popular fast foods in many regions of the Indian Subcontinent especially in places with a significant Nepalese and Tibetan diaspora, such as Assam, Delhi, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Himachal Pradesh, Shillong, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal......continue here....

In Nepal, the traditional momo is prepared with ground meat filling, but over the past several years, this has changed and become more elaborate.  These days, momos are prepared with virtually any combination of ground meat, vegetables, tofu, paneer cheese, vegetable & meat combination. Today, momos  are given fancy names such as meetho momo (मीठो म: म:), swaadista momo (स्वादिस्ट म: म:), raseelo momo (रसीलो म: म:), Himalayan momo (हिमालयन म: म:) and the list goes on and on.  For meat filling, any variety of ground meat, such as goat, lamb, pork, water buffalo, yak, chicken, turkey and sea food combined with fresh herbs and spices can be used for filling. Sometimes two different kinds of meat and vegetables are used to give a different taste. Traditionally Nepalese prefer the meat that has a lot of fat, because it produces intensively flavored juicy momos.  The best momos are always juicy, so sometimes a little oil is added to the leanest types of ground meat to keep the filling moist.  All sorts of vegetables can be used to create the vegetable filling.  The vegetables must be cut into very small pieces, and flavored with fresh herbs and spices and cooked lightly before used for filling. The filling mixture should not be watery, as it will be difficult to seal the dough wrappers as the filling mixture will fall apart. Potatoes and cabbage are a popular vegetable combination.

Momo making: A family Affair
Making momos is an enjoyable affair.  Family, friends and relatives often gather together to spend a joyful leisurely time preparing momos together.  The dough is rolled very thin, the filling is placed in the center, and then the momo is shaped and sealed into small packets, leaving some space for it to fill with broth that collects during steaming process.  Although momo shaping is an art that takes patience and practice to keep the filling inside its wrapper, even young children can learn to join in the fun.  They can also help pound the herb and spices in a mortar and pestle as fresh herbs prepared this way always tastes best.

Serving Momos
Elderly relatives, friends, and most respected family members are honored with serving the first batch of freshly steamed momos.  Children are generally served a less spicy version.  Instead of eating them all at once, guests are served momos in small quantities, which keeps them coming for second and third helpings.  The cook, host, and hostess always take pleasure in serving others before they start eating their own momos.

Freshly steamed momos taste best served piping hot straight from the steamers arranged pleated side up on a warmed plate.  If they are served as a one-meal dish, a good helping of six to eight on a plate with a separate small bowl of spicy dipping chutney or sauce should do well as the first helping.  A meat-filled momo has to be eaten whole, as the flavorful juice in its steamed pocket will start dribbling out if it is broken.  Though a well-seasoned juicy momo does not really need any extra condiments, it is usually accompanied by a freshly made hot and fiery tomato chutney.  It can also be served with fresh cilantro chutney, sesame paste, spicy ground peanut dip, garlic chili sauce or any other chutney of your choice. 

Fresh momo dough is made by mixing flour with water and kneading until the dough becomes smooth. Making dough is a matter of personal preference, as some cooks prefer white all-purpose flour to whole wheat flour because it it makes a smooth and elastic dough, and others like to mix two parts white flour with one part whole wheat.  Either way, the dough is kneaded until it is slightly sticky and then left at room temperature to rest for at least a half hour, covered with a damp kitchen cloth, and then rolled out very thin and cut into three-inch circles.  If you have time, your momos prepared with homemade wrappers will be tastier than those made with store-bought wrappers.  Experienced Nepali cooks pride themselves on rolling the thinnest possible wrappers.

In the United States, many families sometimes make momo using commercial dumpling wrappers, known as wonton wrappers or gyoza, found in the Asian sections of larger supermarkets or Asian markets.  Commercial wrappers, which come in round or square shapes are convenient if you are in hurry.  If you decide to buy wrappers, make sure they are the paper-thin kind, that become translucent when cooked. The wrappers tend to get soggy quickly, and should be steamed right after filling.

