Momos are a savory dumpling of Tibetan origin that are popular in Nepal. Momo ko achar is the spicy tomato based dipping sauce traditionally served with momos. This recipe combines fire roasted vegetables with earthy cumin, bright coriander, zesty red chili, and the surprising zing of Szechuan peppercorns. The result is an amazing blend with a uniquely Nepali taste! Serve as an authentic accompaniment to steaming hot momos or as a delicious dip for potstickers.
My Nepali maid taught me how to make this chutney or dip. I've tasted several different versions of this sauce across Nepal but hers is still the best! I guessed what was in the chutney but didn't know Nepalis charred the tomatoes, bell pepper, chilis, garlic, and ginger. Fire roasting certainly makes a huge difference in flavor!
For truly authentic momo ko achar the vegetables would be roasted on the embers of a traditional Nepali stove called a chulo. Chulos come in various sizes and configurations but are generally made of clay and wood fired. The lovely lady in the above photo has one of the newer indoor models which have a chimney built along the wall. If you look closely you can see her pots are coated with mud on the bottom to prevent blackening and scorching from the fire. I am told nothing can compare to the taste of food slow-cooked upon a chulo but I use my gas stove for more timely results. I char the vegetables on the gas burners of my stove but you can get similar results if you use the broiler in an oven. I wondered if the spices would be dry roasted but traditionally they aren't.
|Nepali timur or Szechuan peppercorns|
Please be advised that this chutney is HOT. It's not just the green chilies that are spicy hot. Nepali timur or Szechuan peppercorns and red chili powder adding their zing too. So there's three kinds of heat going on in this sauce! You may leave the chilies out for less heat and swap the traditional timur for tamer black peppercorns - but momos are meant to be eaten with tears streaming down your face!
3 large tomatoes
1 bell pepper/capsicum, destemmed and deseeded
2-3 green chilies/hari mirch
4 cloves of garlic/lahsun, peeled
1&1/2 inch piece of ginger/adrakh, peeled
1 C cilantro/dhania, chopped
1 tsp cumin/jeera, ground
1 tsp coriander/dhania seeds, ground
1 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1/2 tsp paprika plus 1/2 tsp cayenne powder)
1/2 tsp timur/Szechuan peppercorns (or ground black pepper)
1 TBS oil of choice
Salt to taste
Here's what to do:
1) Roast the tomatoes, bell pepper, green chilies, garlic, and ginger until blackened. Either put them over an open flame or cut them in half and put them under a broiler until the skin blackens and splits. I do this on the gas burners of my stove but traditionally this would be done on the coals of a cooking fire.
2) Allow roasted vegetables to cool completely.
3) When the roasted vegetables have completely cooled peel away the blackened skin. Remove seeds and stem from bell pepper. Place roasted vegetables, cilantro, cumin, coriander, Kashmiri mirch, timur, oil, and one teaspoon salt in a blender, mixie, or food processor. Grind until mixture is smooth.
4) Grind until mixture is smooth. Salt to taste and serve with piping hot momos or potstickers. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Other authentic variations of this recipe blend in a tablespoonful of dry roasted sesame seeds or dry roasted peanuts.