Tag Archives: Delhi

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

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

Tingmo : Tibetan Steamed Bread

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“They are so cute!”

“I want to adopt one when I grow up! “

This was my first encounter with Tibet.  My sister and me were watching  young Tibetan monks on TV. There they were, hardly four or five years old, sitting in neat lines, their shaved heads moving back and forth over prayer books.  It really was an endearing sight. The show was perhaps filmed in a monastery in Dharmashala, the seat of  the His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  For a very long time this was the only image of Tibet in my mind. Of young monks, wrapped in maroon robes, running around in a monastery,of them praying before serene statues of Buddha . My idea of Tibet was therefore condensed into this image of the monastery. It was an image without any voice, so to speak. The only voice was that of a faceless narrator providing a voice-over. It was almost like listening to Nik Gowing on BBC World.

Since then my idea of this nation in exile has diversified into a few more images. Of those “TIBET IS NOT A PART OF CHINA” written on rocks near the riverbeds in Manali, of women in chuba  selling woolen clothes on makeshift stalls in some obscure town in Orissa, of colourful prayer flags tied like totem across bridges, of Siddharth Kak drinking salty Tibetan tea on Surabhi , of the Dalai Lama, of Ladakh, of  Nawang Khechog creating hauntingly beautiful music on a spring night in Delhi. And of agitations.  Of refugee settlements. And yes,  of Richard Gere.  

My first “taste” of Tibet came in the form of a plate of chicken momos. This was perhaps my first meal in a restaurant in Delhi. This is perhaps the first, and perhaps the only encounter with the food of Tibet for a majority of students who study in the universities of Delhi. My next encounter was in Majnu Ka Tila, a refugee colony popularly called MKT on the fringes of Delhi University.  Its narrow lanes are dotted with shops selling Tibetan groceries, of karigars  crafting elaborate jewellery, of quaint shops selling books and tshirts, their racks lined with CDs of Tibetan music and prayer flags.  And then there are hair dressers and tailors.  And shops filled with rolls of rich brocade. And cafes and restaurants filled with people . Enough maybe to make a displaced nation feel at home.

Tee Dee is perhaps the most popular restaurant at MKT.   It is perched (atleast it seems so once you enter) on the first floor of a building towards one end of the colony. The whole arrangement at Tee Dee makes you feel like you are in some hilly town, and not in Delhi.  Maybe its the demographic, of students and Tibetans, that fill its tables at all hours of the day. Maybe its those red curtains. My first meal there was a bowl of Thenthuk  (a noodle soup with vegetables and meat/chicken) more commonly known as Thukpa. At 40 rupees it was one of the cheapest dinners one could have while eating out.  The other popular dish (and probably the most ordered by students) is Buff Chilli. This is had with Tingmo, a yeasty steamed bread. The slight sweetness of Tingmo perfectly complements the heat of the Buff Chilli and is great accessory to pick of pieces of the meat. I don’t really eat red meat, so I generally order their style of Chilli Chicken to go with it. Yeti, at Hauz Khas Village does a great Nepali style Chilli Chicken that really goes well with Tingmo (recipe for this in the next post).

I have used the list of ingredients mentioned here for making Tingmo, since these are essentially steamed buns.

Ingredients

Active dry yeast : 1 tablespoon

Sugar : 2 spoons

Warm water : 1/4 + 1/2 cups

All-purpose flour : 1 1/2 cups

 Salt : 2-3 pinches

 Sugar: 2 tablespoon

 Oil  : 1 tablespoon

 Baking powder : 1/2 tablespoon

A Manifesto Against Paneer (and other stories)

Like a lot of food blogs (and a lot of food writing in general) out there, the very necessity (yes!) of this, of me writing about, dreaming about, pining for a plate of  bhata-dalma, began when I packed my bags and left home. 

I came to Delhi from Orissa to pursue my Masters in Sociology.  For a while I was quite happy here. Quite happy that I didn’t have to live a life with dull, unattractive mounds that my mother spooned onto my plate. That for me was Oriya food. Or so I thought. Who wanted to eat a dull dalma and thin fish curry when there was that fiery red plate of Chicken Butter Masala, that siren dressed in cream and giving you that “come hither” look. Not me! Oh no, I was quite happy here, thank you very much. But soon it all wore off. I had enough of chole bhature. Enough of kadhai paneer.( And why indeed was kadhi pakoda invented? Why?) I started dreaming about food then. Food from home. Of that smell when pancha phoran hits that kadhai of mustard oil and you know thats all that a huge mound of vegetables needs to transform into something spectacular. So simple  and yet so fulfilling. I started getting dreamy-eyed about pakhala and maccha bhaja. Yearning for a sight of chota maccha besara. Of those littlelittle, tiny little, sliver little fish swimming in a mustard base.  I wanted someone to airlift me from this land of paneer matar. And paneer butter. And butter something else. I started giving dirty looks to people who said anything against my food. Started crossing swords with absolute strangers on the train.

Aap batao, kya khate ho aap jo bol rahe ho Orissa mein khana nahi milta?

Arre itti acchi sabzi khate hain hum. Winter mein mix-veg le lo. Gajar dalten hain. Matar dalte hain. Paneer dalte hain…

Aur?

Kadhi pakore kya sahi lagta hain! Special hai hamara!

Isko khana bol rahe ho aap? Gajar. Matar. Paneer. Bas. Huh. Pata hai Orissa mein kya milta hai? Kya khate hain hum?

They obviously didn’t share their food with me.

Have I turned into a food fascist? Probably not. But my love affair with North Indian khana is definitely over. I do acknowledge it, like old lovers eventually do, when they encounter each other.  I will occasionally even go out and allow myself to be charmed by melt in the mouth kakori, be willing to order in a “quarter butter chicken”. But I eventually rationalize the whole episode by saying to myself  “Its just that time of the month”.

So, yes, I will mostly be blogging about my food. Yes, it will be about Oriya food, but it will also be about the food that I have encountered elsewhere. About other regional dishes that I have come to love. And about some meal-in-a-bowl dinners that I mostly eat.

Even though I have been tempted to take tangents into the sociology of food, to talk about the whys and hows of different aspects while writing this blog, I have tried (really hard!) to keep it accessible to everyone. I don’t wish to take you away from your plate of butter-chicken. I am sure you have happy memories of that. But do step out and try something that’s not just curry. Discover the searing heat of a bowl of Naga style Raja-Mirchi Chicken. If there ever was a gastronomic version of S&M (as someone put it), I am sure this would be it.

Reason enough to step out?