A Momo-licious experience

Week 12 and I encounter my first street food experience at Bini’s Kitchen, San Francisco.

Momo dumplings San Francisco

In his introduction to A Cook’s Tour, Anthony Bourdain asks “you’re getting the electric chair tomorrow…What are you having for dinner?”. Without hesitation I know what I would request: A huge mound of potato and cream cheese vareniki (a Ukrainian crescent shaped dumpling), drowning in a pool of butter fried onions. So fantastic is this dish that our family only dares eat them on Ukrainian Christmas Eve for fear of ending up like Ivan MendelIf you ever want to find a way to my heart it’s most certainly with a dumpling. With that in mind, how could I possibly turn down an offer from Binita ‘Bini’ Pradhan, of Bini’s Kitchen, to spend time learning the intricacies of Nepali momo dumplings?

Bini learnt the secrets of Nepali cooking from her mother: a chef for Nepali royalty in the 1960s. From Kathmandu in the Himalayan foothills Bini arrived in America hoping to share a cuisine hitherto unknown in San Francisco. However, with the many barriers faced by low-income immigrant women in the US, Bini’s plans to launch a food business sadly seemed far away. Bini, however, is an incredibly driven woman. So it is of no great surprise Bini beat thousands of applicants to win a place at La Cocina an kitchen incubator charity that give women like Bini an opportunity to do what they love. Months later Bini’s Kitchen was born.

Bini's Kitchen

Bini and I

Although Bini offers a range of Nepali food, such as Ghurkha chicken and kwati (a nine bean stew), it is her momo dumplings that sing to the San Francisco masses. A round shaped pastry made from wholewheat flour and water, momos are filled with spiced meat and/or vegetables, delicately folded, and then steamed. They are served with her famous tomato and coriander sauce with fresh timur (a Neapli type of Sichuan pepper). Bini tells me the secret to a good momo is in the spicing.  She imports her spices from Nepal, sun dries and hand grinds them to deliver a flavour like nothing else on the US market. Getting to work on the thousands of momos required, my momos were a far cry from Bini’s champion momo maker, Soepa’s.

Momo dumplings San Francisco

Soepa showing me how to fold the pastry

Momos = nonos

My momos = nonos

Our efforts in the kitchen were in preparation for Bini’s spot at San Francisco’s weekly Off the Grid food truck market. The recession, social media and tightening of health laws have all contributed to the dramatic rise of US food truck culture. Loading the van up in preparation for the event, I couldn’t believe how much food we were taking. Surely the rest of the city can’t love dumpling as much as I do?

Arriving at the Bini’s spot, I was introduced to Nitish and Avash, two chaps who went out of their way to recommend food places for my world tour. Bini huddled the team together for a pre game talk. Ready, steady, MOMO! Click to view a slideshow of our shift and the awesome food we cooked.

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Like many of my jobs to date, Bini insisted on feeding me the entire menu throughout service. At the end of my shift I felt like I do every year at Ukrainian Christmas – half man, half dumpling. I paused to reflect on Bourdain’s question. That last meal on death row? Put a few of those Nepali dumplings on the side will you?

What would be your last meal? Leave with me your guilty pleasures below.

A huge thank you to Bini, Soepa, Nitish, Avash and the rest of the team for your kindness and generosity. You’re all such warm and passionate people, I know the momo revolution will continue to flourish.

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7 thoughts on “A Momo-licious experience

  1. The momo’s with ghurka chicken and lemon rice looks amazing – yum yum!! There are so many fabulous dishes to choose from but my last meal would be a trio of pasta – Fresh Ravioli filled with potato and cheese in a crème and porcini sauce, Tagliatelle with Lobster & King Prawns and the obligatory Penne Arrabiata!

  2. Hi Al, We’re in Devon. Next bit of land West is the States – I can almost wave to you! (Except you’ve moved to CA) WiFi & O2 signal is spasmodic at best here but I’m trying to keep up with the Foodish website. Keep the posts coming – they are inspirational and incisive! Keep enjoying it X

    Roop Doub7e Seven Events Ents : Conferencing : Celebrities : Speakers : Venue Dressing : Fun Casinos : DJs : Dancers : Theming : corporate entertainment From Roop’s i phone so apologies for the brevity

  3. My last meal would be a 4 courser starters: prawn cocktail main course: Hawaiian pizza with chicken and desert: apple tart with doble chocolate ice cream and a doughnut with chocolate in the middle and chocolate ice and sprinkles and 4th a hot chocolate with marshmallows cream chocolate sprinkles and a flake with a drink of coke ( no ice) then a mango juice
    From Isaac 🍕😀

  4. Pingback: Central – Lima | Foodish Boy

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