Saturday, December 7, 2013
The journey of Momo’s : Manali to Delhi- Laguna Chinese Plaza.
Well, Momo’s. What do I say about them. In these days of internet and international travel, you can easily find, Momo’s as something similar to dumplings. Conceptually, correct, but dimsums are usually more popular in the Asian countries. Momo’s refer to the Nepali variant.
About 14 years back, when I was travelling to Himanchal for a trekking expedition, in a village called Burua, about 20kms ahead of Manali, my first encounter with Momo’s occurred. I was with the Brathay Expedition Group with a group of 20 people from UK. On one of the evenings, we went searching for food onto the quaint little Himanchali village. One of the small kiosks agreed to make lamb momo’s for us. Priced at approx. Rs. 2.50/- a piece in the year 1999, the warm hot momo’s were just amazing. The lamb mince was coarse and intoxicating along with the aroma of garlic, ginger and coriander. Those few days at the village were perhaps an introduction into these little steamed dumplings, with which the friendship continues even till date.
Coming back to Delhi, in search of various Tibetian Markets and joints serving momo’s started. Over the last decade, the journey continued. In Delhi, way back in 2000, there were a handful of places that served Momo’s. Often I heard about a joint in Chanakya Puri, another in front of Sangam cinema, RK Puram which served momo’s. Then Delhi Haat started and had a stall that’s served momo’s along with a clear coriander soup. There were talk of another joint at Def Col, which again served great momo’s. There was supposedly another one in Kamla Nagar.
In a few years, there was a revolution and a change that perhaps had the emergence of so called soul food. The emergence of malls, into NCR, and other smaller towns, the fast emerging internet and cellphones all amalgamated and led to this new sizzling pot pouri characteristic of the first decade of the 21st century in the NCR region. All the malls were swarming with excited people who wanted to be part of this revolution, seeing new malls, glittery stores, swanky cars and mobile phones displayed. And for all these people, there quick new stores emerging in these malls, to feed them. Most of these malls had clientele ranging from students, middle class, all the way to upper class. While there were the upper class coming into the real buying segment with the purchasing power, but that was not the majority. The majority of the middle class and the school and college going crowd were in the malls. All these people wanted a part of the so called upper life- being part of mall culture and big brands. Shopping had changed from the regular neighborhood markets to the malls. At the same time all these people wanted value for money and economic options for eating while they were in the mall. A proper lavish lunch or dinner at a mall restaurant would have been expensive. For people who wanted just a quick bite and to be able to spend maximum time in the malls, they needed cheap eats. Most of them, with little spaces in view of the expensive commercial spaces and led to selling the soul food- primarily American corn with butter and lemon, and the steamed momo’s. Pretty soon it expanded to sausages, nacho's etc.
I recall being at Hyderabad for two years and I was particularly nostalgic and craving for Momo’s and I didn’t get it anywhere, until the Yo China shop opened and that was when I could relish a few schezwan dimsum’s , chilly chicken Bao’s. Come to the other spectrum, at high end restaurants, serving dumplings and Sui Mei’s and other variants. Restraunts such as Chopsticks, Golden Dragon, Fujiya and Zen, also had dim sums in their menu's
Even when I came over to Sydney and the hunt continued for Momo’s. I discovered a place called Little Nepal situated at Burwood and another called Himalyan Char Grill at Crows Nest, which served Momo’s
Well, it might be evident from the above my never ending love for Momo’s. Now lets come to the review part. In all these years and across all these hundreds of places where I have had Momo’s, the taste I had in that small village in Manali, was never replicated. Nonetheless, a few places that I find memorable and close would be Chopsticks, a momo place in the heart of Manali near the bus stand. The other place being at Mcleodgang.
In Delhi, for me the must visit place for Momo’s is at Yashwant Palace, Chanakya Puri. All the way since I came back from Manali in 1999, right in front of the erstwhile Chanakya Cinema complex was the lane with all the tibetian joints. Amongst them was Laguna Chinese Food Place. A small little shop. Now don’t ask how I selected this one, may be by pure coincidence, but all these years, it has een by far my favourite joint for Momo’s. The momo’s here are simply out of the world. Both the steamed variants, and the fried variants. Way back in 2000, when I passed out of myschool, and dropped a year, my best friend Kapil and myself would often bunk college and take a DTC bus, get off at Chanakya Puri and go for the morning movie show in the front stall for Rs 12/- and then have a plate of momo, which would cost approximately Rs 35/- for the steamed variant and Rs 40/- for the fried version. Since then till today-
Fast forward about 13 years. The cost of a plate of Momo might have changed to Rs 120/- and Rs 130/- respectively. But in all these years, the staff and the taste has not changed.
Well Laguna has been a must have stop for me in Delhi every time I visit. A plate of steamed chicken momo and the fried mutton momos are a must. Something about this store that the momos are so juicy. The first bite and it just squirts out all the juices from the minced mutton along with the garlic and onions.
Other than momo’s, if you wish to try out, do go for the Soup. The most favorite soup for me would be the Manchow Soup in chicken topped with the fried onions, or the hot and sour soup. If you are craving for the Thukpa, id most definitely recommend it here as well.
For the rest of it, look nothing to boast about. It is the regular fan fare of Chinese. If anyone from Delhi recalls in the early 90’s there used to be many Chinese vans which used to serve Chinese foods. This shop is quite similar, perhaps a bit better. Look to me as a kid, I loved food from the Chinese vans and they were really pronounced flavors of schezwan, garlin and soy. This place is pretty much on the same lines and food is great. Almost like street food, very authentic and yummy. You probably wouldn’t go here for ambience. This is place is a small little eatery, but the momo’s are undoubtedly the best ones I have had in many years.
Highly recommended. A meal for two would cost Rs 500/- at max.
Laguna Chinese Plaza
Shop Number 11, 18 Yashwant Place Market, Chanalya Puri, New Delhi