Momo Magic: The food that has Traveled the Farthest road

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Momos- I felt I needed to write down my crush too. Well, after bingeing on my first love Biryani, it was necessary. Oh, come on now. Don’t judge; you can have a crush along with love. And nothing hurts more than sharing a plate of Momo. Just tell me, who does not love them? Even one who doesn’t like it will enjoy it. Besides, you get to see them in every metropolitan city of India. We might know the hotspot street corner of Momos shops or stalls in Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai or Kolkata. The love for Momo is so widespread that a nutrient-loving Bengali friend’s only child is named Momo. Therefore, it does not matter whether it originated in China, Nepal, or Tibet; it does not matter since the Indianisation of Momo is complete.

The Momo Magic: The Farthest Traveled Food
Khinkali – the Georgian Momo

Did we ever think about the journey of Momo? It is the only dish that has travelled farthest in all food. Hence, it’s quite an at ease, whether on the street or in a posh restaurant. Over the years, it has evolved in taste, structure, and creation. Also, thanks to the savvy vendor who further synthesised two prevalent fast food and got up with Tandoori Momos. It is a desirable addition to the fusion expanding genre of them. As compared, India is a latecomer to the transcontinental Momo party. But we are capable of adding our interesting twist of paneer and tandoori to the glorious Momo saga.


The precise origin of Momo is unclear. But the name’s derivation points toward northern China. Baozi and Jiaoz; are dumplings stuffed with pork, beef, prawn, vegetables or maybe tofu. These are generally prepared on special occasions like a lunar year. If we speak around the Himalayan belt, the food is thought to have been spread by caravan routes connecting the central Asia steppe to both east & west. This food was popular among the Newar community from Nepal, where Momo means cooking by steaming. But the Newar traders brought the recipe from Tibet, considered an unofficial dish.


In the 13th century, during the Mongol Yuan Dynasty’s rule in Tibet, people decided to put minced lamb and scallion mixture seasoned with some of their classic spices in the dough and steam. And this is how flavoursome Momo was born, and the name derived from “Mong Mong.” Suppose we talk about Bhutan, which is passionate about Momos. However, they are conceived to be popularised by the Tibetan communities. The square-shaped Hirshon Momos were made way back in the early 5th century. By Tibetan, Buddhist Ngalops settled in Bhutan. Yak meat or bok choy, mushroom, cabbage, and Datshi were prevalent as stuffing. Thus, what the Tibetans called Momos is nothing but dim sum for the Chinese

The luscious, flavorful meat filling has a magic touch; wherever it travelled always adjusted to the local preferences. And for a classic food lover like me, I was puffed into the Momo magic circle. My recent venture was Kothey Momo which has quite a history. With Newar traders’ arrival came the round, pleated Momo dumpling, which was then translated into innovative Kothey Momo by Ladakh. It is pan-fried to a crisp, golden brown to perfection after steaming. It is served with a tangy dipping chutney of tomatoes, cilantro and toasted sesame seeds, a delightful delicacy.

Kothey Momo

Another one will be Jhol Momos; steamed Tibetan-style chicken momos dunked into a Jhol (a chutney). The Tibetan Changpa tribe has brought a spectacular transformation in the original TibetiatoMomo with the nomadic life. In the mid-seventh century, when the clan moved to Ladakh, they invented Ting Momo – a soft, puffy, rose-shaped., which was steamed & served with tangy tomato & chilli Sepen sauce.

The Momo Magic: The Farthest Traveled Food
Jhol Momo

Not long ago, when people associated Momos with food from the Northeast, but in reality, it’s not even part of their traditional culinary art. Perhaps it is only among Arunachal Pradesh’s Monpa and Sherdukpa tribes, who live in the West Kameng and Tawang districts and share a border with Tibet, where Momos are a part of their diet. Their variation is usually stuffed with minced pork, mustard leaves, or other green vegetables and served with chilli paste. But Momos received in Sikkim is quite another story since it is a comfort food across communities like Bhutias, Lepchas and Nepalis.

The Momo Magic: The Farthest Traveled Food
Thai Momo

During my Sikkim travel, my Momo knowledge got brushed up more. The Sikkimese Momo is named Thaipo Momo. A plump round dumpling with a flat back. And this passed in the 17th century with the Tibetan Bhutias to Sikkim. Thaipo Momo is much similar to the steamed Tibetan. Except it’s served with Sikkimese Dalle Khursani cherry chilli pepper sauce here. Likewise, the state’s traditional dish, Hyontoen, made of millet flour, is now rolled like Momos, stuffed with cheese and steamed. Sikkimese takes pride in its ability to make a variety of delicious Momos. It’s delicious and addictive.

The Momo Magic: The Farthest Traveled Food

Indeed! Hence, with the expedition, what I understood. If China claims Baozi and Jiaoz, the sophisticated dumpling is their invention. Then tortellini and ravioli are nothing but Italian Momos. But tracing the dumpling or Momo can also be started with Khinkali – the Georgian Momo. With the Mongol invasion under Genghis Khan. The Momo spread marches his hordes’ forward motion through far-east, central and west Asia right through eastern and north-eastern Europe. So, could the Momo be a Mongol legacy? So the title is yet to be confirmed. But a continent to the west – has remarkably similar-sounding ones called Mantou. The Momo Magic: The Farthest Traveled Food

It looks very much like tortellini! Though the Afghan Mantou has no resemblance to the Chinese Mantou, which is a steamed bun. But there are two Momo variations; one is from Afgan the Mantou stuffed with meat and onions topped with a Chana-dal-yoghurt sauce. And the other is Ashak from Kabul Momo, filled with chives garnished with yoghurt, rajma and minced lamb. It did not surprise me when I found Uzbekistan has a similar Momo–Manti. More free-form and less tortellini-type.But with the same Chana-dal topping. Deep in my thoughts Rajma, Chana dal, tomatoes, and yoghurt are Indian favourites. So did Manto precede Momo in India. Besides, Afghans who ruled before the Mughals in medieval times could be part of their cuisine.

The Momo Magic: The Farthest Traveled Food

However, the Momo inevitably made inroads into Europe during and after the Mongols. And they are becoming Pelmeni in Russia, Vareniki in Ukraine and Pierogi in Poland. The Romanians have Coltunasi dumplings, while Bryndzové Pirohy is what Slovakians call their sheep’s cheese-filled ones. And the Hungarians call their Derelye. Even the Ashkenazi Jews have their version called Kreplach. The humble Momo has evolved with various invasions and local preferences of the places it travelled. Quite an evolution!


I can savour the steamed, glossy, round shapes stuffed with a punch flavour. My crush for Momos is in-depth; no matter where they come from, what shape it is, or the cooking styles, tastes, and even chilly dipping sauce, they will always be my soul food. Gosh! I need to order a plate from Zomato.




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