Experience Nepal's hospitality by savoring these popular one-dish meal. Making homemade momos is a long established tradition in many Nepali families. Each family takes pride in their own version of savory stuffing and the way they fold the dough wrappers.  Momo preparation is surely a family activity, where several generations of family members and friends gather together and help to make momo dumplings.   Here is my step-by-step method of preparing basic, health-conscious-low-fat momo using lean turkey and pork. Please scroll down at the end of this posting for recipes for basic traditional ground lamb momos and dough wrappers.

Pork & Turkey Momo Filling recipe
Any variety of ground meat such as (lamb, goat, water buffalo, chicken) can be used for the recipe. The spicing can be altered to suit one's taste, keeping in mind that too many spices will mask the natural flavor of meat.  Momos are best served immediately after steaming.
  • 1 1/2 lb lean ground pork
  • 1 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 1 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 to 5 green onions (white and green parts), finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small head fresh green cabbage, trimmed and shredded (about 2 cups)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  •  1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and 1/2 cup of water.  Cover the stuffing mixtures and let it rest for 10 minutes, at room temperature, for the flavors to blend. The recipe for making fresh dough wrappers are given at the end of the posting. Fill the momo wrappers, seal, steam them for 10 minutes, and serve as an appetizer, afternoon snack, or one dish meal served with chutney or a dipping sauce. Follow the instruction for rolling the dough, assembling, and steaming below.

Dumpling steamer - momo pakaaune bhaadaa - (म: म: पकाउने भाडा) - The stacked steamer is mainly used for steaming stuffed dumplings.  It is made of aluminum or stainless steel and comprised of two to three racks with holes allowing steam to pass through.  The bottom pots holds water and has a domed lid, which prevents water from dripping onto the steamed food.  Method of steaming  momos - Grease a steamer tray with oil or cooking spray.  You can also line the steamer tray with cabbage or lettuce leaves if you leave 1/2-inch margin so that the steam can circulate.  Fill the base of the steamer with 3 to 4 inches of water and bring to a boil.
...chopping the fresh ingredients to mix with momo meat  - finely chopped fresh cilantro (fresh coriander),  red onion, fresh green chili peppers,  green onions - (white and green parts),  peeled and finely minced fresh ginger,  finely minced garlic cloves, shredded green cabbage.
Getting ready to mix ground turkey and pork
In a large bowl, combining the ground meat with freshly chopped herb and spices until all the ingredients and thoroughly mixed.
Rolling the dough and filling the momos...
Rolling out the dough with a rolling pin - when rolling the dough, leave the center a little thicker than the edges.  This will make the wrapper easier to shape and seal around its filling, and will provide extra support to hold the juice that accumulates when momos are steaming.
Holding the wrapper in one hand, place the filling in the center and use the other hand to gather the edges and seal the stuffing inside by squeezing the edges tightly, making small pleats to securely seal in the filling.  Pleats make the momo pretty, like a bite-size bag closed tight with a drawstring.  Take care not to stuff too full, or it will leak.  Keep the filled momos and the unfilled momos covered with damp kitchen towel while working.
Fun to make different shape of momos -  take the filling and place in the center of the wrapper, and bring one half of dough to meet the other half and tightly seal making attractive pleats.  They have to be well sealed, if not they will fall apart, and will loose the broth while steaming.
Getting ready to be steamed - arrange the momos on one or two trays, with pleated side up, close together, but not touching.
Fill the base of the steamer with 3 to 4 inches of water and bring it to a full boil over medium-high heat.  Place the momo tray in the steamer.  Cover tightly to prevent the steam from escaping.  Steam until the dumplings are translucent and juicy.  If you are using 2 stacked steamer trays switch the top with bottom halfway through the cooking so the momos will cook evenly.
Getting ready to be served - Do not over cook, or the momos will dry up, leaving the filling tasteless.
Welcome family and friends! Here are my mouthwatering momos served with hot and fiery tomato chutney (मोमो र पीरो गोलभेडा को अचार).
...Close-up look of freshly steamed momo dumpling
Here is a picture of freshly steamed vegetarian momo (mushroom, cabbage, carrot, shredded paneer cheese) served in a fancy decorative platter
Serving pan-sauteed momos with tomato and peanut sauce - pan-fried momos are usually made from leftover steamed momos, by browning first and then steamed in the pan.  They are golden brown and slightly crunchy outside, but moist and juicy inside. This is done by first heating a small quantity of oil in a cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Place the momos in the skillet pleated side up in one layer without touching each other.  Fry until the bottoms are lightly golden brown.  Add 1/4 cup of cold water and cover the pan.  Continue cooking until the liquid has been absorbed and the wrappers are slightly crispy.
Momo dipping sauces - (left) hot & spicy classic momo sauce made with tomato, chili pepper, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, lemon juice, (back)  no cook salsa style tomato sauce (right) cilantro chutney.
Here is a picture of another variety of momo dipping sauce - Roasted cherry tomato chutney (front) is a Nepali classic, prepared fresh daily. Traditionally, the tomatoes are roasted in a small clay pot (makkal) over a charcoal fire, resulting in a smoky flavor.  The roasted tomatoes are then crushed in a stone mortar and pestle, and their tangy taste is enhanced by the addition of Nepali timbur (szechwan pepper).
No-cook tomato chutney (salsa style) for momos - Basic ingredients are vine-ripped tomatoes, fresh green chilies, chopped cilantro, red onions, fresh garlic and ginger, lemon juice, szechwan pepper (timbur), mustard oil and salt. Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until you get the consistency of salsa.

