by Binod Baral, R&D Chef, UK
Momo is more than just food for Nepalis; it's an emotion. Momo, a popular dumpling originating from Nepal and Tibet, has a savory and tantalizing taste that, now, transcends its traditional roots. The King of dumplings is Momo. What makes Momo truly special is its ability to adapt to various culinary influences, leading to a wide array of imaginative varieties. Momo has now evolved beyond its original homelands, captivating taste buds worldwide. Whether steamed, fried, or served in a soup, momo's diverse forms continue to delight food enthusiasts globally.
Momo’s Close Relatives
Momo is a type of dumpling, native to Nepal, Tibet, and neighbouring regions. The closest Chinese relative would-be baozi or jiaozi . Other relatives include the Japanese gyoza, and even the Italian ravioli. It's basically a wrapping that's a dough made of flour and water with a filling inside (meat, vegetables, now soup, soup dumpling very popular current trend in the United State of America.
I used to own two momo restaurants, and I still dream of opening a place called "Momo Adda" worldwide. My culinary adventures have taught me that momo is more than just food for Nepali people; it's an emotion. The explosion of hot, spicy, juicy, and aromatic flavours in our mouths evokes a deep connection to our motherland and its people, stirring a thousand feelings of love and nostalgia.
History of Momo
Momo, a delectable meat dumpling, has a fascinating history that spans different cultures and regions. Its origins can be traced back to Northeastern China, where it was known as "steam bun" (Huamo) in the Shaanxi language, literally translates to “flower bun”. This region was a crucial stop along the Silk Road, renowned for its diverse culinary traditions.
The word "momo" itself means "steam bun," and these juicy dumplings are a beloved snack in the northwest, often served with tea in local tea houses. Each city in the region has its own unique twist on momo, with variations in dough thickness and intricate top twists.
A momo is a traditional dumpling from Nepal and Tibet, while dim sum is a Cantonese cuisine which includes a variety of small dishes typically served in steamer baskets or small plates. They are both types of dumplings, but they are from different cultural and culinary traditions, and may have different ingredients, preparation methods and serving style.
Dim sum has its origins in Southern China, particularly in the Guangdong province and the city of Guangzhou (Canton). The tradition of dim sum dates back to the ancient Silk Road trade routes, where teahouses would provide weary travellers with small snacks and refreshments. Over time, this practice evolved into a culinary tradition that is now associated with the Cantonese cuisine.
The exact origins of dim sum are not well-documented like momo, but it is believed that dim sum began to gain popularity during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). However, it was during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) that dim sum became more formalized and started to resemble the style we recognize today. It was during this time that teahouses started offering a wide variety of small dishes, including steamed buns, dumplings, and other snacks.
Dim sum gained further prominence during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912 AD), when it became a popular meal option for the affluent classes in Guangzhou. It eventually spread to other regions and countries with Chinese diaspora, such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and various Chinatowns around the world.
Today, dim sum is not only enjoyed in traditional teahouses but also in dedicated dim sum restaurants, where it has become a staple of Cantonese cuisine and a beloved culinary tradition enjoyed by people of different cultural backgrounds make like momo.
Dim sum literally means snack in Chinese though the individual characters translate to "Touch the Heart”. I love to say the King of dumpling is Momo and “Jewel in The Crown of Momo” is it’s accompanied chutney or Achar or traditionally we called Jhol Achar. As we know it is not momo without chutney.Dim sum refers to a Cantonese style of food prepared as small bite-sized portions. In China or Guandong, eating dim sum is actually called "drinking tea", since tea is always served with the food items. Dim sum includes, but is not limited to dumplings, as the food items can include chicken feet, lotus-leaf-wrapped sticky rice, congee, sweet items like egg tarts and custard buns, and many more!
During the Chinese New Year, momo is a trendy dish, enjoyed by many. Its journey extended beyond China, and Tibet played a pivotal role in spreading Momo’s popularity. Princess Wencheng, the Chinese wife of King Strong-Tsan-Gampo, introduced various culinary arts, including momo-making, to Tibet. These techniques were later adopted and adapted by Silk Road travellers and traders, eventually making their way into Kathmandu, the hearts of Nepal and kitchens of people across the region.
