the appetizer:

Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More by Andrea Nguyen, includes recipes like Har Gow Shrimp Dumplings, Xid Jido; Sticky Rice and Spiced Chicken in Banana Leaf, Lemper Ayam; and Nepalese Vegetable and Cheese Dumplings, Tarkari Momo.

Cookbook Profile

Nepalese Vegetable and Cheese Dumplings
Tarkari Momo

Makes 32 dumplings, serving 4 as a main course, 6 to 8 as a snack or starter

Nepalese Vegetable and Cheese Dumplings


Tarkari momo are strikingly similar in concept to Italian ravioli with a ricotta-based filling, but the seasonings in these Nepalese dumplings reveal their Asian roots. Cumin, ginger, and Sichuan peppercorn commingle with chenna, or crumbly curds of Indian cheese (a precursor to paneer). Those ingredients combine with fresh chile, vegetables, and butter to make a wonderful vegetarian dumpling. The eye-poppingly spicy tomato sauce is a fabulous pairing with the delicate, rich filling.

The cheese is very easy to prepare, but you can substitute 1/3 pound paneer, crumbling or mincing it before using. For a pretty presentation, consider tinting the wrappers orange or gold by using some carrot juice or turmeric (see page 23 of the book).



1. Put the milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Meanwhile, line a colander with a flour-sack towel, a piece of muslin, or four layers of cheesecloth.

When the milk begins to boil, decrease the heat to prevent boiling over. Add the lemon juice, stirring gently for about 10 seconds, or until white curds start forming and separating from the clear green-yellow whey. Remove from the heat and strain through the fabric-lined colander. Rinse the curds under cold water at a medium flow for about 5 seconds, to cool slightly and remove residual tang.

Gather up the towel around the curds, gently twisting to extract excess water. (If the cheese is still too hot, try again after it has hung for 10 minutes.) Tie up the corners of the towel, then hang the cheese to drain (I use the sink faucet) for 30 to 45 minutes, or until cool.

Transfer the cheese to a bowl, then mash it into a crumble; there should be about 1 cup. Cover to prevent drying. The cheese can be made up to 4 days in advance and refrigerated.

2. Half-fill a pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the cabbage. When the water returns to a boil, add the spinach, stirring to wilt it. Remove from the heat, drain the cabbage and spinach, rinse with cold water, then drain again. Expel excess water by squeezing batches of the vegetables in a towel or the same cloth used for making the cheese. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. There should be about 1-1/2 packed cups.

3. Melt the ghee in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrantly sweet. Add the garlic, ginger, and chile, stirring for 30 seconds, or until aromatic. Sprinkle in the Sichuan peppercorn and cumin, stirring for another 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the cabbage and spinach, and continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes, until heated through. Stir in the cheese, scallions, and cilantro to combine. Sprinkle in the salt and mix well. Cook for about 1 minute to heat through. Give the cornstarch mixture a stir and add to the filling mixture. Gently stir and fold until the mixture coheres. Transfer to a bowl, partially cover, and set aside to cool completely before using. You should have about 2 cups. (Or, cover in plastic wrap, refrigerate overnight, and return to temperature before proceeding.)

4. Meanwhile, form 16 wrappers from half of the dough (see page 24). Aim for wrappers that are about 3/4 inches in diameter.

5. Before assembling the dumplings, line steamer trays and/or a baking sheet with parchment paper. (If you are making the dumplings in advance, or plan to freeze them, lightly dust the paper with flour to avoid sticking.) For each dumpling, hold a wrapper in a slightly cupped hand. Scoop up about 1 tablespoon of filling with a bamboo dumpling spatula, dinner knife, or fork and position it in the center of the wrapper, pressing and shaping it into a mound and keeping about 1/2 to 3/4 inch of wrapper clear on all sides. Use your fingers to pleat and pinch the edge together to enclose the filling and form a closed satchel (see below). If that shape is too challenging, make the dumplings into half-moons, pea pods, big hugs, or pleated crescents (see pages 26 to 29 for instructions).

If you are steaming right away, place each finished dumpling in a steamer tray, sealed side up, and 1 inch away from the edge if you are using metal steamers. Repeat with the remaining wrappers, placing them in the steamer about 1/2 inch apart. If you don't have enough space on your steamer trays to steam all the dumplings at once, or if you are not steaming them right away, place the waiting ones on the prepared baking sheet, spaced a good 1/2 inch apart.

Keeping the finished dumplings covered with a dry kitchen towel, form wrappers from the remaining dough and fill them.

6. Assembled dumplings can be covered with plastic wrap, refrigerated for several hours, and cooked straight from the refrigerator. Or, freeze them on the baking sheet until hard (about 1 hour), transfer them to a zip-top plastic bag, pressing out excess air before sealing, and keep them frozen for up to 1 month; partially thaw, using your finger to smooth over any cracks that may have formed, before steaming.

