Momo wave inspires variations of traditional Himalayan delicacy in Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- You probably know what a dumpling is, but what about a momo? You might be tempted to call them dumplings, but the cooks would prefer it if you didn't.

Unlike its Chinese relative, the steamed, meat-filled delicacy stems from the Himalayas, in and around Nepal.

ABC7 Chicago's Hungry Hound, Steve Dolinsky, found several new places in town who are making their momos from scratch each day.

The momo wave has been growing over the past few months. The uptick in popularity has tiny independent restaurants producing steamed and fried versions of the savory treat.

At Himalayan Sherpa Kitchen in Ravenswood, you would be excused for sticking to the excellent curries and flatbreads, but it would be a shame if you missed out on trying their homemade momos.

"When we make momos and dumplings, we gather because we have a big family. So one members do some parts, other families do other parts. It's kind of fun as well," said Himalayan Sherpa Kitchen owner Raj Thapa.

Thapa said he combines flour and water, then kneads and rolls it out to cut into circles. He then filled the dough with all sorts of savory combos.

"Chicken, lamb or veggie, whichever you prefer," he said, "and we put some vegetables in it so you can get more flavors in it. Cabbage is also the common thing we put in momos."

The delicate pouches are steamed over giant cabbage leaves and served with an excellent homemade dipping sauce.

"We use like cumin seeds, garlic paste, and chilies, and also tomato," Thapa said. "We blend it together and cook it for a little while and when you dip it in, it's really awesome," said Thapa.

The Momo Factory in Lake View also specializes in Nepalese food, including momos. They offer a half-dozen different preperations, with wrappers that are just thick enough to hold the well-seasoned fillings without overwhelming the bite. Dolinsky said the versions covered in their homemade sauce are particularly good.

Another tasty spot is in University Village on the UIC campus along historic Maxwell Street. There, the Budhathoki family cooks the dishes from their homeland at The Momo World. They moved to Chicago 15 years ago and are quick to note there is a difference between Nepalese and Indian food.

"Indian food has a huge flavor punch to it. They use garam masala and those strong spices. For us, we usually use those spices as well, in a moderate amount, but we use a variety of them so we can make the food very flavorful," said Mahima Budhathoki. "It's a very subtle taste."

All of the momos are made by hand and to-order.

"That's minced chicken with a bunch of different spices. [I] can't really tell you the recipe because it's a secret, but it is a very old recipe that my mom adapted. We have so many momos!" she said.

Some are deep-fried and then tossed into a wok with chilies and Szechuan peppercorns, and ultimately topped with onions and cilantro.

"And then we also have tandoori momo, which is different. It derives from chicken tandoori, which is a famous Indian dish. We kind of made it our own, put some momos into it, coated it and grilled the momos," said Budhathoki.

In Steve's Extra Course video, he goes back to Himalayan Sherpa Kitchen to taste their excellent fish curry.
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In Steve's Extra Course video, he goes back to Himalayan Sherpa Kitchen to taste their excellent fish curry.



Himalayan Sherpa Kitchen
2701 W. Lawrence Ave.
773-942-6721
https://himalayansherpakitchenchicago.com/

Momo Factory
3202 N. Broadway
773-661-2970
https://www.facebook.com/momo-factory-104722724208310/?modal=admin_todo_tour

The Momo World
727 W. Maxwell St.
312-733-8637
http://themomoworld.com/
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