Although I love exploring new cities on my own, I often look for tours that give me unique insight into the local culture or provide an opportunity for me to connect with locals. While my current Nepal guide has been indispensible in navigating the country, acting as my translator, carrying my luggage (I objected, but he insisted since he used to be a porter), and helping me swap hotels, the “tour package” he created for me was pretty status quo as far as itineraries go; it hits the country’s highlights. That is great, but I wanted more… so I signed up for a cooking tour. What better way to immerse myself in Nepali culture than to get down and dirty and cook a Nepalese dish?
I had read that momos are a national dish in Nepal so I was eager to try some during my stay. When I saw them, however, they looked just like the Chinese dumpling! In fact, the Chinese were the ones who brought dumplings to Tibet. The Tibetans took the essence of the dumpling and tweaked the recipe to their liking. Next the Nepalis learned how to make the dumplings from the Tibetans and gave the recipe their own spin. Today, momos are sold all over the country and come in all types: vegetable momos, chicken momos, buff (buffalo) momos – supposedly there are even dessert momos. You can get an order of 12 momos for as little as $1-$2USD.
Since momos are so popular in Nepal, the cooking tour was a lesson in how to make them. Lucky for me there were only two others on the tour with me (I love small tours). We started off at 10:30am with a quick shopping trip to a nearby “grocery store” in Thamel to pick up veggies and flour.
Then it was off to the vendor around the corner who was busy mincing the chicken by hand.
Once we got the goods, we got crackin’ in the kitchen. Our tour guide laid out all the ingredients and put us to work washing, cutting, and chopping the tomatoes, onions, and cabbage. The tomatoes were then heated with spices to make the momo dipping sauce.
The onions and cabbage are used in the momo filling. As a result, they had to be diced super finely and that alone took a while since none of us is used to mincing our veggies. Had we known we’d have to chop the veggies so much we probably would have requested to make daal bhaat, the other national dish, instead! We also shredded carrots, sliced scallions, and mashed garlic for the filling.
Once the filling was ready, we prepared the momo dough and got busy wrapping. I channeled the Chinese blood in me and figured out how to wrap the momos pretty quickly. I can’t say the same for the other two Americans – one kept overfilling his momos and wondering why he couldn’t wrap them and the other plain quit after a while because she couldn’t nail the technique. All three of us, however, agreed we’d rather buy momos than make them ourselves!
Once we finished making the 100+ momos, they were steamed for 12-15 minutes.
In all, it took us about 2 hours to make everything. Ours weren’t as pretty as the “professional” ones but they tasted just as good!
P.S. For the record, I still prefer Chinese dumplings to momos. Chinese dumplings are juicier and “simpler” in flavor since it doesn’t have a slew of spices added in the filling…that said, I appreciate the Nepalese take on the dumpling and you can’t beat the price.
If you’re interested in making momos, here’s the recipe we used:
Momo Recipe (serves 6-8 people)
Ingredients for the filling
- 1 kg flour
- 1 Kg minced chicken
- 5 Red onion, finely chopped
- 1 Cup green onion, finely chopped
- 200 gm cabbage, finely chopped
- 3 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 3 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
- 1⁄2 kg tomato (fried it at first)
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon red chilies powder
- 2 teaspoon MoMo Masala
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 3 teaspoon sunflower oil
- 1 tablespoon ghee (if vegetarian momos)
- Salt to taste
Ingredients for the dough
- Wheat Flour
- Adequate water
Ingredients for the tomato sauce
- 1⁄2 kg Tomatoes (roasted or grilled)
- Green Coriander
- 2 teaspoon garlic
- Salt according to taste
- 1 teaspoon Chilli powder or 5 piece green chilies
- Heat all the tomato sauce ingredients together and set aside. This is the dipping sauce for the momos.
- Make the dough for the wrapper: Add about 3 glasses of water to the dough. Mix well, knead until the dough becomes homogeneous in texture, about 10-15 min. Cover and let stand for at least 20 min. Knead well again before making wrappers. Set aside.
- Mix all the filling ingredients together in a mixer, combine it in a large bowl with meat. Mix well with hand, adjust for seasoning with salt.
- Give the dough a final knead. Take a ball, roll between your palms to spherical shape. Dust working board with dry flour.
- On the board gently flatten the ball with your palm to about 2-in circle. Make a few semi-flattened circles, cover with a bowl. Use a rolling pin to roll out each flattened circle into a wrapper.
- Important: For well executed momos, it is essential that the middle portion of the wrapper be slightly thicker than the edges to ensure the structural integrity of dumplings during packing and steaming. Hold the edges of the semi-flattened dough with one hand and with the other hand begin rolling the edges of the dough out, swirling a bit at a time. Continue until the wrapper attains 3 inch diameter circular shape. Repeat with the remaining semi-flattened dough circles. Cover with bowl to prevent from drying.
- The art in momos is in the packing. For packing hold wrapper on one palm, put one tablespoon of filling mixture and with the other hand bring all edges together to the center, making the pleats. Pinch and twist the pleats to ensure the absolute closure of the stuffed dumpling. This holds the key to good tasting, juicy dumplings.
- Once you’re done making all the momos, it is time to cook them. Heat up a steamer, oil the steamer rack well. This is critical because it will prevent dumplings from sticking. Arrange uncooked momos in the steamer. Close the lid, and allow steaming until the dumplings are cooked through, about 10-15 mins.
- Take the dumplings off the steamer, and immediately serve. To serve, arrange the cooked momos on a plate dressed with tomato sauce.