Sunday, March 23, 2014

Momo (Nepalese/Tibetan Meat Dumplings)

I'm really a newbie when it comes to 'Himalayan' cuisine. My first intro to the food of this region was almost a decade ago at the restaurant Tibet Nepal House in Pasadena. I frankly don't remember what we ordered, but I recall that the dishes were pleasantly spiced and reminiscent of Indian cuisine. Overall good, but not out-of-this world spectacular. Perhaps these dishes were somewhat tamed-down versions of their originals? Otherwise, I would have remembered if we had ordered and eaten their 'momo' or steamed meat dumplings, which I'm sure we surely would have since they are traditional faire, and I've always been for trying out the 'authentic' stuff. Fast forward years later to basically now, when I happened on a recipe for Tibetan momo in Andrea Nguyen's cookbook Asian Dumplings whilst looking for a recipe for Chinese water dumplings. Anyhoo, that got me to researching, and I found that momos are ubiquitous in both Tibetan and Nepalese cuisine. The dough is similar to the hot water dough used for Chinese soup or steamed dumplings, comprised of just flour and hot water kneaded together, then rested, cut, rolled, shaped, and filled (ground pork, beef, lamb or chicken with spices, chopped onion, ginger, garlic, cilantro and scallions), crimped, then steamed and served with a spicy roasted tomato or other savory chutney. This recipe (along with the Achar/dipping sauce) is my version, which I've adapted from Andrea Nguyen's recipe and also from a number of recipes I found online for classic Nepalese momo. It's like a hybrid between Tibetan and Nepalese, so I'm calling it both (would love it if someone could edify me as to the difference between these two cuisines). Regardless, the end result is delish, if not altogether authentic. You purists be the judge. 

Stuffing Ingredients:
2 lbs. ground beef, lamb and/or pork (I used beef in this recipe)
1 cup finely chopped red onion (or 1/2 cup finely minced shallots)
3-4 scallions, finely chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 tbsp. fresh garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
1/2 tsp. Timur (ground Szechuan peppercorns)
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/4 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
6 tbsp. water
2 large or 3 medium jalapeños (red or green), seeded and minced

Dumpling Dough:
Still experimenting with this recipe as my first batch came out too chewy (to be updated). In the meantime, you can use store-bought gyoza wrappers as a substitute. 

Ar's Momo Achar (Roasted Tomato-Sesame Chutney):
4-5 medium ripe tomatoes
1 medium jalapeño pepper
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. Szechuan peppercorns
1 tsp. brown mustard seeds
1 tsp. white sesame seeds
1 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 large lime
Zest of 1 large lime

1. Combine all the stuffing ingredients in a large bowl. I use my hands to make sure all the components are well-combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour (I like to leave it overnight) to ensure that the flavors are totally melded.

2. For the Achar: 

  • Toast the cumin seeds, Szechuan peppercorns, brown mustard seeds, and white sesame seeds in a small non-stick skillet over medium heat for several minutes, stirring constantly, until the spices are lightly toasted. Pour the spice mixture into a spice/coffee blender and grind/pulse for several seconds into a powder. Set aside.
  • Place the tomatoes and jalapeño pepper onto a foil-lined baking sheet and broil (I use the toaster oven, but otherwise, just heat up your conventional oven to about 450F) for 15-20 minutes or until the veggies are nicely browned. Remove to a chopping board and let cool slightly. Remove the charred skins from the tomatoes and pepper and also remove the seeds from the pepper.  Place the roasted tomatoes, pepper, toasted spices, salt, minced garlic and ginger, fresh cilantro, lime juice and lime zest into a food processor or blender. Blend for about 30 seconds or until the Achar is just smooth.

3. For the Momo:

  • Place 1 teaspoon of the meat mixture onto the wrapper. You can seal it in a half moon shape like a gyoza or twist it on top like a Shanghai dumpling (regardless, just make sure you dab some water on the edges of the wrapper to ensure that it holds together. I've yet to perfect the home-made dough portion of this recipe, so more to come. 
  • Brush a bit of vegetable oil onto the bottom of your steamer and place the momo's on top (spaced about 1" apart). Bring the water under the steamer to a boil, cover, and steam for about 5-8 minutes or until the meat in the momos are cooked through. Serve with the Achar on the side. 
Momos freeze well btw (to ensure they don't stick together, just place them single file on a baking sheet in the freezer for 30 minutes, then place them into a Ziploc-type bag). This Achar sauce is so delish - great with not only momos, but also pan-fried salmon, shrimp, chips, and then some!

Ground beef.

Chopped shallots, cilantro, scallions, garlic, ginger, and jalapeños.

Garam masala, curry powder, ground Szechuan peppercorns, ground cumin, black pepper, ground coriander.

Meat mixture.

Roasted tomatoes and jalapeño pepper.

Peeled roasted tomatoes & pepper, minced ginger, garlic and cilantro.

For the Achar: white sesame seeds, Szechuan peppercorns, cumin seeds and brown mustard seeds.

Toasting the spices for the Achar.

Grinding the Achar spices.

Combine the Achar spices, ginger, garlic cilantro, roasted tomatoes & seeded jalapeño, salt, lime juice and lime zest in a processor or blender. 

Process briefly until just smooth.

Fill the dumpling wrapper with about 1 heaping tsp. of filling. 

You can twist them up in the center like a Shanghai soup dumpling or just seal them in a half-moon shape like a Gyoza.

Brush the bottom of the steamer with vegetable oil. Cover and bring the water to a boil and steam for 6-8 minutes or until the momos are just done. Remove to a plate and serve with the Achar.

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