In Calcutta you will find little momo shops tucked here and there. Momos, in my understanding, are steamed Tibetan dumplings, usually not vegetarian and very delicious – doughy, full of succulent filling and served piping hot.
My sister and partner in all things forbidden, introduced me to fragrant herbed minced chicken dumplings at Hamro Momo, a tiny storefront located on a quiet street off busy Chowringhee and Elgin road. “Didi, you’ve got to try these,” she said. We escaped from home and waited in the car for someone to bring us a hot plate of steaming juicy dumplings. We brought the leftovers home for our two dogs, which resulted in getting caught by our strict and very vegetarian mom the next morning. Despite the thorough scolding, I still remember that dumpling escapade fondly. When I’m home now with my two children, and my sister with hers, it’s impossible to disentangle ourselves from the four children to make time for momo jaunts. We settle for mom’s home-made vegetable ones instead.
These light dumplings are full of crunchy vegetables such as cabbage, carrot, scallions and green bell peppers which you can vary according to your taste. Their primary flavor comes from finely minced garlic and ginger. I love throwing in a few shiitake or crimini mushrooms into the mix as well. The beauty of these dumplings is that the filling does not have to be cooked and you can chop the vegetables while the dough is resting. However, the filled but uncooked dumplings don’t store too well, as the raw salted vegetables tend to release moisture. Therefore, I recommend making these and eating them quickly, with a side of spicy ketchup.
In Calcutta style, I have made the wrappers individually with a rolling pin that’s typically used for Indian chapattis. Once you get the hang of rolling out the dough, it’s a fairly quick and satisfying process. I like Andrea Nguyen’s dumpling dough recipe that makes use of just-boiled water with flour; other dough recipes use ½ – 1 tbsp of oil per cup of flour (from mom), and there are some that use one egg yolk per cup of flour. Having experimented thoroughly with all of these, I find Andrea’s dough recipe easy and effective.
Makes 24 dumplings
Dumpling wrapper and preparing the dumplings:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups boiling water, set aside for a minute or so
Pinch of salt
- Sprinkle a generous pinch of salt into the flour. Create a well in the middle of the flour, and start by adding the just-boiled water slowly into the flour. Start rubbing the water into the dough and slowly form a smooth ball. Knead the dough vigorously with the heel of the your palm for a few minutes. The dough should feel smooth and pliable, and similar to a baby’s skin. Put the dough into a ziplock bag and rest for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile prepare the filling (see below). Divide the dough into approximately 24 balls. Keep the balls covered, and also cover the prepared dumplings with a dry cloth (or put them in a box) as you finish stuffing them. Roll out dumpling balls into wrappers individually with a rolling pin. The shape should be roughly a 3 to 4 inch circle or oval and should be fairly thin. Stuff with filling and fold into a half moon shape and seal the edges by simply pinching together. I like my dumplings very stuffed with just a thin line of pinching at the edges.
- Bring a steamer to boil. Line the steamer with cabbage leaves or oil well. Steam the dumplings for about 6-7 minutes until translucent. Serve immediately and eat hot with spicy ketchup.
Filling – yields about 4 cups of filling:
2 cups cabbage, finely chopped
1 cup carrot, finely chopped
2-3 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
1/2 cup shiitake or crimini mushrooms, finely chopped
1/4 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon ginger, finely minced
1/2 tablespoon garlic, finely minced
A big pinch of sugar
salt to taste
1 tablespoon sesame oil or any vegetable oil
1. Toss all the filling ingredients together. If you want to store the filling, I recommend not adding the salt and sugar as they cause the raw vegetables to release moisture.