Nepali Momos (Steamed Dumplings) with Tomato Chutney
It’s finally here! The recipe I’ve wanted to share with you for ages. (Not that I’ve mentioned that to you, since I had no idea just how many rounds of recipe testing it would take.*)
I’ve never been to Nepal, but I have an immense love and nostalgia for these dumplings from one of the Nepali restaurants in Madison, WI, where I grew up. The momo dumplings at Himal Chuli on State St. are one of my must-eats in Madison, and momos are one of my favorite types of dumplings.
Momo fillings are seasoned with fresh ginger, cilantro, and the same types of hearty, savory, curry spice flavors you’d find in a samosa, but the delicate dumplings are steamed rather than fried, and can be served with spicy or mild tomato chutney.
I am a sucker for steamed dumplings, but especially when they are packed with peanuts and cilantro, and surrounded by a moat of tomato cilantro sauce.
I adapted these recipes (changing the dumpling recipe much more than the chutney one) from The Nepal Cookbook, which Paula bought me last Christmas. It’s a little paperback cookbook put out by the Association of Nepalis in the Americas, and while it doesn’t have any photos, it’s still bursting with tempting recipes and cooking inspiration.
These momos use ground turkey but you could also use ground chicken or pork, or a mixture of ground meat, or try a vegetarian version by increasing the amount of peanuts and/or cashews, maybe in combination with some paneer or potatoes. Just make sure your substitutions 1) come out to about the same 1.5-cup volume as the original ground turkey, 2) get cooked enough, and 3) don’t become too watery.
I like to pre-cook the filling because if there’s one (and only one thing) I don’t like about making dumplings, it’s running to the sink to wash my hands with soap a million times after touching raw shrimp or meat while filling the dumplings. (And this way you can taste-test the filling for seasoning, too!)
You can make the chutney up to several days in advance, so that makes things easier. If you’re making your own dumpling wrappers instead of using the store-bought kind, I recommend making these with at least two people, so one of you can roll out the wrappers while the other person fills and folds the dumplings. (It’s do-able with one person, too; just be extra careful about not letting your dumpling dough dry out.)
The chutney, dough, and filling recipes below all make enough for 60 small steamed dumplings. If that sounds like a lot of work for one day (or one weekend), then the dough recipe can easily be halved; we like to make the entire filling recipe at once, even if we intend to freeze half of the filling and make more dough for the second half another time.
Nowhere I’ve lived since Madison has had a Nepali restaurant, let alone a selection to choose from, but I’ve still been lucky enough to find momos in random places: at a Himalayan restaurant in Lisbon, Portugal, at the one and only Indian restaurant of the town where I lived in Japan (but long after I’d moved away), and as luck would have it, LAST WEEK at an Indian restaurant in Santa Barbara that’s about to transform into a Himalayan restaurant.
My friend Brendan alerted me to the fact that All India Cafe had put up a sign in their window saying they were now serving momos, as a preview of good things to come…
Paula and I finally got a chance to try them last Friday. We ordered the chicken momos, which were perfectly steamed and tender, folded gyoza-style, and served with a creamy tomato-y curry sauce—such a treat.
So now, nearly 15 years after moving away from Madison, I have finally taught myself how to make my own momos (although, surprise surprise, Paula makes the dumpling wrappers), and I finally live somewhere that has a restaurant serving momos again. But that’s okay, because I’m pretty sure there is no such thing as too many momos.
* It turns out the answer to that question is: Five. But that’s only because we had to perfect our dough-making and dumpling-folding techniques! The filling and chutney may have evolved a little, but they were delicious every time.
(Adapted from The Nepal Cookbook.)
(Makes a little over 2 cups)
Active time: 20 minutes; Total time: 50 minutes.
~ 1½ lb. tomatoes, rinsed and dried
~ 3 cloves garlic, peeled
~ 1-inch ginger, peeled and chopped
~ juice of ½ lemon
~ ½ bunch fresh cilantro (1 cup), chopped
~ 1 tsp. chili powder
~ ½ tsp. black pepper
~ salt, to taste
~ 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
~ ¼ tsp. fenugreek seeds
~ pinch of asafoetida (optional)
How to make it:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place tomatoes upside-down in a ceramic (or any non-reactive) baking dish, and bake for 30 minutes. At the halfway (15 min.) point, toss the peeled cloves of garlic in with the tomatoes.
2. Remove the tomatoes and garlic from the oven and let cool (if you have time). Transfer the tomatoes and garlic to a blender, along with the ginger, lemon juice, cilantro, chili powder, pepper, and salt. Pulse until the ginger and garlic have been broken up well, then blend until smooth. (Be very careful when blending hot ingredients to continually lift the lid between pulses to release hot steam from the blender!)
