Fiction-Food Café

October 25, 2013

Vegetarian Momo (Dumplings) for "Avatar: The Last Airbender"

          Today's "Avatar" food doesn't have a specific episode reference, but dumplings of various kinds have made their way into both ATLA and TLoK because of the heavy influence from Asian cultures. Dumplings is a food chosen initially from the Avatar Wikia's listing of Air Nomad food, and then solidified and expounded upon by the fact that the Air Nomad society takes much inspiration from the high altitude, spiritual culture of Tibet, where vegetarian momos (dumplings) are a common food. As you may recall, all Air Nomads, including Aang, were vegetarian because of their spiritual beliefs (as learned in ATLA s.1, ep.5).
          Also, just FYI, the existence of momo dumplings is not why Aang's winged lemur is named Momo, though it is a pretty awesome coincidence. No, he's named Momo because he stole a moon peach from Sokka (ATLA s.1, ep.3), and "momo" is the Japanese word for peach.

Note: Below you'll find two momo filling recipes, one savory and one sweet. The sweet recipe is one I came up with based on the fact that Air Nomads often ate nuts and fruit and I thought Aang would appreciate something sweet. The ingredients are foods commonly used in Tibetan cooking. You'll also find below a few ways to cook momos such as steamed, fried, and in broth. There's also a tomato chutney/salsa recipe (tomato is commonly used with momos, but not necessarily in them). Also, you can totally add meat, but of course it will no longer be Air Nomad friendly. Simply substitute ground meat for the tofu and mushrooms in the savory recipe below (or, you know, keep the mushrooms).

Air Nomad Vegetarian Momos (Dumplings)

4 Cups White All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 Cup (or more) Hot Water
1/4 tsp. Salt
Savory Filling
2 Cups Pre-Shredded Coleslaw Cabbage Mix, pref. w/ carrots (found in salad section of grocery store)
1/2 Onion, chopped
1 pkg. (abt. 3.2 oz) Shiitake Mushrooms
1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Cilantro
6 oz. Tofu
1/2 tsp. Fresh Ginger, grated
1 tsp. Minced Garlic
1 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
1 Vegetable Bullion Cube dissolved in 1/4 Cup Hot Water
Ground Pepper, to taste
Sweet Filling
1 Cup Walnut Pieces
1/3 Cup Chopped Dates
1/3 Cup Raisins
6 oz. Tofu
1 Tbsp. Honey
Dash of Allspice OR Ground Cloves, Nutmeg, & Cinnamon, to taste
Tomato Chutney (optional)
5-6 Canned, Whole, Peeled Tomatoes
(or simply get a large can of these tomatoes & pull out however many you want to use)
1/4 Cup (or less) Chopped Cilantro
1 tsp. Minced Garlic
Chili Pepper or Red Pepper Paste OR deseeded hot peppers, to taste (optional)

Important Items:
Steamer or Rice Cooker with a steaming tray (if you want to steam the dumplings)
Food Processor or Blender (optional)
Rolling Pin
Circle Cutter or Large Cup

1. In a large bowl combine the flour & salt. Pour in the hot water a little at a time, either kneading with your hands or with a dough hook attachment to a mixer (I used my stand mixer. I'm sure you could also use a bread machine). Keep adding water & mixing/kneading until you have an elastic dough that is no longer sticky (if you used a mixer, it's good to knead by hand for the last stretch to make sure it's the right consistency--like noodle dough & pizza dough). If the dough id too sticky, knead in a small amount of flour, if it's too dry, add water. You get the idea. The amounts of water to flour are general & depend on your climate. To keep the dough from drying out,  put tit back in the bowl & cover it with a slightly damp towel or simply put the bowl upside down over the dough.
2. If making the savory filling, blend/process or chop very small, the cabbage, mushrooms, & cilantro & then put them in a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl & combine with our hands. If making the sweet filling, process/blend/chop small the walnuts, dates, & raisins & then put them in a bowl & add the tofu, honey, & spices. Mix with your hands. Put the filling in the fridge until ready to use.
(If you'll be steaming your dumplings, set up your steamer now & get the water on its way to a boil. Remember to keep an eye on your steamer water level so it doesn't run out & you burn the bottom of your pot!)
3. Separate the dough into manageable sections, like thirds, keeping the dough you're not working with under the bowl or towel, & roll it out on a lightly floured board to about 1/8 in. thickness. Use a circle cutter or cup rim, about the width of your palm or a little greater, & cut as many circles as you can, re-rolling the dough & cutting until there's no dough left. As you make circles, stack them (they should not be sticky, remember?) & cover them with an upturned bowl or slightly damp towel. Repeat this with all of the dough sections until all you have are a bunch of dough circles.
4. Bring your filling from the fridge & set it close to your work surface with the circles. Lay one circle at a time in front of you &, using either the rolling pin or your fingers, flatten & stretch out the edges of the dough circle even more (you want the edges to be thinner than the center). Next, place a tablespoon-sized amount of filling in the center of the circle. To close the dumpling, gather the edges in by pleating & flattening upward as you go around. As you pleat round & round the dough will close up like a little pouch. Once the opening is as small as you can get it, pinch it together & twist. Carefully break off any excess dough at the top. You can see in the pictures that I made a little circle at the top of my momos. This is common & a way to lessen dough thickness at the top (maybe). Using your thumb, index, & middle finger, carefully pinch the dough around the top until you get a raised circle (FYI, long fingernails are not so hot for this).
Note: I made my dumplings round, but you can also make half moons by wetting the edges of the circle & then simply folding it in half & pleating/crimping the edges closed. I chose round so it would look more like the somewhat unique Tibetan momos.
5. To steam the dumplings, brush oil on your steamer tray & place the dumplings in, about 1/2 or a little less apart. Steam for about 10-12mins & then remove to a serving plate. Serve hot.
To fry the dumplings, melt some butter (Tibetan's love butter, it's good against chapped lips) in a large pan (make sure it's a pan with a lid) & then add the dumplings. Fry top & bottom until browned & then pour in 1/4 cup or so of water & put the lip over the pan. Steam the dumplings in the pan for about 5 mins or until they are soft & cooked through. Serve hot.
To make dumplings in tomato broth (using the savory dumplings of course), cook the dumplings like noodles in the juice from the can of whole tomatoes used for the chutney below + enough water with dissolved vegetable bullion cubes to create a thin, flavorful broth. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve hot.
6. (optional) To make a tomato chutney-that's-really-like-a-salsa to eat with the savory momos, process or blender-ize about 5-6 whole peeled tomatoes, chopped fresh cilantro, minced garlic, & add in whatever amount of spiciness you'd like by way of pepper paste or chopped hot peppers. The savory momos are also great with soy sauce or other dumpling/potsticker type dips.
Note: For the sweet momos (which are also served hot), a drizzling of honey on top is very nice.


  1. "Momo, come here and eat this momo." ;)

  2. Hi,
    Thanks for sharing this yummy recipe. I like to eat vegetable food. Vegetarian Momo (Dumplings) is a chines food. I tried it before in Shanghai.


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