Thursday, February 19, 2009

Amazing Momos (Tibetan Steamed Dumplings)

From Foodsies!

My absolute favorite restaurant in Boston has to be Rangzen. It is a small Tibetan restaurant and their food is great. My favorite dish there is Momo Thukpa which is a dumpling soup. The dumplings are stuffed with tofu and veggies, and although the soup comes with egg as standard, they are happy to produce it without the egg. In fact, one time when I ordered it, they said it always came without egg. But I still ask for it without, just in case.

But Rangzen (which I refer to simply as Momo, because that is what I order there and it's easier and more fun to say than Rangzen) is all the way in Cambridge. And it costs money. But last night I was delirious in my desire for Momo. So I just went ahead and made my own!

It was surprisingly easy, although a little time consuming I guess. But Wednesday is a night that there isn't much on TV or anything, and it was snowing out, so it seemed like a good night to just relax in the kitchen.

I'm going to share two recipes, one for what I actually made last night, and one for a version that I think will more closely replicate the Momo that Rangzen makes. I was constrained by being unable to find fresh cilantro at the local co-op, and by having some veggie-beef crumbles I needed to use up. Next time i'll make the 2nd recipe.

Both recipes are low fat, low calorie (and Scott - for low-sodium, just use less soy sauce and/or low-sodium soy sauce). I don't really count veggies towards that stuff, and that's about all that is in here. Almost no oil is used at all (only the tiniest bit rubbed on the bottom of the Momo so that they don't stick to the steamer). So they taste divine, and you can eat as many of them as you want!
Um, unless you are watching your carbs, in which case I guess the flour screws you. Sorry!

Tibetan Momo


3 Cups Flour
1 Cup Water
1 Onion
1/2 Cup Baby Bok Choy
1/2 Cup Spring Onion/Scallions
1 Cup Cabbage
(the whitish-green kind, not the reddish-purple kind, although I guess you could use either)
1 Cup Mushrooms
(dark asian mushrooms would be best, but you can use regular button also)

1/2 Cup Veggie-Beef Crumbles
(I had to use it up. You can use tofu instead)

2 TBSP Fresh Ginger
(grated/minced - you can use one of these or these or mortle/pestle, or just chop it really fine with a knife)

1/2 Cup Fresh Cilantro
(if available - if not, use about 1/4 cup dried cilantro)

3 Cloves Garlic (minced)
1 TBSP Soy Sauce
1 TBSP Veggie Broth (or No-Chicken Broth, Veggie Boillon, etc)

If you don't have fresh ginger, then sub in 1/2 TBSP of Ginger Powder. If you like ginger, you may wish to add this anyway.
You will also want some extra flour on hand for rolling the dough later, as well as a small dish of water. You will also need a teeny dish holding about 1/2 tsp of Canola Oil.


First you will make the dough. Dump 3 cups of flour into a large mixing bowl. Now gradually add water as you mix (by hand, not with a bread mixer) until the dough is moist and a bit sticky. You want to be able to shape it into a ball and be able to stretch it out a little before it breaks apart. Don't sweat it if you aren't sure if it's too dry or too wet. It's such a basic dough that you don't need to do anything perfectly.
Now wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside, or to be more ecofriendly, place the dough ball in a non-stick pot and put the lid on. You don't want the dough to dry out.

Now for the filling. You can do this two different ways. You can chop all of your veggies by hand, into fairly small pieces, or you can dump them all in a food processor and chop them up. I used the food processor and wound up with a mix that was chopped very fine as a result. In hindsight, I think it may have been better for the ingredients to have not been so finely chopped, but just because of how I like my dumplings. I like a bite with big chunks in it, not teeny chunks. So, personal preference - but get the veggies chopped up somehow.

Dump your chopped up veggies into a mixing bowl and add your garlic, ginger, cilantro, soy sauce, and veggie broth. Stir and mix well. The result should be moist and wet, but not like, sitting in a puddle of juices. If for some reason you wind up with a huge puddle of juices, just pour a little of it out, or squeeze some of it out from the mixture. We're going for juicy dumpling filling, not soup.

At this point you should go ahead and get your water boiling in your steamer. WTF is a steamer? A steamer can be many things. You can use a standard pot and then place a steamer basket in it. You can use one made from bamboo, or from metal.
There are also special steamer pots, which have special steamer inserts. You can get a similar insert for your standard pot (like a fancier version of the bamboo or metal steamers above). Also, even the cheapest rice cookers usually come with a little steamer tray. It allows you to load up the rice as normal, then put the steamer tray in place, and then cover. As the rice cooks, the veggies (or dumplings in this case), get steamed.

If you are using the rice cooker, you don't need to start the water boiling, because the rice cooker will take care of that step automagically for you.

