Sunday, August 1, 2010

MOMOS! Beef Filling. A photo guide

The most famous and most popular Tibetan dish, hands down, is the momo. Momo is a dumpling, similar to gyoza and many other Asian dumplings.

In Tibet there are many kind of momos. The differences are not only the filling, but also the manner of cooking and even the dough. I plan on posting MANY momo recipes here, but I just wanted to start with one of the simples. Plain, everyday, thin skinned, beef momo.

Momo in Tibet would normally be filled with yak meat, but aside from once or twice a year when my brother and I spit out the $13/pound and get some ground yak meat (very difficult to find in the USA) we stick with beef. The best yak meat substitute is actually freerange buffalo. In some places, you can find that for only a dollar or two more per pound and the difference is really noticable.

Momo are great. Everyone loves them. My parents, brother, grandma. Here's the best part, on those rare occasions (like right now) when I am in the USA, my American high school and college friends who have no Tibet exposure aside from me specifically request momo parties! So the following photos were taken at last night's momo party. Sorry there aren't any photos of the finished momos. We...we ate them.

Beef Momos

Filling Ingredients
1/4 of a pound (roughly) of ground beef or lamb or bison per person present
2/3 the volume of beef in scallions (that is to say if the beef fills up half a bowl, you want 2/3 of the remaining half full of scallions)
white onion (optional, I use one really large white onion for 3 pounds of beef)
chopped fresh garlic, to taste
chopped ginger root, to taste
Soy sauce

Dough Ingredients
a few pinches of salt

Large mixing bowl
Medium mixing bowl
cutting board and knives
good, large steamer

Start by mixing flour and water in a bowl with a few pinches of salt until you have a stretchy, but not sticky ball of dough. Let this sit while you prepare everthing else. Cover it with a damp towel or something.
Put your beef into a mixing bowl and start chopping up your ginger, garlic, onions and scallions.

Now, add some soy sauce to taste and some warm water (for the quantity you see here, I used about a cup.) and mix this all together into a big pile of meat!

YAYYY. Meat.
OK, moving on. Take the dough and roll it between your hands to form coils about an inch and a half thick.

Slice these into discs about 3/4 of an inch thick and squish these between your hands in a spiralling motion.

Take the spiraled discs and start rolling them with a small rolling pin, rolling only the edges and turning the disc to get all sides. The center should be thicker than the edges. A 3 or 4 inch flat disc is ideal. If you lack a small wooden dowel, for a rolling pin, I recommend a beer bottle! As you can see, our men who were rolling were pleased. We let them drink the beers first.

Get some forks for your meat. Preferably, put them in the meat tines down. As you can see, we had problems with this.

And now the two most popular way to fold momos!

Circular Momos: Gently cupping a disc on your fingers, fork in about a tablespoon of filling.
Pinch one side, forming a corner, then keep pinching the edge over to that first pinch. Pull another bit of the edge and pinch to the first spot and continue doing this all the way around, it will start closing the dough. Use your thumb to gently push in the meat. Cup it carefully in your hand to help it keep a round shape.
A better angle to see the pinching.
Finally it will be pinched shut with a tiny spiral of dough at the top, pinch that spiral to itself to form a circle at the top.
And you get a beautiful final product like so!

And here, for you viewing pleasure, is the most beautiful momo I've ever made:

Crescent Shaped Momos:

Hold the dough disc in your hand and fill it kind of like a soft taco. Pinch the end

On one side, and ONLY one side, pleat the edge, pinching it to the flat side. So one pinch, move about 3/4 cm, another pinch, move 3/4 cm...continue. It's pleating, plain and simple. One side will remain flat. This will naturally create a crescent shape.

Keep carefully moving along the edge pleating until you come to the end, and which point, pinch it at the end, shutting it and pinch all along the top edge to make sure its sealed.

LOOK!!! I made a momo!

Lightly oil your steamer and lay the momos on them so that they are not touching. Steam for about 20-25 minutes over boiling water. Serve with chili sauce, soy sauce, and black vinegar if you have it!


  1. Great post! Will be sure to send to some of my inji friends who want to learn.

  2. Dang man, now I just gotta find a steamer...

    Y'know, I never actually realized how similar the process of making momos is to Empanadas - swap scallions for onions, put in a couple more herbs, maybe diced hard-boiled egg and olive if desired, and instead of steaming, put on a light glaze of egg white on one side, then put in the oven - or both sides, then fry.

    Incredibly similar.

  3. Sounds delish. I better make empanadas.