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Food of Paradise

posted May 13, 2012, 11:01 PM by Bhutan Jurmii   [ updated May 13, 2012, 11:07 PM ]
Grand parents in Bhutan call dumplings, " Food of Paradise", because the real taste is hidden inside. The flavour of dumpling is subject to what we stuff inside the jacket made from wheat or buckwheat flour. Dumplings can also be found in some parts of India, Nepal and any other place which has Tibetan influence. Similar dish called Buuz is found in Mongolia and China called Jioazi.

Hontay is endemic to Bhutan and is made by people of Haa prefecture. Haa is the western most district of Bhutan and hontays are made during their New Year called Lomba. This particular dumpling is made from Sweet Buckwheat flour- and water dough. The fillings are made from spinach leaves, thinly chopped turnips and other ingredients are lots of ginger, chilli (if you wish) and wild pepper. The fillings are fried a little bit with salt to taste. Haaps, natives from Haa, make the buckwheat dough, fill it with the inside stuffing, seal it in preferred shape and then steam it. If you do not like steamed hontay, fry it under low flame in oil of your choice. Just like the momos, the Bhutanese enjoy chilli chutney to go with the hontay. The younger generation also enjoy trying tomato ketchup instead of chillin chutneys.
Momos preferred in Bhutan are normally stuffed with yak meat, pork, beef, cheese with vegetable but people try with chicken and fish. The filling is your personal choice and nowadays the younger generation try sweet beans and fruits to call their recipe, " Sweet Momo". One can get momo in almost all the restaurants in Bhutan but there is more charm when you make it at home. It becomes a social event where every family member try making it in a group. It is also an observation for the parents to see who among the siblings has artistic temperaments. One of the favourite childhood memories for most Bhutanese is the joy of receiving crudely made momos by their elders from the leftover of dinner. One of my friend would remind us of how her grandfather would make momo from the leftover meals. Her story would be the ending lines whenever we talk about dumplings. She would tell us how her grandpa mashed the leftover rice, flattened it in a disc-shape and then stuff leftover curry in it. He would seal it artistically and passed it on her.
The common shapes that restaurants make in Bhutan are round or crescent - shaped. I have seen my friends experiment with other crazy shapes: in square, triangles, rectangles and circular disc-like. The tricky part is getting the seals right so that the artistic design stays well even after steamed.
Nowadays we can get various types of convenient steamers bu in our grandparents time they use very simple steaming methods. A bigger pot half filled with water was used as the outer pot and in it three round stones with the size of a clenched fist was immersed. Over the stones a befitting lid with many holes pecked into it was laid. The momo were then placed over it and the lid for the outer pot was closed. Then the water was heated and checked now and then to see if the momo were steamed well or not. The old method was little cumbersome but had done what it was to perform with ingenuity.