At Momo I Am, Reinventing Comfort Foods of the Darjeeling Hills
The secret to a good momo lies in the wrapper. Too thick and the floury aftertaste mars the flavour; too thin and the stuffing spills out before you can put the dumpling in your mouth. The perfect momo wrapper is supple with just a tiny bit of stretch; it teases your teeth with tantalizing resistance before giving way and spilling the juicy contents in your mouth. At Reevu Wangdi’s restaurant, Momo I Am, the momos– every fold tucked with finesse– ticks off all the right boxes. Take a bite off the signature chilli oil stained Hangover Spicy Momo, for example, and you’ll wonder why nobody came up with the idea of momos as an antidote to hangovers earlier. The heat kicks your taste-buds awake and as the skin punctures, a well-seasoned and aromatic stuffing floods your mouth. The steamed momos— lightly sautéed with tomato, onion, garlic, and bell-pepper— come on a bed of creamy, mashed potatoes and are topped with Szechuan mayo. The sauce isn’t overpowering and the vegetables retain a slight crunch that complements the tenderness of the momos. They arrive with a mayo-based dipping sauce, more chilli oil with broad red chilli flakes, and a tiny bowl of garlicky, sinus-clearing broth.
Momos which Ligaya Mishan describes in a review in the NYT as “dumplings with furrows like the shoulders of mountains” have taken the subcontinent by storm. Unlike the original yak-meat stuffed dumplings, the popular version of momos in India is smaller and come stuffed either with various vegetarian fillings or with minced chicken, pork, or beef to cater to local tastes. The half-moon envelopes with their characteristic folds are everywhere from fine-dining restaurants to hawkers’ stalls and chefs are scrambling to come up with new, more innovative fillings to keep taste-buds engaged. At Momo I Am, the play is as much on the momo fillings as it is on the sauces. Like the Hangover Spicy Momos whose USP is the spicy mashed potatoes and the light chilli-oil laced sauce, the Stir Fry Hoisin Momos are stuffed with the usual vegetable/meat mix but come dipped in the slightly sweet, vinegary and garlicky Hoisin Sauce. They also do
The décor, including the menu design and typography, is bold and edgy. On the brightly graffitied walls, profiles of the Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi share space with Mecha Robots, Kaiju, and Godzilla. For millennials, the cartoons, comics, typesets, video games, and other pop culture references in the art snap an instant connection. Wangdi is also a graffiti artist and the propaganda-style graffiti art oozes rebellious confidence. Wooden tables and minimalist ceramic dinnerware add a contemporary rustic touch. In 6 years, Momo I Am grew from a small neighbourhood eatery in Lake Garden to one of the city’s most beloved brands. Affordable pricing and a wide variety of items mean all the four outlets— Chinar Park, Golpark, Salt Lake Sector I, and Lake Gardens— are busy at all hours. While the décor and the menu are geared to attract Instagram savvy youngsters who are eager to move beyond traditional food boundaries, familiar items like Szechuan Fried Rice and Hot Garlic Prawn means Gen X and families enjoy their time here too.
Do not let the name fool you into believing that this is a momo only joint. Though Reevu’s Darjeeling roots come up through traditional Nepalese items like
Bowls are currently in vogue all across the globe and they find a place in the menu too. The Szechuan Noodle Bowl comes with Hakka chowmein, your choice of protein in hot Szechuan sauce, and momos. Indian Szechuan, unlike its Chinese Sichuan counterpart, isn’t tongue-tingling spicy. The floral notes and the tongue-dimpling heat that are a characteristic of the Sichuan peppercorn is hard to come by in Szechuan sauces at most eateries in the city including at this one. Not only do they look appetizing, they are healthy, filling, and value for money too.
Also Read: A Nostalgist’s Guide to Eating in Darjeeling
Another highly desired item on the menu at Momo I Am are the
Also read: Shillong Pork Trail
They also serve a variety of rice and noodle dishes. Familiar items like Thai Fried Rice, Spicy Szechuan Rice, and Cantonese Gravy Noodles are pitched against new contenders XO Rice and Oriental Basil Noodles. Neither the Spicy Coriander Rice we ordered nor the Harissa Chicken, slathered in the famous Tunisian spice paste, have anything to write home about. If you are vegan, inquire about fish sauce in the dishes. For INR 200, you can pick up a bottle of pickled plump Dalle chillies.
At Momo I Am, it’s the momo that rules. The Mushroom Cheese Chicken Momo releases pent up juices and molten cheese as your teeth tear the thin, supple covering; the Chilli Basil Momo is aromatic and leaves a tingling aftertaste; even the simple vegetable momo is done to perfection: the cabbage in the stuffing retains that elusive crunch that you can only find in momos in the hills. But what celebrates the food of the Darjeeling hills is the small bowl of broth that accompanies the momos. Clear, garlicky, and garnished with chives, the “momo soup” is something that most restaurants are only happy to omit. It transports me to another time in another era: Siliguri in the late 90s when there were only a handful of stalls that sold momos— 10 vegetable momos for INR 10 with a spoonful of viciously hot garlic and green chilli paste on the side plus a tiny steel bowl of cloudy broth with bits of green onion and garlic floating around. On chilly winter evenings that bowl of piping hot “momo soup” was nothing short of heaven.
Momo I Am
- Salt Lake: CD 18, Next To Kalyan Jewelers, City Centre 1, Sector 1, Salt Lake
- Chinar Park: Shop G-B, Ground Floor, Tarun Alo Apartment, Chinar Park
- Golpark: 43 Ballygunge Gardens, Gariahat, Golpark, Kolkata
- Lake Gardens: 195 C, Near Bandhan Bank, Lake Gardens, Kolkata (not visited)
Recommended Dishes: Spicy Hangover Momos, Pork Short Ribs, Pork Bao, Tibetan Bowl, Jhol Momo
Open: 12noon – 11pm (Mon-Sun)