Here are the secrets to cooking traditional Tibetan Momos

Updated: Feb 19, 2020

When I first travelled independently across Tibet in 1985, meals were interesting.

In Lhasa, the simple guest-house in the Barkhor just had bowls of basic vegetables, sitting around a single fire in a windowless, smokey kitchen. You pointed to what you wanted, the cook threw it into a wok, added an egg, some noodles, a dodgy sauce and breakfast, lunch or dinner was served.

If you ventured out into the Barkhor market early, before 7am, you could buy clay bowls of delicious, warm, green yogurt to supplement the diet. Other than that it was dried yak meat or watermelon.

I ate a lot of yogurt and watermelon that journey.

The bus I organised overland to Kathmandu, was a fascinating and rough experience. Our driver wasn’t the friendliest fellow in the world and independent tourists were unheard of, so no one knew what to do with us in each town, especially regarding food. In the rural communities it was usually Thukpa soup, thick home-made noodles in broth with whatever vegetables could be harvested from the fields and maybe some dried yak meat.

One day, we were abandoned in a small, unnamed village between Shigatse and Tingri, as our driver disappeared for what we presumed, was his lunch. Hungry and confused we watched in wonder, as a woman walking past stopped and lowered the wicker basket she had been carrying by a rope line across her forehead. She raised the lid, motioned to us, and there in layers of newspaper were mountains of steaming hot, traditional bread momos. Tibetan dumplings.

We had no idea why she had so many fresh momos or where she was originally taking them to, but we bought out her entire stock. Every beautifully crafted dumpling was full of a mouth watering, spiced vegetable mixture, that warmed our stomachs and prepared us for the long afternoon on the dusty, rutted road. Before our driver returned she trotted off, to again who-knows where, with her apron full of cash and a big grin on her face. Our driver couldn’t understand why we all looked so contented.

For some reason traditional momos are hard to come by, in Nepal or back at home. The vast majority from restaurants, are in a dim sum skin, steamed or pan fried.

This traditional bread momo recipe, is from Kancha, who was a cook at Kopan monastery, Kathmandu. The secret to these or any momos, is the masala and the momo sauce, and Kancha’s are amazing.

Momos are often a celebratory and communal meal. Invite your family and friends around, all squeeze into the kitchen, soak up the heady smells of the spices and enjoy a chat, some laughs and a drink, while sharing in the cooking of these delectable treats. The effort is worth it.