kitchen

DAI, EK PLATE MO:MO LYAUNU NA!

Mo:mo. Nepali Dumplings. THE 8th wonder of Nepal. THE staple food in the afternoon. THE most talked about food in Nepal. THE food that Nepalese can do anything to get their hands on. THE food about which many have already written numerous accounts and their fascination with it. THE food which did not get any mention from me until now. This post is about the stories I had when this mo:mo was/was not around.

Well, if you are one those people who spent a majority of your schooling years living inside your school and rarely get a chance to taste exotic dishes such as mo:mo, then the sight is truly divine. The moment I and all the students who went outside the school to nearby shops (we were restricted to go outside the school boundary), the first thing that we did was to gather around a thela and ask for three or four plates of mo:mo. For some, it was seven or more plates in one go. Normally, we get either eight or ten mo:mo in a plate. It was a common practice to see BNKSians out in the streets every Friday in the mo:mo shops and spending upto NRs. 100 per plate. We tasted Everest mo:mo, Sangam mo:mo and Darjeeling’s Unique mo:mo. I really liked Darjeeling duo’s mo:mo. Truly, one of the best treats we got although they only served vegetable mo:mos.

In my senior year at the school, our group of School prefects would go outside Narayansthan (our school address) and eat mo:mos. We continued this tradition when our friends gave treat to their fellow peers when they got the opportunity to pursue undergraduate degrees in the US. Even in birthdays, we would take our friends for mo:mo treat. Mo:mo was our first choice in almost every celebrations.

Once, after the school had organized its Annual School Fest in 2012, me and my friends, Sawal and Bibash, went to Darjeeling duo’s “Unique mo:mo” pasal. Midway into our treat, three of our female friends came in and they had to wait for an empty table for their next turn. We finished our mo:mos and were preparing to go out. However, these girls decided to block our paths with their feet stretched by sitting in a bench and covering the alley. Now, for anyone not familiar with Nepal’s culture, this may be a casual prank. Well, it is not. In Nepal, you are not allowed to jump over girls or touch with your feet as our culture believes that girls are pious and tantamount to goddesses. Now, in that particular instance, our beliefs were about to get shattered. The girls were too stubborn to let us go. We did not have any choice but to go against our beliefs. We could not do it for numerous attempts. Then, the inevitable happened. For the first time in my life, out of absolute necessity, I forgot my beliefs and escaped from the trap. I became a bad boy. As for my friends, they passed easily after the girls were amazed by my antics and decided not to block my friends’ paths (or so I guessed).

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Bibek and Sailesh having mo:mos in Cafe Himalaya in Queens, NYC.

In another instance, Prabesh, Rajnish and me were just returning after visiting few places in Pokhara, my home town. We were obviously tired. Then, we decided to have …. mo:mos! Well, Prabesh (who also lives in Pokhara) took us to a new mo:mo shop and it was in an area that I often went past whenever I went shopping but which I never had stepped inside. Samrat mo:mo pasal. It was the first time that I had entered this shop and the first time that I had a free vegetable soup before I had mo:mos. A new experience for me.

When I was around 11, I had my first taste of chicken mo:mo. Always, me and my sister would order vegetable mo:mos. Once, when our cousin brother came in, he decided to order chicken mo:mo without consulting us! Once it was ordered, we had no choice but to taste it. We did. Our first taste of chicken mo:mos.

A few years later, I had my first taste of green colored mo:mos. Yeah, from “8 o’clock Restaurant”. Interesting, I thought. A new experience.

Even in my home, we cooked mo:mos every once a month. A family get together. My siblings and I helped our parents and our kaka and kaki. It was here that I first learnt how to make mo:mos. The best thing about cooking at your home is that you have the appetite to eat more than 40 mo:mos without any difficulties. My maximum is 35 mo:mos in a space of one and a half hour. I really miss my home’s mo:mos. No emoji can express it. I am honest about it.

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My birthday celebration in Oct 2014 with mo:mo treat in New Road, Kathmandu. 

Here in the USA, I consider it a treat to taste mo:mos. I had first taste of mo:mos in the eve of Thanksgiving day at my kaka‘s home in Dartmouth, three long months after I first came to the USA. I tried to help my kaki to prepare raw mo:mos. I was disappointed at my poor performance. I managed to prepare three mo:mos by the time she prepared 17 of them. Poor me. I managed to eat around 30 mo:mos that night. Who wouldn’t if it was the first in a long time and in a foreign country?

