2012 wakes up … Kepchaki Momos, Carter Road, Bandra, Mumbai

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I decided to take advantage of the pleasant weather at Mumbai this evening and went for a walk. My route, up Pali Hill then down the Carter Road promenade and back.

I hit the Carter Road food street after Pali Hill. I walked past the restaurants and stalls as I headed towards the promenade. And then I stopped. Walked. Stopped again. Turned back.

The signboard at a food cart caught my eyes.

‘Pork Momo’.

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To someone who encountered his first momos at Darjeeling and then at the Tibetan shops at Bhowanipore and recently at the Chinese market at Tiretti Bazar at Kolkata, momos have to be pork. Yet, the odd momo shops at Mumbai peddle chicken momos, even vegetarian momos, whatever that is, but not pork momos. Unlike Calcutta, or even Delhi, Mumbai doesn’t have much of a momo culture. It is only recently that these Tibetan dumplings have made an appearance on the Mumbai food canvas.

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I never stop during my walk. I usually look at all the food on the way in the eye and walk on. But the promise of pork momos held me in their spell.

I ordered a plate.

Six tiny ones for Rs 80 (1.2 USD). That' wouldn’t spoil dinner.

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I took my first bite and then slowly broke into grin. Suddenly life seemed so beautiful, sunny and cheerful. A very thin layer of steamed flour encasing such juicy, tender, flavoursome meat. Each bite more wondrous than the other. The sheer simplicity of the dish held me in its spell. The casing of the momo was the perfect demure foil for the true splendour of the meat to sweep you of your feet.

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There was a chilli sauce which was pungent and hot on the side…perfect on a cool evening … except that the simple momos were so complete that they didn’t need any aiding.

And then there was this one bite of scrunchy fatty gristle…it just exploded in your mouth making all your senses dance in drunken pleasure. This was food hedonism at its most primal.

I got tempted and a bit greedy and asked for a prawn momo to taste. I have never had prawn momos before.

Well, again the thin casing did its job to perfection. Thee prawns…minced not whole.

The flavour and taste of the prawns swirling through the momos shrouding you with their poetry. The prawn momo was everything that the overcooked rubbery prawn in green mango curry that I recently had in a five star food tasting wasn’t. For the prawn momo at the Kepchaki Momos cart was all about the prawn and nothing else.

Just as the pork momos were all about the pork.

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I know that this is very early in the year but the momos that I tasted tonight have set the bar very high for 2012. It will need a truly spectacular taste experience to match up to the pleasure that the momos at Kepchaki Momos gave me.

Turns out that Kepchaki Momos is about a month and a half old. It is run by Milan Thapa, a Nepali who came to Mumbai about eight years back. A hair stylist who wanted to open a momo stall for the last couple of years. Finally got an opportunity when a friend of his shared plans to take up a food cart outside a tattoo shop at the seaside end of the Carter Road Food street. Thanks to the help of his assistant, and his mom who helps in the cooking and makes the sauce, the ever smiling Milan manages to run his momo cart along with his job as a hair stylist to film stars.

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A market researcher who followed a dream and became a hair stylist, a hair stylist who followed a dream and set up a momo cart … Mumbai has a way of sneaking in and prodding you in your comfort zone.   

 

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