Friday, October 8, 2010

Tibetan Cooking: Vegetable Momos

In the previous cooking post, I looked at how to make Shya Pakhlep aka Deep Fried Momos. But there was one caveat for vegetarians:
you can make a vegetarian version [of deep fried momos], but if you're going to do a vegetable momo I highly recommend just doing a regular steamed vegetable momo as they're better than vegetable pakhlep. I'll probably be posting on vegetable momos sometime in the future...
Now, I get too use one of my favorite phrases: THE FUTURE IS NOW!

Momos are steamed dumplings, common in Nepali, Tibetan, and Bhutanese cooking. They can be filled with all sorts of stuff, but vegetables, meat, or potato are the most common ingredients. As I've already made clear, this post is going to be about making vegetable momos. However, if you'd rather make meat momos, you can take my recipe for the meat filling in the Shya Pakhlep and use that instead. In any event, here are the...

For the dough...

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup water

For the filling...
  • 5-6 small onions (so like 1-2 large onions), chopped
  • 1 small cabbage, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil. -pretty much any kind is good, though I wouldn't use olive oil. This will be mixed in with everything else.
  • 1 Tablespoon Indian Spice Mix -This is a premade mix that Aamaala uses. Listed ingredients are Coriander, Cardamom, Cumin, Cinnamon, Black Pepper, Nutmeg, Ground Cloves, Turmeric. A little less than a 1/2 teaspoon of each and you should be good. It's not listed but I suspect there's some curry powder in there as well.
  • Salt to taste - Aamaala is a big fan of the salt so she usually does roughly 2-4 teaspoons.
  • 3-5 dried red chilis (optional) Use these if you want to add some heat. We left them out.
Also, though I haven't tried it, I suspect that adding some shitake mushrooms and cilantro to the filling would taste really good...

For the sauce...
  • 7 plum tomatoes, chopped.
  • 1 small onion, chopped.
  • 3-4 spoonfuls cooking oil
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, mashed.
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, annihilated.
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • a pinch of turmeric
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 dry red chili (optional)

Additional flour to keep the dough from sticking.
Additional cooking oil for the steamer to keep the momos from sticking.

To make the dough...
Combine water and flour in a big bowl or plastic tub. Knead until you get a smooth, consistent dough. Usually take 8-10 minutes. Some people prefer to gradually add the water.

To make the filling...
Put all listed ingredients in a food processor and blend. Technically you could dice everything yourself but this is time consuming and you really want everything in very small bits.

To make the momos...
Take pieces of dough, a little smaller than the size of golf ball, roll these into a ball, and slightly flatten them with your palm so you get a sort of thick oval. Drop this oval into some flour and then place it on a flat surface. Using a rolling pin, roll this oval into a thin, flat circle of dough. These circles of dough are the momo wrappers.

Now place a momo wrapper in the palm of one hand, and spoon some filling into the center of it. It's a little difficult to get the right amount of filling - not too much, not too little - but after a little while you'll get the hang of it. Too much filling and the momo is hard to fold closed, too little and your momo will be too small.

Now for the hard part, folding the momo. The basic idea is to start at one side, and pinch opposite sides of the circle of dough together until you've completely closed the momo. However, the process is actually a little bit more complicated than that, as you will periodically pleat the dough. I usually hold the wrapper (with filling in the center) in the palm of my right hand. With my left hand I start pinching the opposite edges of the momo wrapper together, thus closing the dumpling. While I do this, my right thumb presses the filling towards the part of the momo that has already been closed. My right thumb also pushes one side of the wrapper towards my left hand, which creates an overlap that, when pinched closed, makes the pleating.

Hopefully, that last explanation is clear, but it's a difficult process to explain. I'd post a video of the process, but there's no way the internet here can handle that sort of upload. Hopefully, the pictures can give you some idea of what's going on...

One hand pinches while the other hand's thumb pushes the filling into the already closed part of the momos
Once you've folded your momos, it's time to steam them. Any normal steamer will work, but if you have it, a double (or triple) decker steamer will save you some time as you can steam more momos at once. Put some water on to boil and while you wait for that to happen, oil the surface of the steamer so that the momos won't stick. Once the water reaches a boil, put the momos inside the steamer so that they don't touch each other and start steaming them. 10 minutes is usually enough time for them to cook.

In the steamer...
To make the sauce...
Quoting from my previous post:
Put the 3-4 spoonfuls of cooking oil in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and let cook until slightly brown. Then add all other ingredients and mix periodically. The ingredients should slowly reduce to a sauce, actually quite similar to and with the same consistency as marinara sauce. One way to know that the sauce has fully cooked is to look for the oil to bubble out to the edges of the pan. When you see this, the sauce is just about ready to come off the heat. Finally, run the sauce through a food processor to make it an even finer consistency.

That's it. One final note:  though it's unusual to have left over momos, it does sometimes happen. The best thing to do with the leftovers is to cover/wrap them and then fry them on a sauce pan later with a little oil. Momos that have been steamed then fried are arguably even better than the originals and make a great snack.


  1. Holy shmoly! Those look amazing! Maybe I'll try making them tonight...?

    Can't wait til you're here!



  2. I'll go for the refried momos. Not sure Julia Child would approve but sounds good to me.

  3. I'm sticking with the beef