3. Transfer the blended tomato mixture to a bowl. To temper the chutney: In a very small saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over medium until hot and shimmering, then add the fenugreek seeds and asafoetida powder, and let the fenugreek seeds sizzle until they darken slightly and become fragrant. Then immediately use a rubber spatula to scrape all of the oil and fried fenugreek into the chutney, and stir well. Cover and refrigerate if making ahead of time. Serve warm or at room temperature as an accompaniment to momos.
Nepali Momos (Steamed Dumplings)
(Roughly adapted from The Nepal Cookbook.)
(Makes about 60 dumplings; Serves 6 as dinner, serves 12-15 as an appetizer)
Active time: 1.5 hours; Total time: 2.5 hours.
For the dumpling dough: (Or use store-bought wonton wrappers)
~ 4 cups all-purpose flour
~ 1½ cups boiling water
For the filling: (Makes 3-4 cups)
~ 1 cup finely pulsed cabbage
~ ½ onion, roughly chopped
~ 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
~ 3 Tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled
~ 2-3 Tbsp. fresh cilantro
~ ¼ cup roasted cashews
~ ¼ cup roasted peanuts
~ 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
~ ¾ lb. ground turkey (about 1 1/2 cups)
~ 2 tsp. cumin
~ 1 tsp. coriander
~ 1 tsp. turmeric
~ ¾ tsp. chili powder (or more, to taste)
~ ½ tsp. cinnamon
~ ½ tsp. each salt and black pepper (or more, to taste)
Special equipment needed:
~ food processor (or impressive knife skills and patience)
~ pasta/tamale steamer pot or bamboo steamer basket
How to make it:
1. To make the dough: In a large bowl, add the boiling water to the flour. Stir with a utensil until cool enough to touch. Turn out onto a clean surface and knead for 7-10 minutes until smooth and pliable. Shape into a ball and wrap loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for (at least) an hour.
2. Meanwhile, make the filling: use the food processor to gradually pulse the cabbage until it’s very finely and evenly minced. Scrape the cabbage into a bowl and set aside. Next, add the onion, garlic, and ginger to the food processor and pulse until they are evenly chopped. Finally, add the cilantro, cashews, and peanuts to the onion mixture and continue to pulse until all ingredients are finely minced.
3. In a large pot or pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat, then add the onion mixture from the food processor, the ground turkey, and all of the spices (all filling ingredients except the cabbage). Cook, stirring frequently, for 6-8 minutes, or just enough to fully cook the turkey without letting the filling dry out. Once you stop seeing any pink parts from the turkey, add the cabbage, stirring for another 1-2 minutes to cook off any liquid from the cabbage, then remove from the heat and let cool.
(The finished filling should not be watery, but should still be moist enough that it can be squeezed together into clumps—you can test this by smearing some of it with the back of your spoon: it should smush together smoothly. If it’s not quite moist enough, mix in another ½-1 Tbsp. of vegetable oil.)
4. Assemble the momos: Once the dough has finished resting, lightly flour a work surface, and roll out the dough into several long 1″-thick ropes. Keep these ropes of dough covered with plastic wrap so they don’t dry out as you work. Slice off a small piece of dough from the end of a rope, and on a floured surface, flatten it with the palm of your hand, then roll it out into a small circle with a rolling pin. Place 1 tsp. of cooked, cooled filling onto the center of the dumpling wrapper and pack the filling together tightly using a spoon and your fingers (I keep a paper towel nearby to wipe my fingers clean after setting down the filling for several momos). Then fold up the momo dough by lifting the edges and scrunching them together over the top of the filling, pinching the dough to seal it. (Or, fold them gyoza/potsticker-style.) Set folded momos on a non-stick silpat or floured surface and keep covered with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out, until you are ready to steam them.
(Important: do NOT try to fill & fold the momo while holding the homemade wrapper in your hand; the dough will all get pulled to the top, leaving the bottom of the dumpling thin, fragile, and easily torn, while the top will be too thick and doughy. Instead, fold up the momos while they are set on a floured surface.)
5. Steam the momos: add about two inches of water to the bottom of a pasta/tamale steamer pot or a saucepan/pot that fits a bamboo steamer over it. Spray the bottom of the steamer baskets with canola or vegetable oil (or line with cabbage leaves or steamer paper). Bring the water to a strong simmer, then add momos to the steamer basket(s), place over simmering water, cover, and lower heat to medium. Steam for 20-23 minutes. If steaming multiple batches, remember to add more water to prevent it from boiling dry.
Serve momos warm with tomato chutney. (You can serve the momos sitting in some tomato chutney and/or with a small dish of chutney to spoon over the dumplings.)
Print both recipes! (PDF)
Related recipe posts:
|South Indian Spicy Coconut Chutney||Masala Dosa (Lentil Crepe) with Potato Curry||Parsi Tomato-Poached Eggs||Squash Blossom Quesadillas and Charred Tomato Salsa|