One of the highlights of my trip to Nepal has got to be spending an afternoon with Yangchen in her home in Pokhara. We chatted about everything under the sun while making traditional Tibetan Momos or dumplings together. There was just something about her presence that was so calm and peaceful that made the experience truly unforgettable.
Yangchen comes from Tibet and lives with her husband and 5-year-old son in Tashi Ling Refugee Camp. After the Chinese invaded Tibet in 1950, there was an influx of over 60,000 Tibetan refugees into Nepal. There are officially 12 settlement camps in the country, 4 of which can be found in Pokhara.
It was a windy day and the sky was somewhat downcast. But the merry prayer flags dancing in the breeze and the sight of the colourful painted homes brought cheer into my heart. Especially so, when Yang Chen welcomed me in her apron with a generous, warm smile. She’d already prepared for our little cooking session!
Here’s what you’ll need to make delicious Momos:
1 Cucumber (grated)
handful Cherry Tomatoes (sliced)
Flour and Water (mix to form dough)
3 long beans (chopped)
1/2 radish (grated)
We began by mixing flour and water to form a firm, sticky dough.
Knives at the ready, it was time to get chopping! The tomatoes will go into the chutney, while the rest of the veggies will end up as filling for our vegetable Momos.
After that, it was time to mince the buffalo meat. These are a Nepali staple and can be easily found in the local markets. It tastes a lot like beef, but is slightly tougher and a little more game-y. Do be sure to try it when in Nepal! They’re often served with noodles as well.
Then came the fun part. Learning how to stuff and fold the Momos.
First, we had to roll the dough into balls of roughly 1.5 inches in diameter. Then flatten it out with a rolling pin on a floured surface to a circle of 3-4 inches.
Spoon about a full teaspoon of filling into the middle, and carefully pleat the edges like so.
It took some practice, but i finally got the hang of it. It really doesn’t have to be perfect, so have some fun with it!
We even turned some into samosa shapes and folded some into larger parcels. It was a whole lot of fun!
Once all the dumplings are complete, it’s time to cook them in a large steamer pot. It doesn’t need long. Just about 10-15 minutes depending on your heat setting. And voila! Your juicy, delicious dumplings are ready.
These really go best with a hearty tangy tomato chutney. Super simple just heat butter in a pan and add the chopped tomato, some salt to taste and some herbs for some extra flavour.
Then sit back, pick up your fork and tuck in.
I’ve found that enjoying a meal and even cooking together really is the best way to bond with anyone in a different country. It really is a great entry point into understanding a new culture and everyone loves good food. Having the pleasure of being in Yang Chen’s kitchen and cooking with her has helped me connect effortlessly with not only Tibetan culture but the story of her life in Nepal. I left her home that evening with my stomach and heart incredibly full.