Food from Nepal: Momos (local version)

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ March 21st, 2013. Published in: Travel blog » Food around the world » Nepali food.
Serving up a plate of locally made fresh momos

Serving up a plate of locally made fresh momos

Momos made the local Nepali way

Is there a difference between local momos and momos made for tourists? Yes, quite a big one too! Hence when I first wrote about what’s the food like in Nepal I mentioned about giving examples between different versions of the same dish. Be it local food, tourist food or even trekking food.

In this case its local momos compared to what I wrote here about momos made for tourists. As you can see there’s quite a big difference. Let’s move on to some taste testing of local momos and a comparison.

Nepali woman making momos

Nepali woman making momos from inside cafe

What’s a local Nepalese momo?

A momo is a Nepalese steamed dumpling. Made with a flour casing a local momo is usually buff (buffalo) or chicken filled along with some veg or potato. Momos often come with a small side dish which contains a dip – though not all local momos come with this.

Though available vegetarian locally made momos are harder to come by. I have however seen and eaten some locally made yak cheese momos along the Annapurna Circuit.

What’s the difference between a tourist momo and a local momo?

Well as you can see they look a little different. Tourist momos are usually made into little crescent shapes while local momos are in round little parcels. The flour is a different color too. Tourist momos are slightly yellow while local momo pastry is near pure white.

The meat parcel inside is quite different too. A local momo is a lot heavier than a tourist momo. In the case of a buff momo I found the filling to be a serious meal. It’s also very high in oil. My plate below when finished had a pool of grease at the bottom. Tourist momos are a lot lighter.

Inside a momo cafe in Nepal

Inside a momo cafe in Nepal

Serving momos the local way

The photographs of local momos here feature a mother and son in Bhaktapur which is an ancient Newari town to the east of Kathmandu. In the evenings the side streets that frame heavy wooden doors see them swing open to reveal local kitchens serving food. It’s the kind of place I enjoy visiting.

Seeing a huge metal steamer outside one of these little roadside eateries I thought the idea of eating fresh momos was a great temptation. The lady outside finished adding some new momos to her steamer before welcoming me inside the tiny little momo cafe.

In a local momo cafe eating local momos

The seats were hard flat benches and the tables took on a similar basic approach. It was quite dark as my little bowl of  eight steaming momos were put down in front of me. They were buff momos. No choice. Only buff on the menu so buff it was.

No little dipping sauce either. Instead I was offered a plastic ketchup bottle filled with a thick dark paste which evidently had a powerful chili infusion. Not so nice.

But then the lady’s son came over with a large plastic jug of watery masala like sauce as an alternative. Unfortunately it was not much better so I stuck with plain.

A bowl of local momos

A bowl of local momos

The momos didn’t need much help though. Compared to touristy momos these were very heavy. The meat inside was also thick and heavy with the taste of buffalo meat. Moreover there was that huge amount of oil oozing out from these little steamed dumplings. No wonder they were filling.

Watching the momo take-away service

I finally force-fed myself the last momo as the gathering crowd smiled on in appreciation of my double thumbs up at their local staple. Then after the mandatory photos of select members I went back outside.

The young boy was filling up a large metal take-away plate. His job for the evening was to deliver momos around the neighboring streets.

Local boy taking away a tray of momos

Local boy taking away a tray of momos to sell door to door

Which is better, a plate of local momos or tourist momos?

I’m going to be very honest here and say that tourist momos are better. Local momos are simply too oily for me. I had several millimeters of oil left in my dish and needed no dinner later that night.

Tourist momos are much lighter and just that little bit more flavorsome. Though many do skimp on the meat.

There’s a reason for this though. Local momos are made for local people. Generally speaking people in Nepal need to eat something that’s very filling. The local momo is a much better choice in this case. And indeed if I was on a trek and had the choice between a dish of tourist momos or local momos I would choose the local momos.

Better yet would be a dish of homemade Nepalese momos!

This is an additional article highlighting food from Nepal

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15 Great responses to Food from Nepal: Momos (local version)

  1. Andre says:

    This is what I like about you. Here is the moms. But the other ones are better. Some honest writing with a good story. Thank you.

  2. Inga says:

    Tourist food is often catered for visitors. Maybe that’s why it tastes better than local momos?

  3. Tracy Z says:

    I actually had no idea what momos were before reading this, thanks for sharing!

  4. Mandy says:

    Here I am at 4:15pm, looking at the momos, feeling hungry and I have to swallow down my saliva, sigh…
    You ordered eight momos? How come I counted nine there, no wonder you were overstuffed :D

  5. Jane says:

    I would love one of those huge containers. Not sure what I would do with it. But those handles look great!

  6. This post is so fascinating! I’ve had momos in NYC, but have never traveled to Nepal. I find it interesting that the tourist and local versions are so dramatically different. Often I look for the local *everything* because it’s usually better (and more authentic) than a tourist version – in this case it’s the opposite. Thanks so much for sharing this! Great info.

    • Yes they really are polar opposites. Likewise I also generally prefer local food. But in this case it’s quite different. I’ll have to have a think about some other places where the tourist version of something is better than the local… Sioamai in the Philippines is the only one I can think of. Coincidentally it’s also a dumpling!

  7. Brett Domue says:

    Really interested to get to do a momo taste test at some point. Though perhaps will go for a smaller order of the local ones (was that possible?)

  8. Laura says:

    Oh how I miss momos! I got so addicted to them when I was in Nepal. Personally, I can’t really decide which ones I prefer, I guess I like both versions.

    Great post! :)