“Add a little kheema,” the bartender at Himalayan Yak told me, when I described the ingredients I was planning to use for chicken momos.
Ready to break another blender?
This was the first of a few inquiries (followed by experiments) in my efforts to create Newar-style—or at least Nepali-style—chicken momos. I broke two blenders in the course of these experiments, overate on as many occasions, and found myself studying momos at the restaurants in Jackson Heights with a more careful palate. In the end, experimentation was not enough.
“They are not juicy enough,” I told the bartender a few weeks later. This led to a consultation in Nepali with several people sitting at the bar. I could not understand a word of it, but eventually a youngish man, described by the bartender as a master of momos, turned to me.
“You just need to add chicken broth.”
The momos in my next batch were juicy, with a bright and clean spice profile typical of Nepali cooking. I overate again.
Here is the recipe I used for the last batch:
1 pound chicken thigh
1 red onion
3 cloves garlic
1 thumb of ginger
2 stalks of spring onion
1 long green pepper
1/3 cup sweet peas
2 tablespoons ghee
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon momo masala
10 Sichuan peppercorns
The ingredients can be combined in a food processor. The result should be no thicker than a smoothie.
I spooned the filling into Northern-style dumpling wrappers and folded, then steamed for half an hour on low heat. I also used a bay leaf, green cardamom pods, cloves, and a cinnamon stick in the steaming water for aroma. I have found that the dumplings should be removed from the parchment quickly after cooking to prevent sticking; using Northern-style (thick) wrappers and dusting the parchment with flour also helps.
These momos are very different from Tibetan momos. The flavor of the meat is wholly subordinated to the flavor of the spices (although it still makes an important contribution). According to one journalist, this kind of momo has deep roots in the Newar community of Nepal, which had been trading with Tibetans for centuries and probably adopted and modified the Tibetan dish a long time ago. In any case, these Nepali momos are delicious.