A couple of nights ago, I had my first encounter with Nepali cuisine at Adams Morgan’s Himalayan Heritage restaurant. It was fun exploring the menu, which isn’t intimidating if you’re familiar with Indian food. Our waitress graciously guided us through the Nepali offerings and recommended chicken “momo,” or steamed dumplings ($9.95):
Served with a pungent, fiery “aachar” sauce, and fragrant with ginger and cilantro, the momo were delicious. I thought they were simliar to steamed Chinese dumplings, but spicier and less doughy. My dining companion sprang for the “Muglin Thali” set menu ($18.95), which paired a (surprisingly good) glass of house red wine with:
- Appetizer: Samaya Baji (sampler plate of spiced edamame, fish fritter, “beaten” rice, and fried boiled egg)
- Entree: Khukhura ko masu (chicken pieces stir fried with ginger and garlic in a mild Nepali-style tomato sauce), Palak Paneer (spiced spinach stewed with cubed farmer’s cheese), Tarka Daal (lentils), Salad, Pilau Rice (basmati rice) and Naan (flatbread)
- Dessert: Rice Pudding* and Chai
On top of great food, we enjoyed the unobtrusive, kind service and cozy atmosphere. It was nice to linger over our chai at the intimate tables, warmed by low light, ochre-colored walls, and wine.
As an added bonus, the check check came with an invitation to return for a drink on the house. We’ll be taking them up on it.
*Proof that I am a terrible dining companion: I reached across the table and dunked one of my dumplings in my bf’s rice pudding, mistakenly thinking it was raita. He was kind enough to warn me before I took a bite, but the damage had been done. Poor guy. He puts up with a lot!
-3 cups All-purpose flour
-1 Tbsp. oil
-1 c. water
-Pinch of salt
-2 lbs. lean ground chicken
-1 c. onion, finely chopped
-1/2 c. green onion, finely chopped
-3 Tbsp.. cilantro, chopped
-1 Tbsp. fresh garlic, minced
-1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
-1/2 tsp. timur (Szechwan pepper)
-1/2 tsp. turmeric
-2 Tbsp. curry powder
-5 fresh red chilies, minced
-3 Tbsp. cooking oil
-Salt to taste
1. Dough: In a large bowl combine flour, oil, salt and water. Mix well, knead until the dough becomes homogeneous in texture, about 8-10 min. Cover and let stand for at least 30 min. Knead well again before making wrappers.
2. Filling: In a large bowl combine all filling ingredients. Mix well, adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow all ingredients to impart their unique flavors. This also improves the consistency of the filling.
3. Assembly: Give the dough a final knead. Prepare 1-in. dough balls. Take a ball, roll between your palms to spherical shape. Dust working board with dry flour. On the board gently flatten the ball with your palm to about 2-in circle. Make a few semi-flattened circles, cover with a bowl. Use a rolling pin to roll out each flattened circle into a wrapper.
For well executed momos, it’s essential that the middle portion of the wrapper be slightly thicker than the edges to ensure the structural integrity of dumplings during packing and steaming. Hold the edges of the semi-flattened dough with one hand and with the other hand begin rolling the edges of the dough out, swirling a bit at a time. Continue until the wrapper attains 3-in. diameter circular shape. Repeat with the remaining semi-flattened dough circles. Cover with a bowl to prevent drying.
To wrap, hold wrapper in one palm, put one tablespoon of filling mixture, and with the other hand bring all the edges to the center, pleating. Pinch and twist the pleats to ensure the absolute closure of the stuffed dumpling. This is the key to good-tasting, juicy dumplings.
Preparation: Heat steamer, and oil the steamer rack well. This is critical to prevent dumplings from sticking. Arrange uncooked momos in the steamer. Steam until cooked through, about 10-15 min. Serve immediately.
Photos courtesy of my crappy, flash-less cell phone