NOTE: You want the water to reach just below the steamer. So pay attention when filling your pot. Also, you do not want your pot to run out of water to boil (won't steam very well then will it). To avoid this, place a penny or small pebble in the water. It will rattle when the water boils, so if it stops rattling you will know you are out of water. It will suck to have to open everything up (releasing precious steam) and refill it with water, but you do what you gotta do.

Now that you've got the water going, set up your Dumpling Making (Makling!) Station. You will want a rolling pin, rolling pin cover (if you have one), cutting board or dough mat (unless you want to roll it out direct on your counter? eww?), a dish of extra flour, the teeny dish of oil, and your steamer tray.

There are a few different ways to roll out the dough and form your dumplings. Here is my method:

1. Pull of a small amount of dough, about the size of a ping pong or golf ball.

2. Dust some flour between your fingers and roll the dough around in your hands to form a ball and to pick up some of the flour from your hands.

3. Plop the ball onto the cutting board and pat down into a thick round pad. Use the rolling pin to roll it out as evenenly as possible in every direction. You want to get the dough very thin, although not so thing that it rips.

4. Now pick up the circle of dough (or oddly m ishapen geometric shape of dough) and place it in your left palm. Use a spoon (I like using an ice cream scoop) and grab about a tablespoon or a little more of dough and place it in the center of the dough on your palm.

5. Use your right hand to pull up two sides of the dough to meet in the middle above the filling, sort of forming a basket. Rotate the dough in your palm and pull up a bit of dough from the side to meet at the top also. Continue this until you have a little round sack with a pinched up top. Make sure it's all sealed pretty well, because you don't want any of the juices escaping when it steams.

Another method is the same as the above, except in step 5 you simply pinch up all the dough together in a line, like forming a taco with the top sealed. Conversely, you can do this on the cutting board rather than in your palm, and simply fold over one side of the dough over the other to form a half-moon and pinch the edges down.

Finally, you can use a different method to get the dough circles by rolling out all of the dough at once and then using a round cookie cutter or a highball glass to cut it into dough circles. I don't like this method as much because I find it to be a pain to roll out so much dough, and also you have to do it a few times to use up all the dough. But to each their own.

Now, as each dumpling is finished, dip your fingertip into the bit of Canola Oil and rub on the bottom of the dumpling. Place it on the steamer rack.

Once your steamer rack is full, check to see if your water is boiling. If it is, place the steamer rack in place and cover. Let steam for about 10 minutes. Or if you are using a rice cooker, place the rack into the rice cooker and turn it on. The rice cooker should tell you itself when it is finished (you may want to check your rice cooker's instruction booklet to be sure how the steamer part of it works).

After 10 minutes you should have sweaty delicious Momo! Like a Momo fresh from the sauna! Despite the sweaty appearance, if you pick one up, it should be surprisingly firm. At least, that's how I like them, because I like to eat them with my hands. But be careful! The filling will be wet which means even when the outside of the momo has cooled down some, the inside could still be very hot! And burning your tongue sucks, so consider yourself warned.

You may need to make two or more batches. Make the 2nd batch while the first batch steams.
Then just turn off the heat to the steamer, remove the momo's and wrap them in plastic wrap or place in a pot with a lid so they don't dry out. Put the new batch in the steamer and go.
Feel free to clean the kitchen while the 2nd batch steams ;)

Mmmm Mmmm Momo!

From Foodsies!

Didn't I say that I want to change the recipe for the future?

Oh yeah, I did say that. I think my Momo turned out lovely and very, very tasty! But I feel like the Momo at Rangzen have a sort of lighter, fresher flavor. Part of this is no doubt due to fresh cilantro (which is like a drug or love potion to me), but may also be a reflection of other ingredients as well. As a result, here is what I plan to try next time:


3 Cups Flour
1 Cup Water
2 Cups Cabbage
1/2 Cup Spring Onion/Scallions
1 Cup Mushrooms
(or maybe Bok Choy instead, for a lighter flavor)
1 Box Firm Tofu (non-silken)
1 Ton Fresh Cilantro ;)
(in reality, probably a good size handful or two chopped)
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 TBSP Fresh Ginger, minced
1/2 TBSP Soy Sauce
1/2 TBSP Veggie Broth
1 TBSP Water

Directions being the same.

I guess it isn't so very different. I just want more cabbage/cilantro/scallion flavor along with the ginger and mushroom flavors, and the refreshing non-flavor break that the tofu gives to each bite. It's hard to explain. I just want something that tastes lighter and springier, less dark and meaty.

Anyway, Momo is always great!

From Foodsies!

My next Tibetan mission will have to be making Thukpa soup to go along with the Momo, so that I can make my own Momo Thukpa! And also to master the Momo dipping sauce, which is a sort of spicy green cilantro-y tomato-y chile-y sauce.

For the record, I didn't find my Momo to even need a dipping sauce. They were quite flavorful and juicy on their own. But the dipping sauce at Rangzen is to die for..

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