Nepal. Simple people and heart-warming food. One of the most popular Nepali dishes is the momo, which can be both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Although it looks similar to the Chinese dim sums or dumplings, but it is not. What makes the difference is the filling. This filling (in case of meat momos) has cilantro (coriander leaves), unlike Chinese momos. Additional ingredients are turmeric powder, curry powder nutmeg powder, pepper powder and a special spice mix called momo masala, although these ingredients are optional. Nepali momos are best enjoyed with a variety of Nepali achar (spicy dips), such as the classic spicy tomato-sesame dip or a special kind of soy sauce dip (explained in the recipe below). In addition to the latter, I make another special dip which tastes awesome with Nepali momos. This dip has some mutton (or lamb) broth in it, which acts as the base. I add a little ginger juice, tomato sauce, toasted sesame paste, chilli-garlic sauce and soy sauce to this. Only six ingredients and you get something so addictive that you will find excuses to slurp it just like that!
Although meat is never pre-cooked in the actual momo, I do it. I have a “thing” for semi-cooked meats (the same reason why I avoid eating “raw” steaks). I always quickly pre-cook the meat before I use it as a filling, but that’s just my own preference. (Actually, I pre-cook the meat for another reason as well. I get the mutton broth after pre-cooking, which I use for making my special momo dip!) Momos are not only popular in Nepal itself, but also in Myanmar, Bhutan and in many parts of India (especially in Darjeeling and Sikkim).
What is a momo?
When steamed meat or vegetables (along with other ingredients) are wrapped in flattened-out refined flour dough, you get momos, which are just great for any meal: be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. But momos are best eaten hot, right from the steamer. The momo sauce or dip is treated very seriously: it is the sauce which decides the overall taste of a momo platter. So using the right ingredients in the right amounts is very essential for a good momo achar. Both steamed and fried momos are popular; the shapes may vary from full moon to half-moon. The fried momo is called kothey.
The kinds of stuffing used
If you happen to visit Kathmandu in Nepal, do try the buff momo (which is actually buffalo-meat momo). Chicken and mutton (goat) momos are equally eaten there. Beef, yak, lamb and pork momos are also eaten among the localites. Shrimp momos and vegetarian momos (made up of cabbage, cottage cheese, etc.) are also common.
Three amazing momo achars (dips)
(Achar means pickle. Many people in and around India eat this as a dip with a variety of dishes.)
Red tomato achar: Roast two large tomatoes until charred. Remove the skin and reserve the tomato flesh. In a pan, toast 3/4 cup sesame seeds, ½ tsp cumin seeds and 1 tbsp mustard seeds carefully under low flame. Grind these seeds into a powder. Now blend roasted tomatoes, 1 cup water, ½ cup chopped cilantro, five fresh and red chilies, 3 tbsp lime juice, and salt. Add the ground seed powder, 1 tbsp garlic paste, 1 tbsp ginger paste, 1 tsp white pepper powder and a pinch of asafoetida and process in the blender till you get a smooth mixture.
Black soy achar: This is very simple to make and is also called Sherpa achar. Combine 4 tbsp light soy sauce, 2.5 tbsp lime juice, 1 tbsp mustard oil (this adds a spicy flavour), along with 1 tsp each of finely chopped ginger and garlic. Add 1 tbsp honey and 1 tsp of white pepper powder and mix well with a fork. Do not add water.
My special momo dip: When I am in a hurry, I would rather make my own simple and tangy dip. For this, take the mutton broth (obtained from the momo stuffing, as described in the recipe below), sweet chilli-garlic sauce and dark soy sauce in the proportion of 3:2:1. Add a little crushed garlic and mix well.
Nepali Mutton Momo
(Makes around 30 momos)
Ingredients for the wrapper:
- Refined flour: 4 cups
- Oil: 1 tbsp
- Salt: ¼ tsp
Ingredients for the filling:
- Minced mutton meat (alternately, chicken or lamb mince): 500 g
- Salt: ¾ tsp
- Finely chopped garlic (small): 14
- Ginger paste: ½ tsp
- Coriander leaves or cilantro (finelychopped): ¼ cup
- Soy sauce: ½ tsp
- Vinegar: 1 tsp
- Turmeric powder: ¼ tsp
- White pepper powder: 1 tsp (adjustable)
- Finely chopped green chillies (de-seeded): 4
- Spring onion greens (finely chopped): ½ cup
- Finely chopped onion: ½ cup
Combine flour, oil, salt and water. Knead until the dough is soft and pliable. Cover and keep aside for at least 20 min. Make ping-pong-sized balls out of the dough. Flatten out each of the balls with a rolling pin to make not-too-thin circles. (If you make very thin circles, the momos will tear, as the stuffing is a little juicy.) Cover.
For the filling, mix all the ingredients together, except the last two. Marinate for atleast 30 min.
Add 3 tbsp oil to the wok and when it smokes, add the last two ingredients. Sauté briefly and add the marinated meat. Cook for 5 min. Cover for 3 more min.
When you open the lid, you will see some water coming out of the meat. Switch the gas off and strain the liquid, ensuring that a little amount of liquid is still left in the meat stuffing. We will use this liquid for making the Special Momo Dip.
Take 1 tbsp of the meat stuffing and put it into one of the flour circles. Seal this as shown.
Oil the steamer slightly and place the momos one by one. Cover and let it cook for 7 minutes flat. Momos are ready. Remove carefully, so that the wrappers don’t tear.