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Momo madness: Your all-purpose guide to the versatile Himalayan dumpling
Whether you like yours with cheese, chili or Mars bars (really), here's where to get the tastiest Tibetan treats
The momo is the Himalayan dumpling, hailing from Tibet and consumed enthusiastically from Nepal to Bhutan to India.
These are our favorite places for a momo fix on the Himalayan tourist trail.
Tibet: Where it all began
Tibetans whip up a mean plate of momos, especially in any of the touristy-yet-authentic restaurants around Barkhor Street in Lhasa.
This is where you can sample the original concept of the momo, moist with yak fat, fragrant with yak butter, with a cup of yak butter tea.
A great place to begin yak momo explorations is at the Snowland Restaurant located on the ground floor of the Snowland Hotel.
Run by Tibetan Nima Zuoga and her son Luo Sang, the restaurant serves everything from stir-fries to curries in a dining room crowded with Tibetan decor.
The yummiest momo at Snowland is actually the potato-stuffed momo fried up like mini-croquettes.
For a more traditional take, check out Pentoc Tibetan in an alley just off Beijing East Road.
Steaming plates of traditional meat or vegetable momos can be eaten along with other Tibetan classics like thukpa, butter tea and chang.
Alu Cang Restaurant, on the western edge of the Tibetan quarter, is another long-standing favorite, despite reports that the yak momos are actually stuffed with beef and lamb.
Snowland Restaurant, Snowland Hotel, 4 Zang Yiyuan Lu, in front of the Jokhang temple, Lhasa; +891 633 7323
Pentoc Tibetan Restaurant, search for Pentoc 20 meters down an alleyway off the left side of Beijing Donglu, near Ramoche Monastery, Lhasa
Alu Cang Restaurant, 21-32 Duosenge Lu, near Jokhong temple on the western edge of the Tibetan quarter, Lhasa; +891 633 8826
Nepal: Loco for momo
Nepal is the modern center of momo-dom, according to Emil Kaminski founder of Monkeetime, a website devoted to backpackers roaming around Asia.
Travelers can find canned tuna momos and Mars bars stuffed into momos on the Nepal tourist trail. Although Kaminski counts the camel meat momos in Mongolia as the plate that earned him the most street cred.
Of all the Nepali restaurants in dumpling-laden Kathmandu, Kaminski names Old Tashi Delek Restaurant, smack-dab in the center of the Thamel tourist area, as his personal favorite. It serves a wide range of momo at affordable prices.
Kathmandu homeboy Yogendra "Yogi" Poudel runs a momo catering outfit based in Boise, Idaho. Yogi suggests travelers visit the aptly named Delicious Momos, next to Nachgar in Jamal.
Another choice in Nepal is Nanglo, named after the bamboo steamer found in every Nepali kitchen.
The eatery has grown from a simple momo joint in Durbar Marg into a local institution with a number of outlets dotting the Kathmandu valley. It is also a great place to sample a wide range of Nepali cuisine, such as choyla and chura -- dried buffalo meat and beaten rice.
Old Tashi Delek Restaurant, Thamel district, Kathmandu, Nepal, +977 1 4701666, www.oldtashidelek.com
Delicious Momos, next to Nachgar in Jamal, Kathmandu
Nanglo, various locations, but we like the Nanglo Deli at Durbar Marg, Kathmandu, +977 1 5544263, 5546696, 5543036, www.nanglo.com.np
Bhutan: Cheesy love for chili
Momos in Bhutan trend vegetarian. Beth Whitman, founder of Wanderlust and Lipstick, says momos in Bhutan are often filled with cheese. A spicy cheese sauce called ema datse is served on the side.
Whitman spends much of her time in Bhutan and names Plums Café near the main traffic signal in Thimphu as one of her favorite places to sate a cheese momo craving.
Bhutanese are also known to harbor a serious love for the chili pepper, a penchant some say borders on national obsession.
“For the Bhutanese, chilies are more a vegetable than a seasoning,” says Linda Leaming, an American living in Bhutan who admits to dipping her momos in mustard when the eazay, a hot salsa made from chilies, becomes too much for her.
Leaming says momos are "close to her heart" especially the chicken version at Thimphu's Yeedzin Hotel or any momo on the Druk Hotel's menu.
Service is a bit on the slow side at Druk, she warns, but the momos are light, never greasy, contained in the perfect noodle wrapper and well worth the wait.
Plums Café, near the main traffic circle in Thimphu.
Yeedzin Hotel is a two-minute walk from the center of Thimphu, near the traffic circle and Clock Tower Square
Druk Hotel, Norzin Lam, opposite Clock Tower Square in Thimphu
Dharamsala: Best of Little Lhasa
It's no surprise that McLeod Ganj in Dharamsala, India's largest Tibetan enclave that's home to nearly 100,000 Tibetan refugees including the Dalai Lama, has a high density of momo restaurants. It's not called "Little Lhasa" for nothing.
To sample the Dharamsala momo, check out McLlo Restaurant, above McLeod Ganj's main bus stand on Jogiwara Road. The eatery carries an enviable but slightly suspect endorsement by Pierce Brosnan, per a large sign on the side of the building, presumably for its killer vegetable and chicken momos.
Alexa Beyer, a traveler who spent three months in Dharamsala in 2011, says the Green Guesthouse and Peace Café dole out decent dumplings, but that it's Mama's Kitchen that serves the best momos in McLeod Ganj.
Calling Mama's a “constant reference point” during her journey, Beyer was so taken by the fried veggie and cheese momos that she volunteered to wash dishes in the kitchen for two weeks, where she earned some special insider knowledge.
Top tip: Mama's chefs will make peanut butter and chocolate momos if you ask nicely.
McLlo Restaurant, main square, above the bus stand, McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala
JJI Exile Brothers Mama's Kitchen, Bhagsu Road, a two-minute walk from McLeod Ganj's main square, between Peace Coffee House and Kunga Guesthouse, on the right hand side
Mumbai: Momo trendiness
You can't spot the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas from anywhere in Mumbai, but momos are a trending food item here.
Sernyaa Tibetan Chinese Restaurant, Mumbai's first Tibetan eatery, serves plump momos with chili-garlic chutney.
The restaurant has two branches in Andheri West and is under the cheerful proprietorship of Kamal Karma Lama, a Mumbai-born Tibetan.
O! Momos, offers a simple, slightly desi-fied menu -- paneer chili or spinach corn, anyone? -- from a network of four well-placed takeaway carts parked around the city.
Steaming Momos, once a sit-down Tibetan and Chinese joint in Mumbai's northern Versova neighborhood, has transformed into a Khar-based delivery-only outfit, bringing what are reckoned to be some of Mumbai's, and possibly India's, best momos to our doors.
Sernyaa Tibetan Chinese Restaurant, 185 Adarsh Nagar, Oshiwara Link Road, Oshiwara, Near Jain Party Hall, Andheri West, near Lotus petrol station, Mumbai; +91 022 6574 1005/ 6678 4645 or +91 098 2053 1935
O!Momos, Kandivali East, Thakur Village, Mumbai, near Evershine Dream Park, next to Natural Ice Cream; +91 099 2056 3710, additional outlets in Goregaon, Mira Road and Lokhandwala
Steaming Momos, Khar, Mumbai. Free home delivery to limited areas, including Bandra, Khar, Andheri, Worli and Prabhadevi, +91 098 1947 1137, +91 098 3312 4711