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Vegetable momos

Adilah Is. from Sri Lanka

Serves
4
Preparation
30 minutes
Cooks in
30 minutes
Country of origin
India

My excitement had congealed into apprehension. I was catapulted into bureaucratic chaos, a new city and a new university. Delhi had a reputation of being tumultuous and unforgiving. I was shy and socially awkward – large cities chewed and spat out people like me.
My flatmate took me under her wing, patiently answering my questions. You must try momos, she said as we sauntered to one of the food vendors punctuating the small market near our apartment.
The plate of momos were the first of many surprises over the next 3 years in Delhi. Till then my knowledge of Indian cuisine was divided into binaries of north and south. North was naan and biriyani. South – idli, vadai, dosais. What began was a blurring of these lines and a gentle unravelling of Indian food stereotypes.
It arrived on a paper plate, the carrot and cabbage slightly visible under its oil-slicked delicate skin, dished with a fiery, eye-watering sauce. Momos – first cousins of dim sums – are a ubiquitous street food in Delhi and is a nod to the Chinese and Nepali influences which have flavoured the Indian plate. It pales in the presence of Delhi’s formidable street food heavyweights such as spiced kebabs, chaat and ghee smothered parathas. But its quiet simplicity is a winner.
I wasn’t too interested in food before, but my wanderings around Delhi and India soon became intertwined with food. I was from Colombo and had a tendency to stick to my culinary comfort zones. Delhi changed this. For a student on a budget, Delhi is a gastronomic dream with epicurean options from other Indian states and international cuisines. I was introduced to Afghan, Bengali and Tibetan cuisine. It was where I sampled my first thukpa and fell in and out of love with chaat.
Delhi was the city which reintroduced me to food. And this plate of momos is now synonymous with my love for the city.
But all this was much later. I took a bite of the momo. “How is it?” asked my flatmate. I closed my eyes and smiled. “It’s perfect”.

Ingredients

  • For the Dough
  • 2 cups all-purpose wheat flour
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • For the filling – 1 cup finely pulsed cabbage
  • ½ cup boiled and mashed potato
  • ½ cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1 grated onion
  • 1 teaspoon finely diced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon finely diced ginger
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • For the tomato chutney – 4 finely chopped tomatoes
  • 2 finely chopped onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 teaspoon of finely chopped ginger
  • 6 dried red chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of vinegar
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • ¼ cup hot water

Method

  • Dough: Mix the flour, salt and water by hand, until you have a smooth dough. Keep kneading well until the dough is soft and pliable. Cover with a lid and leave in a cool place to make sure your dough doesn’t dry out. Let it rest for about 20 minutes.
  • Filling: Put all the filling ingredients in a bowl, mix well and set aside for the flavours to blend.
  • Chutney: Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onions, garlic, ginger and chillie until the onions are translucent. Add in the tomatoes and ¼ cup of hot water, leave to simmer. When the tomatoes have become soft and the water has reduced, switch off the flame and add in the sugar and vinegar.
  • Once cooled, blend the tomato chutney in a blender until it reaches the consistency of a smooth paste. Set aside as a dipping sauce for the momos. This can also be stored in a glass jar for a week.
  • Assembling the momos: Once the dough has rested for 20 minutes, lightly flour a work surface and roll out the dough thinly. Cut out circles with a cookie cutter. It helps if the edges of the circle are thinner than the middle or you’ll end up with thick edges of dough when folded– once the circles are cut you can roll them out thinner if you wish.
  • Place the filling into the centre, scrunch the dough into your preferred shape while sealing the edges. You can form the momos into little money bags or half-moons with a pleated edge. If like me, you’re not gifted with folding skills, money bags would be the easier option.
  • Make sure to keep folded momos on a floured surface and keep both folded momos and dough covered while working so that it doesn’t dry out
  • Fill the vessel of a steamer with water and put to boil. Once the water has boiled, lightly oil the surface of the steamer tray so that the momos won’t stick. Alternately, you can also place cabbage leaves on the tray. Arrange the momos on the tray and steam for 13 – 15 minutes.
  • Serve the momos while still hot, with the chutney.
  • Notes: The world is your oyster when it comes to choice of fillings. Typically, vegetable momos are just a mix of cabbage, carrot and onion. Here, the potato is added to bind everything together and amp it up a bit. You can also add paneer, mushroom, spring onions, celery, cheese or spinach to your filling. If you’d prefer your momos with a bit of meat, simply add minced chicken or turkey. Play it by ear with the spice blend. Or if you’re averse to spices, a bit of soya sauce, pepper and salt can be added to flavour the filling.
  • Momos can also be fried instead of steamed. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you could even opt for a sweet momo (fillings could include coconut and jaggery, chocolate and mixed nuts)

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