Momos: 5 Things You Need to Know About this Nepalese Favorite

by MyKidsEatSquid / Jul 23, 2018 /
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Palm-sized, circular dumplings that are pulled together in a swirling flourish at the top – Nepalese momos are an edible work of art. Tucked inside each delectable one is a mixture of fresh ingredients that are cooked before being stuffed inside the thin dumpling dough, to ensure the filling stays moist once they're steamed.

Jyoti Pathak, author of Taste of Nepal (Hippocrene Book Publishing, 2007), notes that the humble momo (म:म: in Nepalese), also known as momo-cha (ममचा), happens to be one of the most popular dishes in Nepal. The versatile favorite has hints of dishes from neighboring regions, but the flavor is uniquely Nepalese.
 
Intrigued by the bite-sized, lyrically named momo? Here are 5 things to know about this national dish of the land that's also known as the Roof of the World.

Momos: 5 Things You Need to Know About this Nepalese Favorite - including a recipe!

There's a lot of mystery around momos' origins

Born and raised in Kathmandu, Pathak points out the "history (origin) of momo in Nepal is uncertain and clearly rustic in their origin. No one knows precisely how and when the momo traveled or originated in Nepal and why it was named momo. Since this dish is popular among the Newar community of Kathmandu valley, one prevalent belief is that Newari traders brought momo techniques from Lhasa, Tibet."

Another theory holds that people from Tibet may have brought the dish with them when travelling into Nepal.

Yet both of these theories are just that – guesses at how the momos came to be Nepal's go-to dish. And the name? Momo, means simply that, momo – it's not a stand in for something else.

Making momos. From Momos: 5 Things You Need to Know About this Nepalese Favorite
Making momos

Momos are meant to have a juicy filling

Certainly part of the appeal of momos lies in the experience of eating them: the smooth dough pockets the ground filling, which can be any combination of fixings.

"Traditionally Nepalese prefer the meat that has a lot of fat, because it produces intensively flavored juicy momos," explains Pathak, whose cookbook received "Best Foreign Cuisine Book" in the USA by Gourmand Cookbooks Awards in 2008. "The best momos are always juicy, so sometimes a little oil is added to the leanest types of ground meat to keep the filling moist. All sorts of vegetables can be used to create the vegetable filling."

Momo Ghar. From Momos: 5 Things You Need to Know About this Nepalese Favorite
Momo Ghar, Columbus, Ohio

Momos go beyond meals

Asked why momos have become so popular in Nepal (and throughout the region), Pathak explained it may be because of the emphasis on fresh ingredients. "It became one-meal balanced dish with a healthy reputation," says Pathak.

But momos aren't just limited to mealtime: they're also served as snacks or appetizers, too.

Momos are meant to be made with family or friends

"Making momos is an enjoyable affair," notes Pathak. "Family, friends and relatives often gather together to spend a joyful leisurely time preparing momos together. The dough is rolled very thin, the filling is placed in the center, and then the momo is shaped and sealed into small packets, leaving some space for it to fill with broth that collects during steaming process."

Momos bathed in sauce. From Momos: 5 Things You Need to Know About this Nepalese Favorite
Momos bathed in sauce

Today when Pathak's kids and grandkids visit they like to make momo as a family. "Even my 3- and 5-year-old grandkids enjoy wrapping in their own unique way (making head, balls, toy) and proud to eat their creation."

Making momos at home can be fun

Follow Pathak's recipe for Pork & Turkey Momos to make your own at home. She suggests, "Any variety of ground meat such as (lamb, goat, water buffalo, chicken) can be used for the recipe. The spicing can be altered to suit one's taste, keeping in mind that too many spices will mask the natural flavor of meat. Momos are best served immediately after steaming."

Momos in a dish. From Momos: 5 Things You Need to Know About this Nepalese Favorite
Momos in a dish

Momo Recipe

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs. lean ground pork
1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey
1 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 to 5 green onions (white and green parts), finely chopped
2 tbsps. vegetable oil
1 tbsps. minced fresh ginger
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small head fresh green cabbage, trimmed and shredded (about 2 cups)
Salt to taste
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Directions:

· In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and 1/2 cup of water. 

· Cover the stuffing mixtures and let it rest for 10 minutes, at room temperature, for the flavors to blend.

· Fill the momo wrappers, seal, steam them for 10 minutes, and serve as an appetizer, afternoon snack, or one dish meal served with chutney or a dipping sauce.

Jyoti points out you can use wonton wrappers available at the grocery store as a stand in for making your own momo dough. Or see Jyoti's directions for putting together your own

 

Kristen J. Gough is the Global Cuisines & Kids Editor for Wandering Educators. She shares her family's adventurous food experiences--and recipes--at MyKidsEatSquid.com.

All photos courtesy and copyright Kristen J. Gough except word photo, creative commons, adapted by Wandering Educators

 

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