My food traveling experience concludes that Momo is more than just food for Nepali; it's an emotion. The explosion of hot, spicy, juicy, and aromatic flavours in our mouth ignites a thousand feelings about love of our Motherland and Her people.
Momo’s Tales of Nepal Journey
In Kathmandu, Nepal, Newar traders known as "Lhasa Newa Sahu" from Kathmandu brought momo and noodle-eating traditions into their homes and neighbourhoods. They added their own spin to momo by incorporating spices and aromatic ingredients, creating a unique Newari version known as "Momo-cha." The "cha" in the name signifies the food's beloved status.
Momo-cha-making became a cherished family affair on cold days, where generations gathered to prepare the perfect combination of meat, ginger, local shallots leaves called Chayapi, and spices. The key to crafting the best momo-cha lies in achieving the ideal dough consistency and skilfully shaping small flat disks.
The size of momo, a popular Tibetan and Nepali dumpling, can vary depending on personal preference and regional traditions. Some people prefer smaller memo, similar to the "marble size" you mentioned, as they can be easily consumed in one bite. These bite-sized momo are sometimes referred to as "Guchcha momo" or "mini momo". They are typically served as appetizers or snacks.
However, momo size can also vary. In some places, you might find larger momo that are more like a meal in themselves. The dough is filled with a mixture of ground meat (such as chicken, pork, or lamb) or vegetables and various seasonings, and then they are steamed or fried. "Small momo are often called 'Guchcha momo' and can be eaten in one bite"
Ultimately, the size of momo is a matter of personal preference and regional culinary traditions. Whether you like your momo small, large, or somewhere in between, the delicious filling and the accompanying dipping sauces are what truly make momo a beloved food item in many parts of the world.
Traditionally stuffed with buffalo meat, momo-cha was initially famous among Newar people, as many other castes did not consume buffalo meat. However, commercial momo establishments emerged in the 1950s, serving momo in various forms, from Lapte (Sal leaf) wraps to small marble-sized dumplings called "Guchaa momo." These places in Kathmandu such as Jan Sewa Hall area, Indra chowk, and Ason Tole, Jharana Momo, RC Momo became popular momo joints and destinations.
Over the years, momo-cha transcended its cultural boundaries and became a favourite among people of all backgrounds. It quickly evolved from a Newar delicacy to a national dish, symbolizing the fusion of diverse culinary traditions in Nepal. Momocha is now a rapidly growing food culture, enjoyed by millions in Nepal, billion in India, USA, Australia and Europe. Momo is one of the fastest growing dishes in the world specially in cold weathers countries.
Momo houses are spreading across cities, carrying the delightful taste of these small pillows of happiness to new generations. The journey of momo, from royal kitchens to street food stalls, is a testament to its enduring appeal and universal acceptance.
Jai Momo !
Note: Mr. Binod Baral is UK-based trailblazing Nepali Chef and food researcher. He’s one of the elite Nepali chefs abroad.
Nepali Global Chef Binod Baral’s Culinarily Journey
Updated: Special: UK-based trailblazing Nepali Chef and food researcher Binod Baral, 43, is one of the elite Nepali chefs abroad. He hails from Pokhara, Nepal but outshines the world over with his signature Asian dishes. Currently, Chef Baral serves as Head of the Asian R&D and Innovation Kitchen at one of the world’s best gourmet companies, DO & CO ‘The Gourmet Entertainment Group’. From world’s 76 airlines to FIFA World Cup 2022 where he led 1100 staffs to serve 4,000 to 6,000 VVIPs and VIPs. His Asian delicacies are staple gourmet to many international events. But, he is more than that-what’s next for his food diplomacy?
Read details news at: https://www.nepalism.com/post/nepali-global-chef-binod-baral-s-culinarily-journey