The simple art of making momos
Sometimes you just want to eat something fun. You don’t want to think about ethically sourced ingredients, calories or getting your 5 a day (varied national campaigns in the US, UK and Europe to encourage consumption of at least five portions of fruits and vegetables in a day); you just want to eat because it tastes and feels good, whether that’s kebabs, cake or aloo tikki.
Momos are one of my favourite fun foods to eat. Who can resist a plate of these shareable little bite-sized explosions of flavour? They always remind me of market shopping in Delhi—the ones my daughter and I used to have for lunch after a hard morning’s bargain-hunting at Dilli Haat or Sarojini Nagar.
They are part of a tradition of similarly joyous dumpling-type food found all over the world: from Chinese wontons and potstickers to Polish pierogi and Eastern European knishes and kreplach. What they have in common is that they are all approximately bite-sized and comprise a thin dough encasing a filling of shrimp, chicken, pork, vegetables or cheese. The Chinese dumpling tradition spread to neighbouring countries like Tibet and Nepal, where the momo was born, and is now a popular street food all over India.
We don’t see them very often here in Scotland so when the momo-longing struck me the other day, I had to make my own. It turns out they’re also enjoyable (if a little time-consuming) to make. There’s no right way or wrong way to make momos—they were probably originally devised as an appetizing but thrifty way of using up leftover vegetables and meat. Once you’ve mastered making the dough and shaping the momos, you could experiment endlessly with fillings.
We’ve been in the grip of an incredibly icy, dark spell here in Edinburgh so cheerful food is very welcome and I spent a very happy afternoon making them while the roofs were white with snow and the ground lethal with ice.
The one difficult thing about momos is deciding whether to have them steamed or deep-fried—my daughter and I usually solved the problem by ordering a plate of each. I compromised with these ones by cooking them like a potsticker, frying the momos first to give them a crispy bottom, then finishing them off by steaming.
The Way We Eat Now is a column on new ways of cooking seasonal fruits, vegetables and grains.
The writer tweets at @eatanddust
Sesame spring onion momos
For the momo wrappers
150g plain flour (maida)
1/2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp salt
3-4 tbsp water
For the filling
100g spring onions, chopped
75g Chinese cabbage, chopped
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2.5cm ginger, finely chopped
50g crumbled paneer
1 tbsp soy sauce
Salt and pepper to season
To make the wrappers, put the flour, oil and salt into a bowl. Gradually add water until the flour comes together into a stiff dough. Knead for a couple of minutes until it’s smooth and springy. Put it back in the bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave for 30 minutes.
To make the filling, put the spring onions and cabbage in a food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped. Heat the sesame oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and ginger, spring onions and cabbage. Cook gently for about 2 minutes, then stir in the crumbled paneer and soy sauce. Check for seasoning and add more soy sauce, salt and pepper. Leave to cool. Cut the dough into two pieces. Leave one half in the bowl covered with the towel and divide the other half into 10 pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball, then roll out as thinly as possible—about 9-10cm diameter. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Cover all the discs with the damp tea towel (otherwise they will dry out and be difficult to work with).
To assemble, take one momo wrapper in your palm and place a heaped teaspoon of the filling in the centre. Dab a little water around the edge of the wrapper and seal by folding in half to form a crescent shape and crimp the edges.
To steam the momos, use an idli pan: Boil some water in the bottom of the pan; grease the moulds, then put one momo in each mould. Put on the lid and steam for about 6 minutes until the momos have a slightly transparent appearance.
To make “potsticker-type” momos (like in the photograph), heat 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil in a non-stick frying pan. Place a few momos at a time in the pan and cook over medium heat until the bottoms are golden brown. Gently (it will spit) put a couple of tablespoons of water in the pan, put on a tight lid and leave to steam for about 5 minutes.
Serve the momos hot with soy sauce and/or hot chilli sauce.
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