Edited to Add: Voting has begun today, Monday September 27th! Please vote for my plump momos here!!!
Sometimes, I wonder if I’m a zealot for punishment.
There is a statement that my parents always sigh in exasperation at me: “Why oh why do you always have to make things hard for yourself?” they would groan, wringing their hands, clucking their tongue.
If they had their way, I wouldn’t be studying journalism, an apparently “dying” field. I wouldn’t be taking 18 credits each semester while cramming 2-3 articles per week for my school newspaper and blogging 3-4 times a week.
No, if they had their wish, I would be a steady-paced college student who is in bed by 10 p.m each night, dating and possibly engaged to a nice God-fearing Korean boy.
Unfortunately, I don’t lead the smooth, leisurely life my parents hope for a daughter. Because I simply won’t let myself slow down. Because this is just the way I am: I love a challenge. I love pushing myself to bigger potentials, grabbing new experiences, jumping into spontaneous adventures.
I wonder what my parents would say if they knew that this afternoon, I pushed off all my piling schoolwork to knead dough and take pictures of onions and garlic for hours. I wonder what they’ll say if I told them it was for a second Project Food Blog challenge, in which 400 hundred bloggers will post about a classic dish from an unfamiliar cuisine.
I can just imagine their brows furrowing in confusion, then exasperation. “Wait…” they’ll say. “So you spent 5 hours on a project hosted by some random foodie web site so people can vote for you to advance to another time-consuming challenge?”
I can just see it in my head. My mother would turn to stare accusingly at my dad. “She’s like this because she’s just like you,” she’ll say.
“She’s a 99.9% replica of me,” my dad would sigh, half-proudly, half-woefully.
See? Don’t blame me; it’s in the genes. My father’s side, we’re as stubborn and driven as that squirrel Scrat in Ice Age.
Thankfully, I don’t look like him. I hope not.
Anyway, it’s no surprise that for my second Project Food Blog challenge, I decided to “make things hard for myself” again and choose to make Tibetan momos.
What are momos? Well, I had no idea until I took up this little project. You see, my only experience with momos is seeing them on a menu displayed outside a Tibetan restaurant in New York City this summer. I remember getting intrigued when I saw the descriptions for momos in the menu as Tibetan dumplings, and that curiosity has lingered until now.
The reason I chose momo is because 1) I’ve never had Tibetan food 2) It’s so cute to pronounce the word “momo” and 3) I freaking LOVE dumplings.
I understand it’s time-consuming. I understand it probably isn’t practical to make something I’ve never made or even tasted before. But I’ve had Chinese dumplings before. And I really, really freaking wanted some goddamn momos all of a sudden.
So. Momo it is.
First, I did some research on my best buddy, Google. I watched a couple videos on YouTube. I pored over different recipes, trying to decide which one is “authentic”. And the overall conclusion I made was that there is no such thing as an “authentic” momo, because every household has their own recipe, and THERE IS NO EXACT RECIPE involved.
I LOVE that. My pet peeve is people who freak out over loose recipes without exact measurements and directions. Cooking is free-style. It’s not an exact science. So loosen up, buddy, and just hit your food with creative pizzazz.
I decided to make my own dough, just to make things more challenging. I mixed about 6 cups of flour to 2 scant cups of water, and added a small dash of baking soda.
And then I kneaded…and kneaded…
Until the dough was smooth and supple. Like a baby’s butt.
I then covered the dough and left it to sit for awhile.
Ground meat (typically should be yak meat, but no way I can get that around here. I stuck to ground pork).
And then, some seasonings like ground cumin, black pepper, soy sauce. Mix, mix, mix with my hands.
My, my, what an ugly set of colors. That’s okay, because I’m gonna cover you up with some baby-butt dough.
Except…Oh. My. GAWD. This is where it got tough.
First of all, I realized I didn’t have a rolling pin. I used a drinking glass instead.
Second of all, I got all fool-hardy again and decided I’m gonna wrap the dumplings in the more difficult, “authentic” way, which is into a small swirling ball, sort of like a xiao long bao. Yeah. No idea how to do that. Fuzzy YouTube videos were no help.
Third, I wasn’t exactly sure how thick or thin the dough was supposed to be. Not that it mattered since my rolling pin substitute could only roll so much. I had to pinch and flatten the dough out with my fingers at the end before wrapping.
But. I managed, after much trials and errors, and several French words. Check this out:
Can you see the progression from left to right? Okay, the last one still ain’t as neat and pretty as I wanted it to be, but I was rather satisfied with the shape of my momos by the time I got to my 15th one.
By then, I had fallen into a peaceful, repetitious momentum: Roll. Flatten. Roll. Spoon filling in. Pinch, pinch, pinch. Final swirl. Repeat. I reckon I made about 60-80 momos by the time I had used up all my dough.
And then, I ran into another minor complication: I had no steamer. I know, WHAT?! How did I not think about this beforehand? I guess I was too blinded by visions of steaming momos to realize that I had no way to actually cook them.
Thankfully, my housemate came to the rescue. He has an old-fashioned rice cooker, the old tin pot kind you pour water into. So I used that as my steamer, and it worked.
While my momos were steaming, I got to work on the momo dipping sauce:
Just a mixture of tomatoes, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sugar, turmeric, red pepper flakes, and chicken broth. Boil and simmer for 10 minutes. It smelled like Indian curry. Wonderful.
And finally, my final product:
I think I cried. Tears of exhaustion. Tears of pride. Tears of relief that I made it. Tears from rubbing my eyes after handling onions. Such an idiot.
You know what I love most about dumplings? The way they exude confidence in all their plump, juicy glory.
That’s the adjective I would describe a dumpling: proud. Not because they are stunningly gorgeous, or ostentatiously colorful, but because of the way they stand tall on their round bottoms, promising some tasty treasures inside their warm bellies.
And when you chomp into one, sinking your teeth into the chewy skin and letting the savory juices flow, you just grin, realizing that all your hard work was worth it.
And I’m still grinning, knowing that I have about 60 momos stashed in my freezer, ready for a quick, delicious meal anytime I need it.
I take that back. I’m not a zealot for punishment. I’m a zealot for pleasure achieved through hard work. Because nothing tastes as good as something with sweat and toil as the ingredient.
Question of the Day: What is the toughest thing you’ve ever attempted to make in the kitchen?
P.S. Thank you for all who voted for me! I was so ecstatic to find myself advancing to the next round, and hopefully, I’ll make it a bit further along! Voting for Challenge #2 starts Monday!