The year 2000 was a big year. Turn of the century … Sydney Olympics … my final year of working in hospitality … and the year Mr K and I spent two weeks trekking the Himalaya’s to Everest Base Camp, from the Nepalese side. Ten years later I still remember it vividly: getting up at 3 am and walking through knee-deep trails of snow, the white mountains glowing in the moonlight, and me struggling to make use of my fingers to remove a glove for a few seconds to take the odd photo in minus-20°C.
As the sun rose and as we got closer to the foot of Everest we were up against a horizontal gale carrying tiny shards of ice making the air look like it was full of glitter. This is something I’ll remember forever.
The food on the trek was almost as memorable, just not in a good way. Once we were made a local onion and tomato soup that was tainted with kerosene, by accident of course. Not a good flavour. Almost every other meal consisted of carrot, cabbage and potato, prepared in the simplest of ways and every few days we were treated with a yak steak or even pan-fried slices of Spam.
As much as our trek group quietly complained to one another about the food, we totally understood the limited choices. Everything was carried on the backs of local sherpa’s: the cooking equipment, water, basic food supplies and on each overnight stop at permanent camps on the mountains we had the luxury of eggs, powdered coffee, more fresh vegetables (carrot, cabbage & potato), electricity and a roaring stone fireplace. Happy days.
Before and after our trek we spent some time in and around Kathmandu, a frantic little city crammed with temples, restaurants featuring cuisines from all over the world and more outdoors & trekking stores you could imagine. It was here in Kathmandu that we tried our very first momos, a meat or vegetable dumpling in a thicker-than-normal pastry, steamed or fried and served with a spiced tomato pickle. Perhaps this is where my dumpling fetish was conceived.
The following recipe had been adapted somewhat. I’ve made the dough a lovely green colour by blending one cup of coriander leaves with one cup of water, pouring this into the flour before kneading. Also, I’ve added paneer to the meat mix. I love the stuff.
Finally, I also made the momos using wonton wrappers as there was a great deal of meat filling remaining (you can see these in the last photo). Wonton wrappers make it much easier to construct the dumplings as well, but for the authentic texture, go for the dough made from scratch.
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mix well and check for seasoning.
Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
In a small food processor add the water and coriander and blend until fine.
In a large bowl combine the flour, coriander water and salt. Mix well and knead for 8-10 minutes Cover and let stand for 30 minutes.
Give the dough a final knead then break off small pieces to form 2cm balls. Take a ball, roll into a spherical shape. Dust the work surface with a little flour. Gently flatten the ball on the floured surface and, using a small rolling pin, roll evenly to about 3mm thickness.
Put one teaspoon of the meat mixture into the centre of the pastry round, brush a little water around the edges and begin to fold one side of the pastry over the meat until it almost meets the other side. Rather than me explaining how to do the pleats, watch this video I found online. It really is easy, though I did mine a little differently.
Heat a large frying pan over high heat, add a couple of tablespoons of oil and swirl the oil around to coat all of the base. In a single layer place the dumplings into the pan and fry for 1-2 minutes, or until golden brown just on the bottom.
Add 1 cup water and cover the pan and let cook for 10 minutes or so. Serve immediately.
Preheat oven 220° and bake the tomatoes for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile heat up a small frying pan over medium heat and fry the ginger, garlic, fenugreek seeds and asafetida for about 1 minute.
When the tomatoes are done, put them into a food processor with the lemon juice, coriander, salt, szechuan papper, tarragon and the cooked ginger-garlic mix. Blend until smooth.
Serve this pickle at room temperature.
* Asafetida (also known as hing or heeng) is the ground resin from a Persian herb related to parsley. It even helps prevent flatulence!