What is MoMo ?
This question is best answered (found this on Wikipedia) -
Momo (Tibetan: མོག་མོག་; Wylie: mog mog, Nepali:म:म:, is a type of dumpling native to the Sherpas, Limbus, Rais, Gurungs and Magars of Nepal . It is similar to Mongolian buuz, Chinese Jiaozi, or Central Asian Manti, closely related to Russian Pelmeni, German Maultaschen or Italian Ravioli. The Tibetan word Momo is a loanword from the Chinese mómo (馍馍).
Calcutta has a way of adapting cuisines from out-of--state and making it’s own. Momo is no different. Any one familiar with the food culture of Kolkata will be aware of what I like to call the Momo-গলি (Momo-lane).
Subarban Hospital Road is the official nick of this lane, which falls on your right hand side, just past Exide House (Rabindra Sadan) if you are walking towards Bhowanipore/Hazra. This is where it all began. This lane is dotted with a few eateries selling Momos and other Tibetan fare.
The two that I remembered from my days in the 1994 sun are : Orchid (I remembered this as Blue Orchid – thanks to their blue interiors) and then Momo Plaza. Both these are housed in the same building, adjacent to each other. It is one of those places, where you may accidentally enter Orchid when you wanted to go to Momo Plaza or vice-versa. I was always an Orchid person. It was the summer of 1994 when I had taken up my first job as a Sales Executive at a firm selling EPABX systems and ‘Brother’ brand Fax machines. I cannot remember how many Fax machines I sold in my year long stint, probably not very many (since I can’t remember). But those were the days, I picked up the selling buzz words - “cold-calling”, “lead”, “client”, “challan”, “gate-pass” and what have you.
I started as a trainee with a monthly salary for a princely sum of Rs. 1800. My company’s office was nestled in the high-rises of Tivoli Court, another Calcutta icon, on Ballygunge Circular Road. This was the address where creme-de-la-creme used to live and/or work.
The company I worked for was ironically named Midas Telecom, and was owned and operated by a true blue, grey haired, walrus mustached, golf playing “Punjabee” gentleman one Mr. Gautam Jhamb. Mr. Jhamb had the Midas touch; lived life king-size and had a taste for fine-scotch ! I owe it to Mr. Jhamb to inspire in me the taste for fine living. A lad barely out of grad-school who felt he could just touch the sky with a little effort some what like Shia LeBouf in Wall Street – Money Never Sleeps and Mr. Jhamb was the magnetic Gordon Gekko. Grad-School is just thrown in for effects, in reality though I was just an ordinary B.Com from Seth Anandram Jaipuria College in north Kolkata. Jhamb Sahib, as he was lovingly known - I still bow to you in respect Sir for allowing me a chance to come work for you.
However, I would like to dedicate this piece to Atul Sharma – my Sales Manager. Atul was as smart as they come, he spoke in fluent English and had a way with both the customers and the management. He took me under his wing and taught me how to sell and about life in general. A virtue I have always revered. I still very vividly remember, once on a sales call with Atul at a prospective clients’. The purchase manager told us that he had no requirement for a fax machine, because they were going to start using this thing called ‘The Email’. Those were my pre-nerdy, pre-computer days. I thought to myself, just what in the world is this ‘Email’ thing now ? Atul was sitting next to me and he gestured, calming me down. Indicating, that let us talk later; about this monster called ‘Email’ . So during one of our many luncheons at Orchid Atul told us about this unseen enemy named ‘Email’, that threatened the existence of fax machines. Needless to say, Email was since that day Public Enemy #1 for us !
Atul used to take the entire team of new recruits and some old ducks with him to Orchid. So here was where I first tasted Momo and Success in equal proportions. Since then Atul and I moved on in life, we occasionally stayed in touch for a brief period. Although, now I don’t have the slightest idea where he is. Tried looking for him on Facebook, but alas ! Where ever he is, I hope he sees this. I owe a big chunk of what I am today, to him. So Thank you again Atul ; if our roads cross again, and I hope it does. The treat’s on me at Orchid.
People who have eaten at Orchid will recall that it is a very functional eatery. There is no room for snobbery , luxurious furniture or aromatic candles. They have may be about 10-12, 4 seater plastic tables with garden chairs thrown in and is really busy during weekday lunch hours. It gets foot-soldiers, salesmen, new recruits, middle-aged office goers, and college students on a budget. It is a nice little quaint place, which serves great momos !
They have regular steamed momos, pan fried momos, and pan fried momos doused in a spicy tomato-based-chilly-garlic sauce and yes they call it Saucee Momos :) . They do have a full service menu, but I have never cared to order anything else but momos. OK – American Chopsuey – may be that one time. Not sure if the Americans really know what that is :)
Got-to admit the Mongolian Chicken on the wall was tempting, but still stuck to the basics and Momos. Now the return of the prodigal eater that it was. I had to get a belly full of momos so got me – one plate of steamed, pan-fried, and saucee momos each, with a side of nostalgia. All chicken as I really don’t care much for pork.
You can see me here, busy moving my plates as if they were chess pieces.
As I always do, chatted up the waiter serving us. And yes I remembered him from my high-roller days back in the mid 1990’s. His name is Debasish. Debashish is seen in a spotless white shirt and black pants. He is a talkative young man who let us in on some well-kept Orchid secrets. He quoted that they used the best ingredients here (Better Ingredients, Better Momo err Pizza – heard that somewhere ?), albeit their prices are a little higher than the neighboring momo joints. He also applauded the owner and said something to the effect of that this is - “The owner eats here” kind of a place. Debashish has been with Orchid through thick and thin and nearly 12 years.
All this eating and with 2 chilled Thums-Up apiece, we only ran up a bill of under Rs. 500. Now that’s a bargain !
Done with Momo Mia, now enjoy this !