Dumpling Digest: Tandoori momos, sini manti, mail-order XLB & more!
If you've ever thought "I really wish I could wear a tiny pierogi around my neck," this one's for you.
Trying something new here this week: Introducing Dumpling Digest, an occasional roundup of all the great reads, recipe suggestions, and shopping recs that have been simmering in my Google Drive/iPhone notes/Instagram saves, waiting for their moment in the sun. Originally, I’d intended to include these alongside each interview, but haven’t had the space to do so without the newsletter getting clipped in your inbox, so I’ve refrained.
Interviews will most definitely be back, and soon. But I hope this snapshot of what I’ve been reading, cooking, and scarfing will both literally and metaphorically tide you over in the meantime.
1. Read all about tandoori momos.
Earlier this summer, UK-based food and culture newsletter Vittles published “All Too Much: The Absurdity of the Tandoori Momo” by Sharanya Deepak (accompanied by this very lovely illustration by Samia Singh).
It details the origin of the tandoori momo, a variation of the Nepalese and Tibetan momo that’s credited to a restaurant near campus of Delhi University, and the ways that it’s exploded in popularity since. In Deepak’s words:
There is nothing about a tandoori momo that is not unnecessary. It is a dish that takes the momo, a perfectly good steamed dumpling, rolls it in a marinade of bright orange tandoori masala, and pokes it inside a flaming tandoor. When the tandoori momo emerges from its kiln, it is charred, and bright red — a kind of dense, carb-heavy chicken tikka with a crunchy casing. The baked momo is then topped with fresh cream, chaat masala and served with mint chutney; or sometimes add-ons of hung yoghurt (Afghani tandoori momo), achar (tandoori achari momos) or mayonnaise (so far, unnamed). When eaten hot from the tandoor, the momo’s spicy outer layer cracks and spills its meat filling into an orange pool of cream.
For a visual as to how they come together, check out this behind-the-scenes tandoori momo video from Delhi-based blogger @SnappyFoodDelhi:
Deepak writes about how she grapples with the very existence of the tandoori momo, calling them “unnecessary” and “reckless fusion,” yet also representative of the power that comes with refusing to be pigeonholed by tradition. The piece made me think about the cheesesteak bao at Trader Joe’s that I haven’t been able to bring myself to try yet, the French onion soup dumplings popularized by Chopped judge and chef Chris Santos at Stanton Social, and the new dumpling automat franchise, Brooklyn Dumpling Shop, which is selling lamb gyro and bacon pepperjack cheeseburger dumplings via contactless ordering in Manhattan. Unlike the latter, though, tandoori momos have become fully their own thing, evolving past the status of culinary portmanteau. In fact, I had grand plans to eat tandoori momos of my own the other night in Brookline, Massachusetts, while working on this newsletter—but I accidentally sent my Kantipur Cafe order to my coworker’s address on the absolute other side of town after selecting the wrong destination. For what it’s worth, she gave them an “A+.” I hope to find out for myself very soon.
2. Make crisp, baked canoe-shaped manti!
This Serious Eats recipe for sini manti comes from Andrew Janjigian, a fellow Bostonian and the creator of Wordloaf, which is required reading for anyone who caught the sourdough bug over the last year and a half (or simply has an interest in upping their bread-baking skills more generally).
Sini manti are an Armenian variation of manti, a Central and West Asian style of dumpling with many regional permutations. But while most manti are boiled or steamed, Armenian manti are a bit different, as Janjigian writes:
The diminutive, canoe-shaped, and open-faced dumpling are baked until crisp instead, and are served in a tomato-infused meat broth, finished with a dollop of yogurt, minced garlic, and a sprinkling of Aleppo pepper and sumac powder. To me, this the ultimate manti, since the combination of flavors and textures is unparalleled: crunchy-crisp dumplings, their corners softened gently by the hot, aromatic broth, paired with the cool, tart yogurt, all of it brightened by lightly spicy, fruity, and tart garnishes.
I’m recommending this recipe in spite of being one of those people that didn’t follow it to a T—I used beef instead of lamb the filling, and skipped the broth due to the time and ingredients I had at the time (Andrew, forgive me!). Confession aside, the open-faced fold combined with a bake in the oven contributes to a satisfyingly different dumpling texture—crisp on outside, caramelized on top, yet well-spiced and juicy in the middle.
Thank you Andrew for pouring your time and energy into sharing this family recipe with the world! I will definitely be making this again. With the broth.
3. Order delicious frozen soup dumplings on the Internet!
I’d been ogling the soup dumplings from Xiao Chi Jie, a Bellevue, Washington-based frozen soup dumpling company, for months, and finally pulled the trigger a couple of weeks ago. I’m not alone in paying attention: The company was just accepted into Target’s inaugural Forward Founders cohort.
If you’re actually *in* the Bellevue area, there’s also a restaurant storefront where you can order freshly made xiao long bao as well as sheng jian bao, which are petite, pan-fried bao with an XLB-like brothy interior. Right now, only the xiao long bao are available for national shipping, though here’s hoping that the sheng jian bao will be too one day.
The dumplings come in three flavors—pork, pork and shrimp, and chicken—and are $39.95 for a bag of 50, which also comes with perforated parchment paper for steaming. So far I’ve only tried pork, and they were extremely tasty, making it possible to experience that super savory rush of molten broth at home that’s impossible to replicate in a takeout or delivery setting. It’s a very exciting thing to just “have” them in the freezer, alongside the knowledge that I’m always 13 minutes away from eating a platter of just-steamed soup dumplings. The frozen uncooked dumplings are also extremely cute and round, like little pleated snowballs.
The company founders are on my interview wish list, so hopefully one day you’ll get to hear directly from them and learn more about their story (though you can find quite a bit right here). They also offer stunningly detailed intel on their website about their R&D process, which they say took over 500 trials to perfect.
4. Get the dumpling fan in your life a very cute little piece of jewelry.
Not one, but two different dumpling jewelry pieces debuted recently, both tied to benefitting small businesses in New York’s Chinatown. First up, ear piercer/earring company Studs, whose tiny little dumpling earring ($28 for one/$56 for a pair) is part of a new collection, designed in collaboration with another jewelry company, Garbage NY, called “Studs Loves New York.” To mark the debut of the collection, Studs made a $15,000 donation to Send Chinatown Love, an organization with a mission of offering support to Chinatown businesses that have suffered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prefer your dumplings in necklace form? There’s more! The new dumpling collection from Delicacies Jewelry includes a variety of styles, from teensy empanadas and pierogis to gyoza and ravioli. With the purchase of each necklace ($95), Delicacies donates a meal worth $10 to Welcome to Chinatown.
5. And while I have you…check in on the Above the Fold dumpling pros!
Miss out on learning about Sandy Ho’s stunning rainbow dumplings (see above)? Gladys Shahtou’s crispy Sudanese sambuxas? Trina and Jessica Quinn’s old-meets-new pelmeni? Don’t forget to go back through our archives to learn all about their artistry.
Above the Fold was created by Leah Mennies. Logo + design elements by Claudia Mak.