Category Archives: On the silk route

Chicken Steamed Momo : Steamed Dumplings with Chilli-Garlic Chutney from Nepal

Image Today we get frisky, you and I. We role play. Ok? Me plays iconoclast, my cleaver held firmly in my hand. You be Watson. You watch. You record. Yeah, you can go ahead and choose the music too. They are going to call it the “Jalebi Massacre”. I hope they do.  For I am about to destroy a few images. Sounds rad, does it not?

(Strike one. Yipee!). This post should have been titled “Chicken Steamed Momo: Steamed Dumplings with Chilli-Garlic Chutney from Nepal/Tibet/and the many street corners, cafes, community markets of Delhi NCR” Why haven’t I done that, you ask? Because I have APA style sheet drilled into my brain (“title should be concise”). I was showing off with that APA reference, I concede. Its my way of reminding people (not you, beautiful stranger in pyjamas, its for the people who call me by my name, know my name) that a food blog does not a housewife make.  Especially, when no one has “put a ring on it“. So, love, if you want me to offer something other than sparkling tap water when you come visiting, you can stop the housewife reference right about now. Thank you.  WHossh! ChopChopChop! MinceMinceMince! 

Done. And Dusted.

I have lived in this city more than I have in any other, I have lived in all sorts of neighborhoods too. And I  think its time to do the little favour to Delhi’s street food that Dibakar Banerjee’s film did for the cityscape of Delhi in Bollywood films.  By moving the lens beyond the Red Fort, DB had us watching us. We, our middle-class neighborhoods , the ones further away from Delhi-6, the ones you and me live in. The ones we sometimes wish to run away from.While Street food in Delhi has extensively been written, talked about, filmed, researched, “but, Dude”,  the accounts of Paranthe Wali Gali, of the Chaats of Chandni Chowk, the Samosas and Jalebis  of of settlement colonies, the Cholle Bhature dukans of Rajouri and Karol Bagh are not “the be all and end all of dilli ka khana. What is infact dilli ka khana? Yaar, hum thodi na pura pura time samosa, chaat aur kabab khatte hain?

So then. Now lets have some fun. Give in to our innate, darkest desires of destruction and break assembly-line Bollywood symbols. Heck, crush those too orange jalebi pictures that Hollywood peddles to you and me in the name of our culture. Lets break a few pictures while we are at it. And a few plates too. Gosh! That feels good, does it not? Now for the truth telling.

Momo is as popular (and as common)as the samosa in the streets of Delhi. Momo is a legitimate saddi dilli street food. Nukkad Nukkad main mille hai momo. Galli galli main mille momo. Aao khao, aur khilao! Momo!

(Yes! Open your eyes and see. And report what you see. Make some new symbols.Give us some new images. And in the next film make Ranbir Kapoor eat paneer momo from the neighbourhood thela.)

But unlike the samosa its not just  a street food. True, the stalls with tall aluminium steaming racks that take over street corners are the most common.But they started trickling in, being part of Delhi’s urban geography only about half a decade ago. Momo is also a popular appetizer in the rather dodgy we-serve-everything “multicuisine”  restaurants, and finds it way to respectable neighborhood Chinese establishments as well many odd cafes frequented by the hip and happenin’. The latter ones over-charge you, of course, of course. So yes, the “mango people in the banana republic” know about the Momo as much as the person who prefers her Momos with a glass of White (true story!)

This recipe makes for translucent, melt in the mouth momos. The chikcen stock as the steam liquid does wonderful things to it, flavoring the soft, paper thin covering just so. You can add other aromatics too. I had some coriander stems lying around, so I dropped it into the steaming liquid. After the momos are cooked the possibilities are limitless, actually. Convert them into kothey, drop them in soup, its an open field.

 Ingredients 

White flour-1 cup

Hot water- as necessary

Minced chicken-150 gms

Ginger-1 inch

Garlic-1

whole Coriander leaves-1 bunch

Onion-1

Dry Red Chillies- one handful

Vinegar-1 tablespoon

Oil-2 tablespoons

Salt

Water or Chicken stock to steam

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Aushak : Afghan leek dumplings with yogurt sauce.

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Three tall, heavy set men sitting around a table. A rather large plate of dumplings covered in some sort of sauce and topped with yogurt lies in front of each of them. Every table has it. Mine does not. The menu just said “Afghan dumplings” under mantu. No mention of sauce. No mention of yogurt. I feel cheated. I want dumplings. But I have a plate of rice peppered with thin slivers of carrot and raisins, and meat that falls off the bone. Qabuli Pulao. Served with thick Afghani nan, and a side of borani banjan. I pull a long face and tear off a piece of nan and pick up a piece of egg plant from the banjan. This stuff is good. The mantu can wait.

Food from Afghanistan is something that I had never encountered until I came to Delhi. My first encounters with bidesi khana (foreign food) was through the written word. As a child growing up in what could be called the “interiors”,   most of my encounters with literature and gastronomy were mediated by the newspaper. The book reviews were the ones that I looked forward to, but the restaurant review was the one that intrigued me the most. (Even MacDonald’s burger, something I absolutely hate, seemed alluring. Advertising, thou playest cruel games with my taste-buds.) But even in those sorts of mediated encounters with food, food from Afghanistan was absent. Perhaps it was not “foreign enough”, perhaps these places came into being much later. I don’t really know.

The aushak is a vegetarian version of the  mantu , where the dumpling is stuffed with leeks instead of meat and is topped with a sauce made from channa dal  (in place of a meat based one) and a slightly garlicky yogurt sauce. It is a meal in itself, and like most Afghan dishes, is served at room temperature. I have used leeks, but I think you could substitute it with green onions, if you can’t find them. The dumpling wrappers that are used for this are very thin. I had ready made dumpling sheets with me, but you could roll your own out with a dough made from flour and water. The dumplings are shaped differently from how I have made them. I went with easy. But you can, if you like shape it the traditional way. Also, the photos might suggest that the layer of sauce and yogurt completely blankets the dumplings below. It is not so.

Ingredients:

Dumpling wrappers : 6-8

Leeks : 2-3 sticks

Ginger : half inch

Garlic : 3-4 pods

Onion : one, large

Chana Dal : I cup (soaked in water for 2-3 hours)

Tomatoes : 2-3

Bay leaf : one, small

Yogurt : One cup

Dried mint leaves : to garnish

Extra Virgin Olive oil : 2 tablespoons

Sea salt : to taste

Pepper: to taste