7. To cook, steam the dumplings (see page 17 for guidance) over boiling water for about 8 minutes, or until they have puffed slightly and become somewhat translucent. Remove each tray and place it atop a serving plate.

8. Serve immediately with the sauce in a communal bowl for guests to help themselves. Enjoy with fork and spoon.


Basic Dumpling Dough

Makes about 1 pound, enough for 32 medium or 24 large dumplings

This dough is the foundation of many excellent dumplings, including Chinese jiăozi, Korean mandu and Nepali momo. The process of making the dough is easy to master, especially with a little help from modern tools such as a food processor (though you can mix the dough by hand).

Asian wheat flour wrappers may be made with cold or hot water—the temperature is traditionally dictated by the cooking method. Boiled dumplings are said to require thicker skins made from cold-water dough in order to withstand the pressures of boiling, whereas panfried and steamed dumplings require thinner skins made from hot-water dough for their gentler cooking processes. Over the years, I've found that homemade wrappers of medium thickness, a scant 1/8 inch thick in the center and about 1/16 inch thick at the rim, work well for all cooking methods. If dumplings are gently boiled as described for shuĭjiăo on page 31 of the book, there is no need for thicker wrappers. Producing medium-thick wrappers is easier with hot-water dough as it is more yielding than its cold-water counterpart. The resulting wrappers taste superior to store-bought ones, and they need no water to seal. Grocery store all-purpose flour with a moderate amount of gluten, such as Gold Medal brand, works exceptionally well.

1. To prepare the dough in a food processor, put the flour in the work bowl. With the machine running, add 3/4 cup of water in a steady stream through the feed tube. As soon as all the water has been added, stop the machine and check the dough. It should look rough and feel soft but firm enough to hold its shape when pinched. If necessary, add water by the teaspoon or flour by the tablespoon. When satisfied, run the machine for another 5 to 10 seconds to further knead and form a ball around the blade. Avoid overworking the dough.

2. Alternatively, make the dough by hand. Put a bowl atop a kitchen towel to prevent it from slipping while you work. Put the flour in the bowl and make a well in the center. Use a wooden spoon or bamboo rice paddle to stir the flour while you add 3/4 cup water in a steady stream. Aim to evenly moisten the flour. It is okay to pause to stir or add water—it is hard to simultaneously do both actions. When all the water has been added, you will have lots of lumpy bits. Knead the dough in the bowl (it is not terribly hot) to bring all the lumps into one mass; if the dough does not come together easily, add water by the teaspoon.

3. Regardless of the mixing method, transfer the dough and any bits to a work surface; flour your work surface only if necessary, and then sparingly. Knead the dough (it is not hot) with the heel of your hand for about 30 seconds for machine-made dough, or about 2 minutes for handmade dough. The result should be nearly smooth and somewhat elastic; press on the dough; it should slowly bounce back, with a light impression of your finger remaining. Place the dough in a zip-top plastic bag and seal tightly closed, expelling excess air. Set aside to rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours. The dough will steam up the plastic bag and become earlobe soft, which makes wrappers easy to work with.

4. After resting, the dough can be used right away to form the wrappers. Or, refrigerate it overnight and returned it to room temperature before using.

Note: Recipes for hot-water dough often call for boiling water to hydrate the dry ingredients, but I find that practice too dangerous and prefer to let the water rest first. For the just-boiled water, half-fill a kettle or saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat and after the bubbling action subsides, 30 to 90 seconds (depending on the heating vessel), pour the amount needed into a glass measuring cup and use for making the dough. I typically wait no more than 2 minutes after boiling to use the water.

Lazy Day Tip

You can substitute purchased wrappers for homemade ones. Medium-thick pot sticker wrappers are good for boiled, panfried, and steamed dumplings; however, they do not deep-fry well. Sui gow wrappers are typically made relatively thick for boiled dumplings. If your wrappers are soft and fresh but on the thick side, try rolling them to create thinner ones. A commercially made wrapper holds less filling than a homemade one, so your yield will be higher for the filling recipes here. When using store-bought wrappers, moisten the edge with water to seal them. Purchased wheat flour wrappers are best used for shaping half-moons, pea pods, pleated crescents, and big hugs but not closed satchels.


Play with the Dough

Once you've got the hang of making and using the basic dumpling dough, try coloring it with vegetable juice or ground spices or altering its texture with glutinous rice flour.

Jade Dough Liquefy 2 lightly packed cups of coarsely chopped spinach leaves (about 3 ounces) with a generous 1/2 cup of water in a blender for about 90 seconds, or until there is an intensely green, smooth mixture. If needed, pause the blender to scrape down the sides. Transfer to a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. When the spinach comes to a near boil (look for foam all around the rim), turn off the heat. Stir to blend in the foam, measure out 3/4 cup, then use it for the dough. You may have to add an extra teaspoon of spinach water to arrive at a nice softness. The extra bulk from the spinach produces more dough than usual, so the wrappers will be larger.

