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Llhamos Kitchen: Taking a cooking class on Tibetan momos in Dharamsala

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Making Tibetan Momos

You might think that taking a cooking class is something at the top of every solo female traveler’s list of things to do.

Pbbbbbt…

I’ve never been a domestic sort of gal and if I’m cooking for one, my stomach is pretty simple.  So I actually never considered taking a cooking class, while traveling.

But arriving at the Dalai Lama’s neighborhood of McLeodganj and seeing sign after sign advertising Tibetan food, it brought back vivid memories of the one dish, which had given me my first travel experience in unforgettable tastebud-orgasms.

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Potato and veg momos sold on the streets of McLeodganj

What are momos?

In short, momos are dumplings. Although they originated from China, they’re commonplace to Tibetan and Nepalese communities (read about their popularity in Nepal by The Longest Way Home). They can come steamed, fried or cooked in soup, with fillings of meat, potato, vegetable or dessert.

 

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Momo soup

My first memory of falling in love with momos was in the  Nepalese countryside, where every bite blossomed with succulent flavor. It was that taste which inspired me to make my own Frankenstein version in the hope of reconstructing that first bite.

Flash forward to two years later in India’s Indo-Tibetan region, where Tibetan food reigns supreme and momos are a popular dish.

I’d seen papers plastered up on notice boards advertising Lhamo’s Kitchen. It was offering cooking classes on a variety of traditional Tibetan dishes such as soups, breads and … momos. A cooking class was something I’ve never taken abroad and my tastebuds were reminiscing. I decided I’d finally  learn how to make momos… the proper way.

Signing up for the class was easy.  The cost was fantastic for my budget ( at the time of attendance, it was only 200 rupees!). I followed directions to the kitchen and found a sign-up board outside the door. I penned my name and showed up at the time shown. Voila!

Instant cooking class!

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Flyer advertising Llhamo’s Kitchen   The door to Llhamo’s Cooking Class. A sign-up paper hangs outside.

 

Taking a cooking class in Dharamsala on Tibetan Momos

When I arrived to class, I met Lhamo and some other curious foodie travelers.

Lhamo is a chef who, at the early age of 16, fled his homeland of Tibet along with many others. Without his family, he left in a group of 20 to seek freedom and safety ; now, he resides in the central part of McLeodganj and teaches traditional Tibetan cuisine. His mother was a chef in Llhasa and she is his inspiration for teaching.

Llamo’s Cooking Class   Learning the taste of Tibetan culture

He runs his classes from his one-room home, where everything is prepped for learning. A true chef, everything is clean, organized, precise. Each student receives a copy of the recipe and it’s a very hands-on learning environment, where you practice everything from mixing, kneading and rolling dough and learning how to fold and seal the dumplings.

Lhamo takes pride in his craft of teacher and chef and it shows. His English is good and he is a thorough teacher, ensure you follow his steps and truly learn what is involved in each process.

We learned three types of momo fillings: spinach, vegetable and dessert.

Being a vegetarian, the non-meat agenda was perfect for me!

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Beginning of class   
   All is prepped to make momoslhamos cooking class kitchen, taking a cooking class in india, tibetan momos, cooking class tibetan food, tibetan cuisine, dharamsala food We get to practice rolling out dough for the momos   Momo fillings  momo ingredients, tibetan momos, cooking class tibetan food, tibetan cuisine, dharamsala food Veg momo fillings

Making a beautiful momo

The hardest part of momo-making is the wrapping and sealing of a momo. There are different styles and shapes to Tibetan momos; we learned two.  Lhamo showed us how to hold the dough and to pinch it.

A pinch can seal in perfection, health, beauty and one’s pride in their craft. Who wants to eat an ugly momo, even if the taste is all the same?

Making a beautiful dumpling for me, felt like attempting a nice-looking Korean syeongpyeon (which I learned in Korea)… a bit of a challenge. It’s something which can symbolically, as many Asian traditions joke, result in ugly babies and  lesser fortunes if one doesn’t make them aesthetically pleasing!

Asian cultures sure know how to put on the pressure.

tibetan dumplings

The art of the pinch

 

…Well, it’s a good thing I don’t have children. My momos turned out a little on the deformed-looking side!

 

 Learning about Tibetan craftsmanship and last touches

The momos go into the steamer and after the steaming is complete, it’s the time we’re all waiting for…  But before putting fork to mouth, Lhamo teaches us one last finishing trick — to make a small side salad and dipping sauce for the momos!

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Llamo shows us how to prepare the salad

   . 
momo dipping sauce
Now, it is time to eat.  Yum….
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Momo eating

 

Have you ever taken a cooking class abroad? What favorite foreign dish would you like to learn to cook?

 

More information:

Lhamo’s Kitchen
Located in central McLeodganj, off of Bhagsunath Road, the classes run on a weekly basis. Each class focuses on a different dish, so it’s best to ask for the schedule. You’ll see flyers posted around town advertising Llhamo’s Kitchen as well as Mr Sangye’s Kitchen. Both are recommended by Lonely Planet. Flyers will give you instructions on how to get there. A sign-up board is outside the house. Cost is budget-economy: at the time of attendance, it was only 200 rupees.

 

Article by Christine Kaaloa

Christine is a solo traveler, blogger and YouTube vlogger, who shares travel advice, trip planning and survival tips and tricks on how to travel alone as a woman, live and work in South Korea and to follow your passion for travel.
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10 Comments

  1. Christy says:

    I like taking cooking classes when traveling, but I have been known to get lazy (and a little drunk) in the middle of them and would just rather sit and watch someone cook for me. :) I would love to learn some authentic Indian recipes though. Looks like fun!

  2. Wow! This looks so much fun! Cooking class is on top of my list of things to do in Thailand. I can’t wait to try it. Maybe now you will enjoy cooking a little bit more?

  3. Nico says:

    I’ve never done a cooking course while travelling, but I’ve often wished I could cook many of the dishes that I’ve tried. Although the Internet is a great place to learn new skills, I can imagine that learning from a chef is a far more memorable and enjoyable experience.

  4. Natasha says:

    I’ve never done a cooking class abroad before and would love to try one out. Those Tibetan momos look delicious! It’s amazing that the class is held literally in Llamo’s kitchen. Hopefully I’ll get to try a cooking class when I visit Vietnam ;-)

  5. Gray says:

    Like you, Christine, I am not particularly domestic, so normally the idea of taking a cooking class while traveling would not appeal. BUT this looks great! I’d love to learn how to make momos! You said that was a one-room house? So he slept in that room, too? Wow.

    • @Gray: Had a feeling you were a non-domestic sister! Yes, one-room… and a tiny bathroom (which doubled as his kitchen sink). But in India/Southeast Asia, houses and living spaces are generally small and sparse, especially if the family isn’t rich. In a way, it felt very normal for the culture. A “home business” when you think of it. He kept everything tidy and clean though, so I wasn’t worried.

  6. Jarmo says:

    Looks delicious. I took a cooking class in Thailand and loved it, we started in the market where we bought our ingredients to be cooked. I could use an Italian cooking class to be honest! :)

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