Momos ( ཤ་མོག) are seen as one of the most quintessential Tibetan foods, and travellers love to enjoy them. Often described as “Tibetan dumplings”, most see momos as a basic home cooked meal and it is often a family affair to prepare them. Whether you like to dip, dunk, bite, or swallow them whole, your trip to Tibet wouldn’t be complete without trying a few along the way.
With a dough made of flour and water, the skins of the momo are very basic, but it is the numerous fillings that add variety to this dish. While the traditional filling is yak meat, other fillings may include potato, green onion, cabbage, or mushrooms, etc. They are typically served with some sort of spiced oil or a flavoured seasoning salt for dipping, and each sauce will be slightly different based on the chef’s individual preparations.
The momo is made by rolling out the dough into thin circles, and then placing a small amount of filling in the center. Once the filling is centered on the skin, there is a technique to folding and twisting the dough to keep the momo shut (and to lock in the filling’s natural juices). Finally, the momos are cooked in a steamer until the outside is no longer sticky to the touch.
Tibetan Yak Meat Momos (Tibetan Dumplings)
The size of a momo also varies, with large momos typically filling one’s entire hand and the smaller able to be consumed in one bite. As the smaller momos are fiddlier and take more time to prepare, these tend to be reserved for fancier affairs such as special occasions or to be served in restaurants. With the large momos, these are more commonly served at home as the average person would find one or two to be enough for a meal. The larger size cuts down on the time necessary to prepare them as less are required to make a meal.
There is a bit of a technique involved in eating a momo. While you may use your chopsticks, Tibetans traditionally eat these with their hands, so go right ahead and pick it up between your thumb and forefingers.
Once you have your momo ready to eat, be warned, the good momos have juice inside them! Carefully take a bite of the momo, and as you do, suck the juice into your mouth to get the full flavours of the filling. When biting into your momo, take care not to shoot juice across at your dining companion, as sometimes these things can surprise you (but hey, we’ve all done it a time or two)!
I find there is a sweet spot for enjoying momos where the juices aren’t so piping hot they will burn your mouth, and they haven’t yet gone cold. Although cold momos aren’t bad, if you are eating yak meat momos, I would particularly recommend eating them while they are still warm, as the juices start to harden as they cool. Wait until the steam stops coming off of the momos, and then eat until your heart is content!
Ready to steam Momos (Tibetan Dumplings)