What are Tibetan momos?
Momos are dumplings stuffed with a variety of ground meat, veggies or cheese, and prepared in various ways, but usually steamed. They are the most well known and beloved of Tibetan dishes.
Styles of Cooking
- steamed (most common)
- fried (Deep fried if the momos are not steamed first. If momos are steamed first, then just pan fried.)
- boiled in soup (Momo soup is called mothuk.)
You can see how steamed momos are made in this video of a momo-making party at the home of our friend, Chef Tsering Tamding :-)
- Half moon
- Tsi-tsi momo (“Mouse” shape, commonly used for momo soup, mothuk.)
- As you like :-)
We don’t know of any proper history of momos, but they probably originated from the Chinese jiaozi.1. In Chinese, the word “momo” — 馍馍 — means steamed bread. They likely passed through Tibet — where they began to be made from yak meat for the first time, and took on uniquely Tibetan flavors and styles — to Nepal, and throughout the Himalayan regions.
- Ground Meat
- Yak meat (in Tibet)
- Beef (common both inside and outside Tibet)
- Pork (mainly in the Kongpo or Amdo regions of Tibet, but also some in central Tibet)2
- Mutton (mostly in Nepal and Tibetan communities of India, and some in Tibet)
- Chicken (not as common as other meats among Tibetans; more popular in Nepal and for non-beef eaters)
- Potato (This style was developed in exile, and consists basically of roughly mashed potatoes with onions and maybe a little shredded cheese, like a mozarella, or maybe a hard cheese like parmesan or romano.)
- Finely chopped vegetables, like cabbage, bok choy, mushrooms, with some tofu or ping, which are crystal noodles. (This style of momos was also developed in exile, where these vegetables are available.)
- Chura momo: Soaked dried and grated dri cheese (chusip)3 with sugar (pretty much only in Tibet)
- Cheese and spinach, for example, or cheese and mushroom. The cheese could be any of a variety of soft cheeses, like feta, marscapone, or mozarella4.
- The skins are made of simply water and flour, usually white wheat flour.
- Most meat or veggie momos will have some combination of the following: garlic, onion, and ginger, bouillon, soy sauce, emma (Szechuan pepper), cilantro.
- Lobsang Wangdu’s recipe for meat and/or vegetable momos
- Tibetan Home Cooking ebook and video series for meat and veggie momos, momo soup (mothuk), and variations on momos, steamed buns (tingmo), pan fried and steamed bread (logo momo), and a whole bunch of other Tibetan traditional foods.
How do you Serve Them?
- Tibetans eat momos served hot with dipping sauces, usually hot sauce and soy sauce. For the hot sauce, it can be Tibetan hot sauce (sepen), Chinese hot sauce, or Indian pickles or relish. Our personal favorite is a mix of soy sauce and one of Lobsang Wangdu’s hot sauce (sepen recipe), or soy sauce with Patak’s Indian Lime pickle. Yum!! (You can get a second hot sauce recipe from Lobsang free when you sign up for our Tibetan Culture Newsletter in the box below this post.)
Variations on Momos
- Logo momo: pan fried and steamed bread
- Ting momo (tingmo): steamed buns
- A new twist by Lobsang Wangdu: Momo burgers
- Steamed momos are great as leftovers: we pan fry them (no oil needed), on medium heat, just long enough to heat the inside filling, for a little crispy shell. Yummy!
- Momos are not traditionally served at Tibetan New Year (Losar) in central Tibet — their closed shape is considered by some to be inauspicious for a time when we want to promote generosity and abundance for the upcoming year.
- Adding a tiny bit of emma or yerma (Szechuan pepper) to meat momos (though not veggie ones) really puts them over the top taste-wise.
- In general, at least in central Tibet, it is best to keep the dough wrapper quite thin, to keep the momo from becoming too doughy where they are folded over.
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Who makes your favorite momos? We’d love to hear from you and be able to provide a resource for people all over the world for finding great momos. In the comment section below please let us know where you’ve had the best momos!
You can get recipes and videos for almost every classic Tibetan food, in our Tibetan Home Cooking ebook and video series for sale, for just a little while longer, for just $27 >>
When you sign up for the YoWangdu Tibetan Culture newsletter in the box below, you will receive free video recipes for butter tea (po cha), pull-noodle soup (thenthuk), Tibetan hot sauce (sepen), savory porridge (drothuk), and tsampa with butter tea (pa).
- Wikipedia entry for Momo (dumpling)
- Food in Tibetan Life, Rinjing Dorje (Affiliate link)
- Dri cheese comes from the female of the yak species.
- From Cafe Tibet Menu
By Lobsang Wangdu