By Usha Wagle Gautam
Momos, simple but varied dumplings, signifies the authenticity of Nepal in cultural sense. Momos are regular to Nepali restaurants, but its origin is traced back to Tibetan and Chinese list of tastes. Buff momo, meat of water buffalo as an ingredient, is the most common one in Nepal. Buff, the staple of ethnic Newars of the Kathmandu Valley, provided an improvisation for momo as there is no beef allowed. Although goat, lamb and chicken make different genres of momo, but buff momo remains on the top of the list. For vegetarians, eateries mix pastes of vegetables — mostly, cauliflowers and cabbages — with onions, garlic, gingers, coriander and wrap gently in small flour bags and steam them and serve them with hot tomato tangy pickle. Sometimes they also put cheese and paneer, South Asian non-melting cheese prepared by putting vegetable acids like lemons on milk, in momos.
To be precise, momo is typical to Tibet. In mainland China, they call it jiaozi. It is said, whenever an average Nepali guy/girl enters a restaurant, he/she skims through the menu and most of the time orders momo or Chow Mein. Momos are rich in protein, if made in meat-buff, chicken or mutton, and less in calories as they’re not cooked in oil.
Kathmandu, listed as top ten destination cities by Lonely Planet for 2019, offers everything in budget price, but eating momos gives you what you want from it.
To call momo as an edible work of art can’t be an overstatement. Jyoti Pathak, who penned a Nepali cookbook Taste of Nepal and was awarded with Best Foreign Cuisine Book in 2008 by Gourmand Cookbooks Awards, talks about momos. She says, “The best momos are always juicy, so sometimes a little oil is added to the leanest types of ground meat to keep the feeling moist.” Naturally because of the geographical proximity, Nepali foods always have strong Tibetan and Indian influences. But, neither the Indian Tandoori cuisine, nor any other Tibetan or Chinese dishes could compete with the magic of Momos in Nepal. Moreover, Kathmandu is famous as the budget eating capital of Asia with tourist restaurants selling a wide variety of western style fast food including chips, steaks and pizza. But, the tourists make it a point to taste Momos.
1- Prepare dough from white wheat flour with pinches of salt, drops of oil and water.
2- Prepare ground minced meat of buff, chicken or mutton and mix with paste of onions, garlic, coriander, gingers, chilli peppers and Sichuan peppers.
3- For vegetable momo, prepare ground minced vegetables like cauliflowers, cabbages, mushrooms, tofu and green onions (which you prefer) and mix with paste of the same ingredients as for non-veg momo.
4- Prepare small flat circles of the dough and put the ingredients inside.
5- Close it and put it for steam. Savour them with ketchup or with indigenous tangy Nepali pickle of tomatoes, capsicum, chilli, garlic, cumin seeds, coriander, Sichuan peppers, ginger, and onions with salt.
You can also even fry the already steamed momo, or you can mix up your momo with ketchup and tangy mix of tomatoes, onions and capsicum.
From Doha to Dallas and from Sydney to Seoul, wherever there are Nepalis, they are always craving for plateful of momos. In many a place, they have opened eateries that specialise in momos. Eating momos in Doha or elsewhere, it is truly homecoming for a Nepalis.
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