Monday, January 4, 2021

New year and a dumpling party for one



The last time I made dumplings was two years ago while in graduate school. Contrary to popular belief, I like to believe that making dumpling which we usually do from scratch in this part of the world is a tedious task in itself with all those chopping to be done for the filling, kneading the dough, making the wrappers etc. As we are in the midst of second lockdown, how to pass each day is the biggest thing on everybody’s mind now. I haven’t been obsessing over the increasing cases of COVID-19, mainly to avoid losing my sanity and as far as possible I’ve tried to stay away from watching and reading the news save for occasional updates.

 

I had all the time in the world. What could be better than to make dumpling to pass the time? With my playlist on, I first began kneading the dough to give ample time for it to rest. Next, I started chopping the cabbage and red onions which left me crying for a couple of minutes. I chopped some pork and ginger and prepared the filling. Adding freshly grated ginger changes the whole flavor of the dumpling, a trick I learned. There’s this fresh invigorating taste which helps to subside the aftertaste of the onion.

 

To be honest, I was never a big fan of dumpling or momo as we call it here. Nor did I know how to make it. That was two years ago! BUT I’m a convert now. My love for momo started when I was in the US for my graduate school. Being away from home definitely does that to you. One is always homesick for that authentic home food. We were fortunate to have two Indian supermarkets (Patel Brothers and India Market) in our area where we basically got everything starting from Samosa, Jalebi and Dalle pickle and where we used to do most of our veggie shopping and speak to the guys at the counter in Hindi. That was the closest we could feel about home. 

 

Making dumpling became a tradition for us to celebrate the end of the year school party. I learned and hosted the dumpling session a couple of times for friends from school. There was so much diversity and we were celebrating the end of school by eating dumplings and drinking root beer. Some were vegetarian and wanted coconut filling, it felt weird at first but was so yummy. Some wanted to try shrimp besides the regular beef and pork. I introduced to them the cheese momo which was an instant hit. The different shapes and sizes had their own interpretation. With snow falling softly on the ground outside, the hot dumplings we ate by the Christmas tree warmed our hearts as we chatted about school, friends and winter break plans.

 

As I was wrapping the filling last night, a sense of nostalgia overcame me. I remembered that dumpling parties from two years ago, the fun and laughter we shared after a stressful week of finals at school. The things we talked about late into the night after we were super full from eating and drinking. I remember the light from that first Christmas tree of mine which my love and I hauled it up. I remember how I showed him to roll the small ball of dough on my kitchen table as he shared a traumatic story from his childhood. We both cried in each other’s arms. But once the dumplings were steamed and ready, he forgot all his pain as the exhilarating burst of the ezay and the beef dumpling was popped into his mouth and a large smile appeared on his face. ‘God, how much I love this man, I thought’ as I watched him help himself to more dumplings. I loved it with a tinge of jealousy when he said that he would choose dumplings over me given a choice.

 

I wonder how my friends are doing now? Although we are in touch through social media, things have changed a lot. I’m ever grateful for crossing paths with them for they made two years of grad school an amazing and unforgettable experience.


Dumpling definitely has been my comfort food and with it comes the warm and comforting memories of the time spent in Boston as I sat down in my apartment to a plate of freshly steamed dumplings for dinner, alone this New Year in Thimphu.

 

Happy New Year 2021! I hope you are doing well, stay safe. Like all things, this too shall pass :)

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