Orange Dough

Use 100 percent carrot juice, available at many specialty grocers. Bring 1 cup to a boil in a small saucepan, turn off the heat, and then measure out the 3/4 cup needed. Use as you would water to mix into the flour.

Golden Dough

Mix 3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric into the flour before adding the water. The dough will develop its color as it sits.

Extra-Chewy Dough

For extra elasticity and natural sweetness, a quality favored by Korean and Japanese cooks, combine 7-1/2 ounces (1-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour with 2-7/8 ounces (ample 1/2 cup) Mochiko Blue Star brand glutinous (sweet) rice flour. Use 3/4 cup just-boiled water and proceed as usual. This dough is firmer than the basic dumpling dough, so you may find that the rice flour also makes the dough a bit easier to manipulate.


Master Shape: Closed Satchel

This shape is used for momos, Shanghai soup dumplings, and stuffed buns.

If you are right handed, hold the wrapper in the left hand and use your right hand to center a mound of filling on the wrapper (lefties, reverse the following directions). Place the left thumb atop the filling to keep it down as you use the right thumb and index finger to make the first pleat by pulling up on the wrapper edge and folding it over itself, pressing it to seal. Keeping the right thumb and index finger in place to steady the pleat (both thumbs are now inside the dumpling), move the left index finger clockwise along the edge to fold the rim over itself to create the second pleat. With this small motion, the left index finger passes the new pleat to the right index finger, which will take it over and press it against the first pleat.

As you repeat this motion along the rim, the right index finger and thumb are pinching and holding the accumulating pleats together. The dumpling will rotate and an accordionlike spiral of pleats will form to gradually close the opening. When the opening is too small to fit both thumbs, move the left thumb to the wrapper edge or remove it and let it rest on the side of the dumpling to keep the dumpling in place. Finish by twisting and pinching shut the opening. If there's excess of dough, pinch the dough edge all around to form a thin lip that better distributes the dough.

Straighten up the sides by holding the dumpling in the crook of your hand and giving it a gentle squeeze, or setting it upright on the work surface and patting the sides. A closed satchel can be cooked and served with the pleats facing up or down. See the individual recipes (in the book) for instructions.

Shaping Closed Satchels

closed satchels

1. Make the first pleat with right thumb and index finger; keep left thumb atop filling.

2. Move the left index finger along the wrapper edge, folding the rim over itself to form the second and subsequent pleats.

3. Finish by twisting and pinching shut the opening.

4. Pinch the edge all around to even out excess dough.


Spicy Roasted Tomato Sauce

Makes 1-1/2 cups

When you present dumplings with this sauce, the combination may recall an Italian pasta dish, but the sauce's zesty qualities resemble the Latin flavors of Mexico more than of Europe. But on closer analysis, the combination of chile, ginger, herbs, and spices is definitely Asian, specifically Nepal's Himalayan cuisine, which blends Chinese, Indian, and Tibetan traditions. In the Nepalese repertoire, this sauce is a type ofachar (a moniker for chutneys and pickles) and is what typically accompanies momo; it's great with Tibetan momo, too.

With a tangy edge, moderate heat, and spiced depth, the sauce has a multilayered punch that begins seemingly subtle but finishes with a certain feistiness. Sometimes ground toasted sesame seeds are added for richness, but I find that they mute the other flavors too much.

1. Position an oven rack about 4 inches away from the broiler. Put the tomato and chile atop a piece of aluminum foil on a baking sheet and broil for about 6 minutes, or until the skins have pulled away and are a bit charred. Turn over and broil the other side for another 2 minutes. Continue, if necessary, to roast and char all over. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

2. Remove and discard the skins from the tomatoes and chile. Cut away the stems and, if you like less heat, scrape out and discard the chile seeds. Coarsely chop and set aside.

3. Combine the garlic, ginger, and salt in a mortar and pound with the pestle into a fragrant paste. Add the chile and pound to a rough texture. Add the tomatoes and gently mix to break the tomato apart. It will remain chunky. Transfer to a bowl, then stir in the water, lime juice, cilantro, and cumin. (For a fine texture, use an electric mini-chopper and process in stages to ensure a smooth consistency. Blend the water and lime juice with the tomato. Stir in the cilantro and cumin to finish.)

4. Set the sauce aside for 30 minutes to blend the flavors. Taste and add extra salt for depth, lime juice to cut the heat, or water to thin out the sauce. Aim for a medium-hot tang. This sauce is best enjoyed the day you prepare it, but it can be refrigerated overnight and returned to room temperature before serving.

Seeding Chiles

I do not seed chiles, as their extra heat contributes wonderful excitement to foods. However, if you want to lessen the burn, remove both the seeds and the pithy membrane from chiles before using them.


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This page created May 2010