Momos | Photo by Matt Russell
Momos | Photo by Matt Russell
As a 10-year-old child in Nepal, Lizen Amatya loved momo, the country’s ubiquitous dumpling dish. “One day my dad picked me up from school, and I remember it very well, I asked him to take me to the momo spot,” says Amatya. “I was so excited to eat it, I swallowed it and it got stuck in my throat.” Except for the suffocation incident, Amatya momo’s obsession has never waned.
Instead, years and miles later, he founded Momo Shack Dumplings in suburban Dallas with childhood friends and classmates Thang Duong and Daniel Flores. But it’s Amatya’s mother, Minu, the chef behind Momo Shack. Together, they help bring momo into the culinary lexicon of pastry dishes.
When the Amatya family emigrated to the US in the early 2000s, momo remained his link to his Nepalese roots. “I don’t think I’ve met a Nepalese who doesn’t like momos,” says Amatya. And soon, if not already, he will not meet a soul who does not like the dumplings that are starting to pop up everywhere. (Not far from Dallas, where Irving has one of the largest Nepalese-American communities in the country, there are two momo-themed restaurants: Momo Stop and Cafemandu.)
Two thousand miles from Dallas, in the Pacific Northwest, people are serving soul-warming omos from the window of a Kathmandu Momocha food truck parked outside a Seattle brewery. In Oregon, Tenzin Yeshi-Men makes momo for his company Himalayan Dumplings, the first women-owned food brand in the US. a 10ft tent to share their Tibetan culture from which Momos originate.
“I don’t think I’ve met a Nepalese who doesn’t like momos.”
Tents, huts, family shops, upscale restaurants and street food vendors sell momos alike throughout Nepal and beyond. In Kashmir, India’s northernmost region, London-based chef and culinary expert Romi Gill watched families cook momos at home.
“I grew up on momo because it’s a very common street food in India,” where steamer baskets holding up to 200 momos await hungry passers-by, says Gill. But the chef and author whose latest cookbook The Himalayan Trail: Recipes and Stories from Kashmir to Ladakh debuted this month, hand-shaped momos at a village farm in a valley in Ladakh.
“I wanted to learn how They I do it because I know other people do it differently,” says Gill. In Ladakh, the filling can be lamb, vegetables or paneer – less often chicken, rarely spicy. Whereas in Nepal, Amatya says, buffalo meat is a common filling, and momos are almost always accompanied by spicy chutney. “But you don’t burn out on food,” he promises Amatya.
The dough is often made with chapatis, a finely ground whole-grain flour that makes hearty dumplings that can be steamed, pan-fried, or simmered in soup broth. Parcels can be pinched and folded in several ways: in the shape of a crescent, not unlike gyoza, in the form of plump round cakes with folds and a depression at the top the size of a thumb.
Basically, not all momos are created equal. There are so many differences from country to country, and even within regions. “From the outside, it looks like any other dumpling,” says Amatya. “But it’s what’s inside that matters: aromatics and herbs from South Asia, ginger, garlic, tsutsim, coriander and the like, as well as cilantro, green onions, red onions, finely chopped.”
Amatya’s mother and Momo Shack chef Minu were once riding their moped through the busy streets of Lalitpur, Nepal, passing momo vendors along the way. Now she and her family are spreading the momo gospel in the United States, one Nepali-style dumpling at a time.
• 2 ½ cups atta chapati flour (or all-purpose flour), plus extra for dusting
• A pinch of salt
• ⅔-1 glass of room temperature water
• 2 teaspoons sunflower oil
• 2 tablespoons white cabbage, finely grated
• 2 tablespoons carrots, peeled and finely grated
• 2 tablespoons potatoes, peeled and finely grated
• 1 ½ tablespoons onion, finely chopped
• 1 ½ tablespoons spinach, finely chopped
• 1 green chili, chopped
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1 teaspoon salt
1. For the dough, sift the flour into a bowl and add a pinch of salt. Gradually add water, stirring and kneading until you get an elastic dough. Drizzle the dough with oil, turning it over, cover with a kitchen towel and leave for 20-30 minutes at room temperature.
2. In the meantime, make the filling. Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Divide the dough into about 30 equally sized balls, each weighing about 10-12 grams (½ ounce).
3. Dust a work surface with flour, then roll out one of the balls into thin circles about 8 centimeters (3 inches) in diameter, one at a time. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of the filling in the middle of each circle of dough, then press the sides together with your thumb and forefinger to seal each packet.
4. Repeat until you have used up all the dough and filling. Fill a steamer pot with water, line the bottom of the steamer with parchment paper and poke a few holes in it. Place over high heat and bring to a boil.
5. Working in batches, place the momos on baking paper, cover the pan with a lid and steam for 10-12 minutes until the momos are translucent.
Reprinted from Romy Gill’s The Himalayan Trail: Recipes and Stories from Kashmir to Ladakh with permission from Hardy Grant, 2022.
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