The only time I had eaten a momo before I came to Delhi was in a small roadside shop enroute Gangtok in 1998. We had been driving on zig-zag roads for hours after a 2-day train journey and were famished. Those were not the days of packaged food or fancy Rajdhani trains that served five meals a day. We ate what we packed from home or relied on food that came on the train. On the road the small shacks, called dhabas in Northern India and hotel everywhere, else fed us. This arrangement wasn’t the best if you look back, but back then it was the only way. And one never had a problem.
On that road to Gangtok there was no dhaba, not hotel, no tea stall. When we asked the driver, he stopped at a small house by the road that had a small shop attached. The kinds you once found in the hills. (Now there are fancy hotels everywhere).
Apart from tea, the lady only had momos to offer us. Although we had never eaten anything names like that before, we were too hungry to bother. And so, a plate of steaming white dumplings was presented to us after a wait of about 10 minutes. Soft and doughy, the momos were hot and fresh, but our palates, used to the samosas and kachauris had no appreciation for the subtle flavours. The fresh cabbage (we were vegetarians back then) and the hand rolled dumplings felt too plain and bland. We ate only because we had no option. Needless to say we didn’t touch any if it during the rest if the trip through the Norh East. Sacrilegious I know.! For years after that it was a standing joke among us siblings: the kofi momos of Sikkim.
And then we moved to Delhi.
My husband (who was still trying to woo me with good food then) took me to Dilli Haat one day and got me Momos and Thukpa. By then he had already converted me to a meat eater and got my true blue UP taste buds to experiment a little. The momos I ate here won me over as did the Thukpa and the man–if he could get me such amazing food I had nothing to worry about in life.
That was 18 years ago. Momo and Thukpa are a part of every day food now – at least in Delhi. Every nook and corner of the city has dozens of carts and shops that make these little dumplings. They are fried and roasted, dunked in masalas and sauces, even grilled in tandoor and ovens. But for us, when we really need to feed our soul, we go back to the same shop to eat the same thing. Honestly with better and better dumplings available now, the ones here are probably just average and not outstanding by any culinary standard, but the experience and gratification is still unparalleled.