The difference between new love and an old flame is the grip it has on you. The former – thrilling but potential to dim out like a shooting star. The latter – just the mere mention is pure adrenaline. Irrespective of tense, it possesses you in ways that only your subconscious mind understands.
My fitness trainer would have preferred I was talking about people. There are days my husband wishes the same. And then there are (weighing scale) days when I share their sentiment.
The feeling I’m discussing is regarding food. A devoted, senseless, all-consuming love that robs your mind-space in the middle of a meeting, whilst you’re PMSing, even before you take the first bite of breakfast. How else do we justify the daily 9 am “What do you want for dinner?” question?
New love is like truffle fries, avocado toast, sourdough. While an old lingering flame looks like golgappe, Nirula’s HCF, spaghetti arrabbiata, momos – part nostalgic, part delicious.
The first time I had a plate of freshly steamed momos was in 1996. We had recently moved to Delhi from Hyderabad and I disliked everything about the city. I suspect my friendship with the city was formed via its food. I’d never had this much gluten, potato, sugar, and spice!
It was a scorching summer afternoon and mum had taken us school uniform shopping. As a treat for her two cranky children, she gave us a plate of momos. “Dolma, kum chutney for the bacchas”, she said. 15 rupees for a plate of six momos witnessed a visceral feeling of extreme drool and swift devour.
Over the years, Dolma Aunty’s momos became an integral reason to fall in love with Delhi. As did the corner momo stand in M block market, Greater Kailash 1, right next to the cult chaat & paan corner – Prince Paan.
In recent years, I get my monthly adrenaline from the momo-meal from MOOD Delhi. Run by an incredible mother-daughter duo – Aunty Kasuma and Nicole – Mood is a #DeffoRecco when living or visiting Delhi. And then there’s a momo hawker in GK’s N block market, who only responds to one colleague in the office (God bless Tam). It’s the oddest but addictive new find – bite-sized, filled with cottage cheese, one of the 3 chutneys is mayonnaise, and the last piece always causes a fight.
Picture Credit: Nicole Juneja
For many people, the momo is all about the filling. For me, it’s about the plumpness. This is directly correlated to the tact and finesse employed in the folding technique. The interplay between gentle pleats and quick folds is what maketh a momo. The measured restraint in wetting your finger to seal the momo is all-essential to the great first bite.
The Great First Bite. Sigh.
It should squelch. There should be splatters of momo juice. There should be telling traces of a silky film visible on your fingers. The first bite is all about the yearning, the second bite is about the urgency. The urgency to bite into the second plump, bite-sized, light-as-air, billowy momo. The addictive headiness to disregard the “Oooh mumma mirchi!” ravaging through your ENT.
Like any grand superhero, this has a worthy sidekick. The chutney. A union that’s a spectacle to behold. Spicy, with the promise of an intense kick, and surprisingly not a good companion to most other dishes. I may even go to the extent of claiming that it’s the chutney that separates a good plate of momos from a great one.
Momos are tempting. They taste grand. Are fun, and convenient. They’ve got universal appeal, with a successful multi-crore food segment to their name. It’s an integral part of Delhi’s cultural & culinary fabric. It’s that old flame that holds permanent residency in the deepest recesses of my mind.
This is my ode to the first plate of food that made me fall in love with Delhi. Here’s looking at you, momo.
‘An Ode To’ is a monthly feature…no, love letter, to a cuisine, dish, drink, ingredient or maker that impacted the writer in big ways and small.