Immediately, in the Black Friday day two days later, ten of my friends decided to check out Cafe Himalaya mo:mos in Queens, NY. I had heard that it offered the best mo:mos in all of NY. What I heard was true. It was too good. $7/plate spent good. By the way, you would get almost six plates back in Nepal.

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(Clockwise from bottom left): Rajat, me, Bibek and Sailesh having mo:mos at Cafe Himalaya in Black Friday.

One month later, at my cousin sister’s home in Boston, I had the luxury to taste mo:mos once again. Another great treat. Another more than 30 mo:mos. Fantasy turning into reality. Three mo:mos treat within a month.

So, yeah. When we talk about mo:mos, we focus mostly on the texture and the taste we get in various shops. We compare the rates. What we fail to appreciate are the stories we connect to ourselves. Stories of desperation. Stories of fantasies. Stories of new experiences. Stories of coming near to opposing our beliefs. Stories of connectedness. Stories of friendship. Stories of watching live sports together. A whole bunch of stories inspire the very best in us. It is all possible just because we yearn for that one plate of mo:mos whenever we find time to have one.

A DAY IN THE KITCHEN

Well, I already know the expression in your face. “Does he know how to cook?” Trust me, I have complete faith in my cooking skills and can even challenge more would-be-cooks (I have two friends in my list already).
Putting aside my bragging rights, I present you with my journal of slicing bodies and the third world war with the green producers.
Much to the banal routine that you see with your mothers, I started my day by waking up at around seven-thirty. That is two and a half hours after my mother’s alarm stops her sleep. Since we are religious folks, we make sure to wash the idols of our gods and goddesses. And so I did. Easy task, huh. Well, it is much more easier than you may think. From my childhood days, I loved to lend my hands when it came to washing utensils and cleaning the kitchen. So I loved to get my hands dirty in order to make my home clean. That is how it worked. There was only one obstacle that could hinder my routine: the freezing cold water! But, my ten years of stay in my Alma Mater, situated in the hills, taught me to neglect the shiver that greeted my hands. So, job done.
Moving on, I had my breakfast. To make it easy, I ate cornflakes and added some milk to get the maximum from it. The dress rehearsal for my kitchen war was over. It was time to invite the inevitable. I was gonna make Manasbi-curry (there is a reason to this name which comes later). 
I had been accustomed to realizing the key ingredients for curry but had sporadically mixed them when my mother was around. So, I had to estimate the quantity of salt and pepper in a delicious ratio. After sometime, the curry was ready and it smelled like heaven.
And you guys thought  I wasn’t good in the kitchen?

I waited for another thirty minutes to cook dal and once again, I got to tell you it was full of delight. When I served lunch for my mother, she was thrilled by the smell but noted that the flavor of salt was too faint in the curry. I had already a point to consider for my dinner plans. But, when someone is hungry the flavor doesn’t really matter. This philosophy had saved me at least for this time.

The end of lunch signaled the beginning of my passion to wash dishes. With my playlist making the work more enjoyable, I managed to clean the utensils with ease. Lovely.
I had a break until tiffin popped out. It is good to look for easy tasks when you are new to the job (well, actually it’s just that cooking really has not been a part of my DNA). Hence, I prepared beaten rice for the tiffin and decreased the trouble to cook by serving the pickle I had prepared in the morning. And if we were still hungry, dalmot was the perfect saviour. 
Slowly, as dawn neared, I returned to the kitchen and started preparing mushroom curry. I was adept at slicing tomatoes and onions. The knife perfectly synchronized with my daunting task of creating an á la carte. It appeared as if the curry was ready to acknowledge my innate cooking skills. I was gonna prove that the mistake early in the day was instrumental to preparing a perfect dish.
After nearly an hour, my mother once again acted as a customer. This time, the dish was polished. She was happy to have her son cook nearly-perfect meal (in my case, perfect is about 30% better than the day). The night dishes sparkled after we had a great dinner. It was time to cherish the golden moments of the amazing chef!
As I dozed off, I saw a dream where my mother said in an evil tone, “Do you think that once is enough? Have you enjoyed to be in the kitchen?  Hurry up, start your next kitchen war!” I woke up in an instant and entered the kitchen to have a sip of water. I had forgotten to wash some utensils! Once again, I found myself immersed in the beautiful kitchen war.