Momo is a type of South Asian dumpling; native to Tibet, Nepal, and the Sikkim, Assam and Darjeeling regions of Nepal. It is similar to Chinese baozi and jiaozi, Mongolian buuz, Japanese gyoza and Korean mandu.
Momo is the colloquial form of the Tibetan word “mog mog”. The different names for the dumpling include Assamese: মম; Nepali: मम; Nepal Bhasa: ममचा, मम:; Tibetan: མོག་མོག་, Wylie: mog mog; simplified Chinese: 馍馍; traditional Chinese: 饃饃; pinyin: mómo.
The dish is believed to be of Tibetan origin and since then has spread to other neighboring countries with the influx of Tibetan diaspora. Since this dish was initially popular among the Newar community of the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal one prevalent belief is that traveling Newar merchants brought the recipe and the name momo from Tibet where the Newar Merchants used to go to trade. They modified the seasonings of the dish with available ingredients, such as water buffalo.
Momo is a type of steamed dumpling with some form of filling. Momo has become a traditional delicacy in Nepal, Tibet and among Nepalese/Tibetan communities in Bhutan, as well as people of Sikkim state and Darjeeling district of India. It is one of the most popular fast foods in Nepal. Momos have also spread to other countries like United States (some parts), UK and India. Momo used to be particularly part of cultural and traditional cuisine among the Newar community specially among Tuladhar and their related clans. Till mid 90s or some years after the Jana Andolan, Momo was a popular cuisine among Newars and other communities of Nepal. Momo used to be home-cooked before mid 90s. At that time, only buffalo mince meat was used, which restricted expansion among Nepali Brahmin and Chhetri population. However, due to increased migration to and from Kathmandu, and the Himalayan regions of Nepal, increased eating out culture, and free economy, Momo spread across India and has been one of the most loved cuisine among Nepali diaspora. According to older generation of Newars, Momo might have been introduced by Newar merchants doing trade in Tibet. that momo got its name for being a steamed dish (in Newari/Nepal Bhasa, Mo means steam), as per oral history. Till mid 2000s, momo was only limited among Nepali and Tibetan diaspora in India. However, by 2017, it has spread as one of the popular fast food in the Indian mega-cities.
A simple white-flour-and-water dough is generally preferred to make the outer momo covering. Sometimes, a little yeast or baking soda is added to give a more doughy texture to the finished product.
Traditionally, momo is prepared with ground/minced meat filling, but over the past several years, this has changed and the fillings have become more elaborate. These days, momo is prepared with virtually any combination of ground meat, vegetables, tofu, paneer cheese, soft chhurpi (local hard cheese) and vegetable and meat combinations.
- Meat: Different types of meat fillings are popular in different regions. In Nepal, Tibet, Darjeeling district, Sikkim and Bhutan, pork, chicken, goat meat and buffalo meat are commonly used. In the Himalayan region of Nepal, India, lamb and yak meat are more common. Minced meat is combined with any or all of the following: onions/shallots, garlic, ginger and cilantro/coriander. Some people also add finely puréed tomatoes and soy sauce.
- Vegetables: Finely chopped cabbage, potato, flat bean (Lilva Kachori) or chayote (iskush) are used as fillings in India and Nepal.
- Cheese: Usually fresh cheese (Paneer) or the traditional soft chhurpi is used. This variety is common in India and Eastern Nepal.
- Khoa: Momo filled with milk solids mixed with sugar are popular as dessert in the Kathmandu valley.
The dough is rolled into small circular flat pieces. The filling is then enclosed in the circular dough cover either in a round pocket or in a half-moon or crescent shape. People prefer meat that has a lot of fat because it produces intensively flavoured juicy momos. A little oil is sometimes added to the lean ground/minced meat to keep the filling moist and juicy. The dumplings are then cooked by steaming over a soup (either a stock based on bones or vegetables) in a momo-making utensil called mucktoo. The dumplings may also be pan-fried or deep-fried after being steamed.
There are typically two types of momo, steamed and fried. Momo is usually served with a dipping sauce (locally called chutney/achhar), normally made with tomato as the base ingredient. Soup momo is a dish with steamed momo immersed in a meat broth. Pan-fried momo is also known as kothey momo. Steamed momo served in hot sauce is called C-momo. There are also a variety of dumplings of Nepal found in the Indian state of Sikkim and Darjeeling district, including tingmo and thaipo.