A unique dumpling we don't often hear about

by LeAnn Nguyen
August 14, 2018

It’s not hard to see why dumplings are so popular. They’re bite-sized and easy to eat, fun and versatile with countless possibilities for fillings. Cuisines all around the world have their own version of dumplings so clearly the concept is a success. What’s not to like a pouch of deliciousness?

You’ve probably had your fair share of different types of dumpling like gyoza (potstickers), xiao long bao (pork soup dumplings), or ha gao (dim sum shrimp dumplings). But we’re here to talk about one version that’s a little more elusive. It’s called momo, a plump, steamed dumpling from Nepal.

Momos bear a resemblance to other Asian dumplings on the surface but the fillings and dipping sauce they’re served with give them a unique taste that reflects their South Asian heritage.

Momos are thought to have originated in Tibet and were perhaps inspired by the jiaozi dumplings of nearby China. From there, it likely spread with Tibetan migrants to India, Nepal, and Bhutan, where it became a delicacy adapted to each region’s tastes. Today, it remains popular among the Tibetan diaspora community all over the world, including the United States.

The momo wrapper is simple, usually made from just water and flour, but it’s still thick enough to contain the fillings within. Inside, ground meat is the star, though the type of meat used varies among different regions. Pork, chicken, goat, and buffalo meat are common in less elevated areas of South Asia. Up in the Himalayan parts of Nepal and India, lamb and yak meat are more often used. Seasonings like onions, garlic, and ginger are mixed into the meat, as well as chopped vegetables like carrot and chayote. In India and some parts of Nepal, fresh cheese is also added. These fillings are all wrapped up in the dough in a half-moon shape and then steamed over a soup.

Other varieties of momo that have gained popularity in more recent times include pan-fried and deep-fried ones. There are also ones filled with soup that bursts out of the dumpling upon first bite, similar to the Chinese xiao long bao. As if these possibilities for customization weren’t enough, there’s also a wide variety of sauces that can accompany momos. Common ones in Nepal and India include tomato-based chutneys and spicy chili sauces.

Seattle has a number of South Asian restaurants that serve Nepalese cuisine, which of course has to include momos. Mani’s Kitchen in Pinehurst offers chicken and vegetable momos, as does Annapurna Cafe in Capitol Hill, which also gives you peanut, sesame, and tomato chutneys to enjoy with your dumplings. Himalayan Sherpa House in Wallingford serves their own handmade momos filled with your choice of chicken, beef, vegetable, or pork, and you can even have them fried. Clearly, there’s no shortage of options for you to consider whenever you crave these tasty dumplings.