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Momos, Nepal’s new national dish

world Updated: Nov 01, 2008 23:44 IST
Anirban Roy

What is the national dish of Nepal? For the elderly people, it may still be Daal Bhaat Takaari (lentils, rice and vegetable curry). But, it is definitely not true for the youths.

They love Momos and endorse it as the Himalayan nation’s new national dish.

Be it a roadside fast-food outlet, or a luxury hotel, Momos feature prominently in every carte du jour and is the best-selling eatable in Nepal now. Though it is primarily a nibble, some even treat it as a main course for lunch and dinner.

“We all love Momos. After all, it is the national dish of Nepal now,” Jagdish Khanal, a student of Tribhuwan University
said, adding, “For us, there cannot be anything better than Momos”. In fact, Momo is a typical Tibetan dumpling, similar to Mongolian buuz or Chinese jiaozi, and are made of flour dough. Traditionally, Momos are steamed, and filled with minced yak meat and served with red-hot chili sauce.

But in Nepal, the centuries-old strong Hindu tradition made people to think for modifications in their Momos.
So, filling yak meat has been replaced by chicken and buffalo meat in Nepal. It is also blended with onions, garlic and coriander.

The filling mixture is also spiced with salt, pepper, and often ground cumin. The veggies also savor Momos in their own way and most restaurants have varieties of the dumplings.

For the average Nepalis, Momos are not only scrumptious, but also healthy as it is cooked without oil. Moreover, the meat fillings inside is a high source of protein. However, some people like pan-fried or deep-fried Momos.

As there is no written history about the evolution of the new national dish of Nepal, there are a lot of interesting stories attached to the large-scale espousal of the Tibetan dish.

Naturally, because of the geographical proximity, Nepali foods always have strong Tibetan and Indian influences. But, neither the Indian Tandoori cuisine, nor any other Tibetan or Chinese dishes could compete with the magic of Momos in Nepal.

Moreover, Kathmandu is famous as the budget eating capital of Asia with tourist restaurants selling a wide variety of western style fast food including chips, steaks and pizza. But, the tourists make it a point to taste Momos.

In an interview to a Kathmandu-based daily, Nepal’s Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda had even admitted that Momo is his favourite dish and for the last one decade, he has been regularly gulping the dumplings.

Though the new national dish of Nepal does not have any official endorsement, the steamed dumplings are also popular among Nepali diaspora around the world now.