New Year celebrations are all about food, feasts, family, and friends. Every winter Fahmid and I try to surround ourselves with friends and family, to escape the gloomy winter feels and spark some joy into our lives. Food is something that always brings people closer together and this winter we spent time with our loves ones, creating new memories whilst reminiscing old ones. This year we were lucky to have a dear Nepali friend of ours, Sweta, visit us from DC and make our winter celebrations even more joyous. Not only did she surprise us with a spontaneous trip, but she managed to orchestrate an impromptu Momo cooking session for us too! This had to be one of my favourite moments of 2017.
Momos aren't just a favourite dish of mine, but it somehow became a significant part of my Highschool life. Growing up in Dhaka there really wasn't much to do for entertainment, so with the gracious offerings of our Nepali friends Sweta and Aashna, eating Momos and watching dramatic soaps became the ultimate after school deal. For us, there really was nothing more comforting than enjoying a bowl of steaming hot Momos whilst watching One Tree Hill...
Alike most South Asian food, Momos are filled with big flavours that always leave you wanting to go in for more. In this recipe, the spice mix used in the meat filling is definitely what gives me that craving. However, no dumpling is ever complete without a banging dipping sauce, and this Tomato Achar really does justice. With hints of smokey sesame seeds and charred tomatoes, it really completes the whole dish.
So as we went scouring in our local grocery store, trying to find all the appropriate ingredients, our biggest struggle turned out to be the essential component of this dish, the Momo or meat masala. The home cook in me was confident that we could whip something up with the 100 spices I have, but there I saw Sweta's face screaming "Um I don't think we can make this masala mix so how do I tell her that we NEED to find it!" I gave her the benefit of looking through two grocery stores, but then we gave in. So ultimately we went with making it from scratch. For those who aren't as crazy as me, you can check out any local indian store and they should have pre-packaged momo or meat masala available, truth be said I just didn't want to drive to the other side of the town!
I was glad I stuck with my instincts, because I took a shot at making homemade Momo Masala mix and it definitely worked! Unlike most packaged Momo Masala mixs', the only ingredients we opted out were cassia root powder and mace powder. Now if you have these, by all means add in a teaspoon of each, but ours worked just as well.
I am all for making things from scratch and, especially with Gluten Free recipes, homemade is usually the best way to go. However, making dough for a 100 dumplings can be quite time consuming. So since I am Gluten Intolerant and not Celiac, I gave in to opting for pre-cut wonton wrappers to use as our Momo wraps. The wrappers we chose where approved by Sweta of course, and I have added a picture below to show which brand we preferred. Alternatively, I have added my Gluten Free Potsticker Dough recipe below, for those who would like to make their own dough.
As always, I would encourage tasting as you go with this recipe. We South Asians love our spices but for those who prefer a little less heat, opt for half the suggested amount of Chilli. Cooking isn't about being stringent and following a recipe, its about tasting and filling in the gaps that make your taste buds go "hell yea". So play around with the flavors, cook from the heart, and Make It Your Way.
Yields: ~ 100 dumplings
2 Tsp Cumin Seeds
2 Tsp Black Peppercorn 1 Tsp Nutmeg Powder
6-7 Whole Cloves
2 Tsp Onion Powder
1 Tsp Ginger Powder
2 Tsp Garlic Powder
1 Tsp Cinnamon Powder (or 2 small barks of cinnamon)
1 Tsp of Turmeric powder
3-4 medium sized Dried Red Chillis (adjust to desired amount)
2 Tsp Fenugreek Seeds
2 Tsp Black Mustard Seeds
Seeds from 4-5 Cardamom Pods
2 Tsp Corriander Seeds
Chicken (24 piece of boneless-skinless, approximately 2kgs)
4 Tbsp Spice Mix
1/2 cup of chopped Cilantro
Half a medium Onion Finely Diced
1 tsp Ginger Paste
1 tbsp Garlic Paste
1 Green Chilli Finely Chopped (optional)
1 tbsp salt
4 big Heirloom Tomatoes (or 8 Roma Tomatoes)
1 tsp Garlic Paste
1 tsp Ginger Paste
3 tbsp sesame seeds 1 tbsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
2 tbsps lemon juice
1/2 tsp chilli powder
Gluten Free Dumpling Wrap 3/4 cup of All purpose Gluten Free flour 3/4 cup of Tapioca flour 1 cup of Rice flour 1 cup of boiling water 1-2 tbsps of cold water
In a bowl place all your powdered ingredients (cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg, onion, garlic, ginger powder) and set aside. Next in a dry pan add all your whole or seed spices and toast over medium heat. Once you see a little color in the corriander/fenugreek/cumin seeds, place the ingredients into a spice grinder or mortar pestle, and grind into a fine powder. Using a sieve, pass the fresh ground spices into the bowl with the pre-ground spices and mix well. Set aside till ready to use.
First preheat your oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit. Next, half all of your tomatoes and lay on a baking tray.
Once oven is preheated, place your tomatoes into the oven for 20 minutes in the middle rack. While your tomatoes roast, prep the rest of the ingredients and set aside. In a dry pan, place the sesame seeds and toast till you see a mix of some light and some dark browned seeds. Once ready, set aside to mix with tomatoes later.
Once your tomatoes have roasted for 20 mins, turn your broiler on and broil the tomatoes for 10 minutes. This will allow some parts of the tomatoes to char and give the Achar a beautifully smokey flavour.
Once your tomatoes are done, using either a regular or immersion blender, blend all the Tomato Achar ingredients together into a fine puree. It should be a little chunky, but mostly pureed. Before serving, make sure to taste your Achar and ensure that the salt, lemon, spice are balanced to your liking.
In a bowl add the ground chicken, cilantro, chopped onions, salt, spice mix, garlic paste, ginger paste, chilli, and using either a wooden spoon or hands, mix everything really well. Once everything is mashed together, take a tablespoon of the mixture and place into the microwave for 3-5 minutes. This is a neat trick Sweta taught me, just to check if the meat has the right about of salt and spices in them. Take the meat out of the microwave, and making sure its cooked through, taste and adjust the flavors accordingly.
Once ready, set aside to wrap!
Set up in a table with your meat filling, wrappers and a bowl of water. Take one wrapper and dip the edges of the wrapper in the water. Then with your wrapper on the left palm, place a tablespoon of the meat filling in the middle. Then using your right thumb and index finger, pinch one corner into a pleat. Then moving clockwise, spin your wrapper and pinch all the corners together as you go. Once you reach the end, you will have a relatively thick tip, with all the pleats faced in the clockwise direction. Simply grab the tip, and while slightly pressing down, twist it inwards as far as it will go (use pictures below to guide).
Remember to place all your momos on a parchment paper or oiled surface!
In a pot place water and turn up the heat till it is boiling. Now once your water is boiling, turn the heat down so your water is at a medium boil. You want to make sure your water isn't boiling at an extreme level because that could lead the water to evaporate faster, and you also run the risk of splattering water right onto the momos.
Once you are ready to steam the momos, you can do it one of two ways:
Generously oil the bottom of a steaming pan (a pan with holes) and then place your momos on them
Or, you can cut a round piece of parchment paper, oil that generously, place it on the steaming pan and then place your momos.
Personally I would go with the second option, as it reduces any chance of your momos sticking to the pan and also tearing once you're taking them out.
Steam your momos for 15 minutes. Your steam pan should not be touching the water, so if it is, remove some of the water before setting the momos to steam.
Once ready, take one momo out and cut through to see that the meat is fully cooked and there are no pinkish hue.