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Momos (Tibetan Dumplings) & Mulled Wine

Tanya Dhingra November 6, 2018

Often times I get – perhaps rather delusionally – excited by a recipe. I go out and splurge on every single ingredient and then, as I start to prepare the meal, the sadness of eating this elaborate dish all alone settles in. My enthusiasm fizzles out as quickly as an overhyped $7 Lush bath bomb. Then, I turn to my freezer for comfort. My provocative feast for one quickly dwindles into the comfort of a teaming bowl of gelato (no matter the flavor).

We have all eaten a lonesome meal for one in our lifetime. Maybe even hundreds or thousands of them. I often feel down when I am forced to do this here in America. A line from the movie Delhi 6 comes back to me like the taste of burnt garlic, “only dogs eat when they are hungry. Humans eat to bond with each other.”

Is it unrealistic or stupid to think that one can share a meal with other people, or even just one friend, every time they sit down to eat?

Back home, I simply cannot voluntarily eat a meal alone. Growing up, meal times were the constant fixture of my life. A shared meal at the beginning, sometimes middle, and always at the end of each day was non-negotiable with my family. The sharing aspect made eating feel more like an unchangeable bond than mere sustenance or routine. I know now from my experiences living apart from family how most of us indulge on our respective couches, cupping a bowl of lukewarm soup and reheated rice, with Netflix asking us in the background, “Are you still watching?”

These ingrained eating and sharing sensibilities are central to my upbringing, but even more than that, they have grown in so many ways into how I socialize with my friends here. There is no social gathering where I am not thinking about food. These are snacks? Goldfish and sour cream dip? I promise I am not a snob, but I wonder how exactly we turn orange fish and an unidentified white glob into a wholesome experience, one which we all can share and bond over. Nobody comes to food void of these early memories (No tabula rasa so to say). And that is my inspiration for this post. I want to enjoy food with my friends, but I also want to see their unique personalities reflected in the food that we create and share.

This past Saturday, I gathered together a group of friends to hand mould some momos and enjoy a warm batch of mulled wine for the newly-arrived autumnal season. The idea was to prepare the more labour-heavy parts beforehand and then enjoy the more fun shaping, cooking, and drinking parts all together.

With everyone intimately squeezed into my kitchen, I began with a demonstration of how to fill and pleat a good sumptuous momo. This teaching role took me back to the first time I ever ate a momo. My parents and I were visiting my older sister at her boarding school in the foothills of the Himalayas. We brought her out for a short trip, dinner off of the school grounds. Soon, we found ourselves parked in front of a Nepalese woman’s makeshift momo shop in the neighbouring town of Kasauli. She wore a magenta coloured head wrap with a front open cardigan and a long skirt. She had a warm smile that reached into her eyes. My six-year-old self saw the steam from her momo maker and felt more than intrigued. What was this multi-storied contraption and why did it have all these precise little holes.

This woman served my family a regular order, two plates of steamed momos and a side of tomato chutney. They came on shining silver platters. My parents probably recognized them as simple paper plates lined with aluminium. We all shared one veg plate and one non-veg, everyone entranced by the way each momo exploded with juices. This experience was wired into my memory then, and it has only grown fonder with time.

Back with my friends, the first handful of pleats went into my small stovetop steamer. The second went onto the pan for a nice and crispy fry. Prepared with all the knowledge they needed, I backed away and watched as each one of them took to the momo wrappers and discovered their own pleating methods – perhaps truly unique firsts in some cases.

As the night went on, people took their turns and mastered or abandoned their crafts. More often than not, the freshly steamed or fried momos were eaten straight off the pan. And soon, all one hundred wrappers found a home in our bellies.

Momos Filling (makes 90 momos)

1 cabbage, 2 onions
3 carrots, 5 French onions or scallions, 6 cloves garlic
1 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
2 tsp sesame oil

1) Chop the cabbage and onions in the food processor. Squeeze the result in cheese cloth or paper towels to drain excess water and dry them out before adding to a large mixing bowl.
2) Chop carrots, French onions, and garlic in the food processor. Add these to the same large mixing bowl. Set your chopped ingredients aside.
3) Heat vegetable oil and sesame oil in a saucepan on medium heat (until it fumes).
4) Carefully pour the hot oil over the chopped vegetables. Mix everything until the vegetables are evenly coated.
5) Add salt and pepper.

Homemade Momos Wrappers (makes 35-40 wrappers)

2 cups all-purpose flour (a little extra for dusting and rolling)
3/4 cup warm water

1) In a medium bowl, add flour and slowly pour water.
2) Mix everything and knead the dough for 8-10 minutes until it becomes smooth.
3) Let it rest for 30 minutes and keep covered.
4) Dust a clean surface with flour.
5) Divide the dough into 4 sections.
6) Take one section and roll it into large rectangle about 1/8th inch thickness. It shouldn’t be too thin or thick.
7) Use a glass with  a 5″ diameter to cut the rectangle into circles.
8) Repeat the process with the remaining dough and leftover edges.

OR

Simply, just buy ready-made Dumpling wrappers at your local Asian grocery store. My recommendations are Heng Fa Food Market or New Spring Garden Market. A trip to either of these markets is a special treat! I spent $2 and bought 50 wrappers of Hong Kong Style which are thinner and cook faster (left) and 50 wrappers of Northern Style which are thicker and more traditionally momo like (right).

Momos Method:

1) Take one wrapper and place a spoonful of filling in the center.
2) Using your finger, wet the edges of the wrapper with water.
3) There are several ways to seal the momos. My personal favorite is to pinch the edges together above the filling to create a little money bag. Another method is to fold the wrapper in half and create a half moon shape. After gently sealing the edges together, you pinch and pleat about every half inch around the edge (using a fork or your fingers).
4) When steaming, make sure the water is boiling. Place the momo in the steamer for 6-7 minutes until translucent. Note: Place momos an inch apart so that they are not touching each other to prevent them from sticking together.
5) When frying, heat one tablespoon of oil in a pan before placing the momos. Make sure to coat evenly in the oil. When the momos turn golden brown, flip them and remove.

Momos Chutney

2/3 medium size tomatoes
4 dried red chillies
4 garlic cloves
1 Sichuan pepper / 1 jalapeño (if you like it less spicy)
1/2 tsp sugar
1 Tsp salt
1/4 Tsp black pepper (preferably whole black pepper)

1) Boil tomatoes and dried red chillies in 3 cups water for 10 minutes.
2) Strain the tomatoes and chillies, chopping the tops off of the tomatoes before placing them into a food processor.
3) Add garlic, jalapeño or Sichuan pepper (depending on your choice), sugar, salt, and black pepper to the food processor.
4) Puree everything until fully combined.

Mulled Wine

1 bottle Merlot (or any other red wine you have)
1 cup Apple Cider
½ cup Brandy
1 teaspoon Vanilla
2 cinnamon sticks
6 cloves
3 star anise
2 oranges (peels + juice)

Method:

1) In a large stock pot, add Merlot, Apple Cider, Brandy, Vanilla, and spices.
2) Bring mixture to a simmer.
3) Using a vegetable peeler, peel the oranges with long, curly strips. Add the peels and squeeze the juice of the fruit into the pot.
4) Reduce the heat to low and serve warm after 15 minutes.