Written by Marguerite Tingkhye (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Below is something that I wrote in 1993 off the cuff for a momo inquiry in soc.culture.nepal. Amazingly (and embarrassingly with typos) it came back to me as a post in 1995 on the Tibet-list by the list moderator. He asks in his subject header that we _Raise Tibet Awareness with Momos!!_ Thanks Thubten for having saved it, and now I pass it on again with a few edits.
** Topic: Wanted: How to cook momos? **
Dumplings are a typical Asian dish however when you ask for `momos’ you are referring to the Tibetan dumpling. Nepalis also make this dish in the same Tibetan fashion and that is where I originally learned to make them (seated in a circle with four Nepali women). Also, I am the wife of a Tibetan gentleman and we have a passion for cooking and eating (doesn’t everyone;) MomosÂ usually make their way into our kitchen at least once a month. Below are momo making details as I have experienced over the years. * Warning * Do not try this alone. Momo making definitely works best when there is a group effort, especially for the inexperienced, with all that grinding, kneading, rolling, and packing. Therefore Friends, as Thubten suggests, `throw a momo making party and raise some Tibetan awareness.
I’ll try to be detailed as I describe meat, vegetable and potato momos. We don’t use any measuring cups, so please use your best judgement on the portions. Also, apologies in advance about any confusion in the language or descriptions I have written.
White flour is usually preferred when making the momo wrappers. Simply kneed flour and water. Go light on the water, you can always add more. I would suggest starting with at least three cups of flour with approximately a quarter cup water, it is far better to add more water than to have to add more dough (unless you must). Your finished dough should be slightly sticky (only slightly!) and smooth consistency without lumps as if you were preparing a pizza. When making about 200 momos we use a little less than a pound of flour –200 momos feeds about twenty people. Some people like to add a bit of yeast or baking soda to the flourwater mixture, and this will give the wrappers a `doughy’ taste. Most of our Tibetan friends prefer less dough and more meat 🙂 I’ll describe later, as best as I can, how to make the wrappers. –Meat–
You can use either ground beef or pork, or mix beef and pork. About 3 pounds (plus) will make 200 momos. Chop lots of onions or leeks, garlic, and a little cilantro (cilantro being a common herb in Nepal and India). Sometimes we’ll add well ground fresh tomatoes. Salt, pepper -and sometimes a smidgen of ground cumin. Rely more on fresh spices than old powders. Mix your meat, and then you’ll be ready. Don’t cook the meat separately, it will cook inside the wrappers.
Saute some onion, garlic mixed with a smidgen of your curry mixture. This will form your veggie spice base. Cook until mixture is a mush then take it off the heat. Cut the following veggies into very small shredded pieces: green cabbage, carrots, broccoli (maybe just the flowers), cilantro, and whatever else you like, just be sure to chop everything finely. Next steep the veggies a minute or two in boiling water. You don’t want the vegetables to cook thoroughly. Drain, and mix with your spice base. The veggies are now ready for packing.
This is very similar to the Indian samosa –and it makes one great momo!! Cook potatoes, leaving them firm and not mushy. Saute the same veggie base as above, but this time add chopped tomatoes and lots more fresh cumin, salt, chopped chilis, and black pepper. You want the tomatoes to completely cook down with your onion/spice base, and after keep on a low heat. Cut and add the potatoes to your spice base, and saute for a few minutes until your potatoes are a semi chunky semi mushy mixture -you may need a few drops of water. Potatoes will then be ready to wrap.
Now this is going to be the tricky part. The key to making the momos is that the wrappers are completely closed, no open spaces in the wrappers at all because you want the momo to get juicy. If there are openings in the wrappers your meat will dry out and you won’t get to taste all that delicious juice 🙂 You will need to have plenty of room to roll your wrappers and plenty of flour on hand to powder down your work area, hands, and rolling pins. Ready?
Roll out a rectangular-like shaped strip of dough, pretending you are playing with clay and want to make a snake. Always try to make the dough smooth and without folds (the smoothness of your dough will largely depend on how you have originally mixed the dough). From this you will break off small rounds about 3 inches all around, maybe a small bit bigger. Roll these in your hand so that they too are smooth and without folds. Now gently flatten each one for the rolling of the wrapper. The following two directions, rolling and wrapping, will take some practice –but you’ll get there. Be patient.
To roll out each small ball into a flattened pie you will need a small diameter rolling pin. We usually use a small narrow glass jam or spice jar. Powder the rolling bin thoroughly with flour. You’ll need to repowder often, but be careful not to overdo this as too much flour will ruin your wrapper. The key to a successfully cooked momo (one that does not fall apart) will be the way you roll out this small pie. You want the middle to be a bit thicker than the edges so that what you are packing doesn’t seep through. Don’t simply roll over the dough with the pin. Instead, grasp the semi-flattened dough in the middle with your thumb and index finger of one hand and with the other hand begin to roll out the _edges_ of the dough. Almost simultaneously you will be slightly swirling the dough with your thumb and index finger so to give you an even roll around the outer edges. So it’s like a roll, swirl, roll, swirl, roll, swirl until your wrapper is done. As I said, the middle should be thicker -not by a lot, but visibly so. The finished flattened wrapper will be approximately 3 inches in diameter ( 7.5 mm).
There are a variety of ways to wrap momos but here I will describe only one. This finished momo should look circular with folds like a pin-wheel. The size of your wrapper will determine the amount of meatpotatoveggie. Usually one half or one full teaspoon is enough. Hold wrapper and packing mixture in one hand and with the other hand you are going to make pleats. Use your thumb as the stable point and use your first two fingers to weave the folds together, and around to a closing circle. Make the pleats small, and you’ll need to (again) slightly swirl your momo to accommodate your pleating hand. If all fails, and the pleats don’t look just right you can squeeze what folds you do have together to give you a sealed momo.
These are the most juiciest!! There are generic steamers you can buy in most any asian market (usually aluminum unfortunately) that are tiered pans fitting into one another over an empty bottom and under a lid. They are inexpensive and a large multi unit steamer is essential. Oil the pans well, and after every momo batch. Earlier I warned about using too much flour, and now I am warning against using too little oil. After all your hard work, you don’t want any momo sticking to the pan! After bringing your water to a boil (maybe adding a few drops of oil to the water) drop the pans and cover. It usually takes about 12 -15 minutes on a high boil to cook, possibly a couple minutes longer. One sure way to tell is by touching the momos –they should not leave a sticky residue on your fingers.
Fry in well oiled pan for about the same time on low heat in a covered pan. If your pan is too hot you will cook only one side of the momo: the bottom! Fry your momos on low-med heat. You may want to slightly stir these momos so they don’t get stuck. You may even want to add a drop of water at the very last minute, but be careful that your pan doesn’t steam up all over you. Replace the lid quickly over top if you do add water.
Finally, enjoy yourself some good momos! Mix with a hot sauce, or some soy sauce with horseradish or fresh chilis. Don’t hesitate to mail me your questions
Peace, Marguerite Tingkhye