Monday, February 25, 2013

Dumpling Party

The San Diego Food Bloggers (SDFB) community meet ups are always something to look forward to. Our leader Marie of Meandering Eats is popular for coming up with great themes for the get-togethers. A few of us SDFB ladies got together for a fun dumpling party at Marie's place this Saturday. We gobbled up a variety of dumplings, which, apart from the usual savory Asian kinds, included sweet blueberry dumplings - yum!

Veg Momos - steamed and pan-fried on one side (the other side ;)
When Marie first announced the event, I immediately thought of making Modak - my ultimate favorite dumplings. But then, modaks get made quite often in my house, thanks to my husband who will eat them any day. I could use a change and try something new. The next thing that came to mind was Nepali vegetable Momo - a savory dumpling very similar to its other Asian siblings but with some familiar spices to my Indian palate. Momos are native to Nepal and other Himalayan states/countries. I assume they were borrowed from the Chinese cuisine  Momos were a favorite thing to eat at my usual dine-out place in Utah - the Himalayan Kitchen. That's where I had momos for the first time and have been a fan ever since.

I found a whole lot of recipes online with some Tibetan or Bhutani variations. These dumplings have a simple covering of all purpose flour dough with filling of all sorts. The vegetarian dumplings have a variety of finely chopped vegetables sauteed with onion, ginger, garlic and some other spices. A few ingredients that struck me as unique were fenugreek seeds, and cumin and coriander powder. These are not the spices you would expect to find in a traditional Asian dumpling. And momos don't typically have soy sauce. This creates a unique dish that combines far east Asian and south Asian flavors. Momos can be simply steamed or pan-fried after steaming for some smokiness and sear, which is how I like them. They are traditionally served with a tangy tomato chutney, or 'tomato achaar'. I went for a quick combination of oil and Sriracha sauce. The shapes of momos are fun. You can shape them literally like modak. I attempted the half-moon shape with some degree of success.

  • The APF dough seizes while rolling so it's a little tedious work. But that's the maximum difficulty level!
  • If you plan on making momos, steam them just before serving. As I realized, they start to dry out if kept for too long. 

Nepali Veg Momo

1 Cup all-purpose flour
Water as needed
A pinch of salt

2 Cups finely chopped vegetables - (Cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, spring onions, red & green bell peppers, spinach). Add more of cabbage and carrots than other veggies
2 Large garlic cloves - finely chopped (~1 tablespoon)
1/2 Inch piece of ginger - grated
1/4 Medium onion - finely chopped
Spices - ground fenugreek, cumin and coriander seeds, 1/2 teaspoon each
Handful of cilantro - finely chopped
Red chili powder to taste
Salt to taste
2 Teaspoons sesame oil
Vegetable oil for pan-frying
  • Form a stiff dough of APF with water and a pinch of salt. Some add a pinch of baking soda to the dough. I left it out. Cover and let it sit. 
  • Heat sesame oil in a pan and add onion, ginger, garlic. Saute until onion is translucent. 
  • Add the ground spice mix, red chili powder, all the veggies and cilantro and saute for a min or so just until the vegetables are tender. Do not overcook them. 
  • Turn off heat and add salt at the very end so that the vegetables don't become watery. You want the filling to be dry. If it gets too watery, you can add a spoonful of APF mixed with a little bit of water to the filling and cook for a few seconds. That will hold the filling together. Let it cool before making the momos.
  • To shape the momos, roll out the dough into a thin roti/sheet - thin enough to be able to see light from the other side but thick enough that it won't rip while shaping. 
  • Cut out small rounds with either a katori or a cookie cutter (as shown in picture above). Place a spoonful of the filling at the center and press close both ends by folding the round in the center. 
  • To give them that characteristic dumpling look, pinch the excess flour to make petal-like shapes where you closed the dumpling. If you have too much flour at the end, just cut it with a knife before pinching. 
  • Steam these dumplings in a steamer for 5-6 mins. I don't have the bamboo steamer, so I just put them in a greased pressure cooker vessel and steamed them in the pressure cooker without the whistle. 
  • You can serve them just like that or pan-fry them in a little bit of oil on one side only until lightly browned. 
All the goodies at the Dumpling party!

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