Test the Best! This juicy steamed momos are prepared from the ground water buffalo meat and are called "Buff momo".  The wrappers are very thinly rolled and the filling is deliciously spicy and juicy, served along with tangy yellow chutney and classic spicy tomato sauce that compliments the taste of steamed momos.
The next five pictures were captured in Kathmandu where the locals like the authentic traditional momos, Nepali way.  Over the past several years, momos have become so popular and readily available in many restaurant menus. But it was not like that when my husband was growing up in Kathmandu.  He remembers eating the most delicious and authentic momo in the run-down simple Momo House located near the Ranjana Cinema Hall galli (alley) in the old part of Kathmandu downtown. They were the pioneer for introducing the most authentic momos in town.  I wonder how many people under the age of thirty would know about this place now.  I am sure the older generation are still talking about Ranjana galli ko raseelo momocha - रन्जना गल्ली को रसिलो मोमोचा (translation - Ranjana alley's juicy momos).
Crowd pleasing momo at a local restaurant in Kathmandu - when you are cooking momos in this quantity, a heavy-duty large steamer definitely works best.  They are made by local cookware makers in Kathmandu.  Just look at the efficient method of using a two-tier rack for steaming!
Freshly steamed momo brimming with savory juice
Another street vendor selling freshly prepared momo with dipping sauce.  For Man Bahadur, the momo cooking is a daily chore in the streets of Kathmandu.  He must take pride in his skillfully prepared delicious steamed momos, as there is always a large crowd around his cart.
These days, in the streets of Kathmandu, you will see many street vendors skillfully preparing momos in their food cart - rolling the dough, wrapping with stuffing, and steaming in the tiered- steamer and selling fresh momos accompanied by dipping sauce from their cart. A warm plate of freshly steamed momo is a  popular quick street food. 
Recipe for ground lamb-filled momos - recipe copied from the book "Taste of Nepal" - page 281 (under Dumplings).

Fresh Momo wrappers recipe  - The Taste of Nepal Cookbook - Page 277 under Dumplings
Here are some useful links that you may want to check out about momos.  For a very informative article by Aarti Basnet about Momo Mania, please click here.  Momo with Pemba Lama (from the Ultimate Nepalese Cookbook), please click here. Nepali Momo (Nepalese Meat Dumplings) by Tulsi Regmi, please click here.

Sending Namaskar to the subscriber and readers to the "Taste of Nepal blog", - I would like to thank you for your interest in my blog.  I hope you enjoyed reading about momos, the most loved food of Nepal.  Please keep visiting my blog and drop me a few line in the comment section of the blog about what you liked, what I missed, or what you are looking forward in my selection of topic for my next blog.

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