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In the kitchen with Rajen Thapa

Rajen Thapa of Hooksett and his family took over ownership of Cafe Momo (1065 Hanover St., Manchester, 623-3733, cafemomonh.us) in early 2019. Since opening in the early 2000s, the restaurant has offered traditional Nepali cuisine with a modern American flair — featured menu items are the momos (fillings include goat, chicken, buffalo, lamb, wild boar and vegetable) as well as several curries, chilis and stir-fried noodle options. Originally from Lalitpur, Nepal, Thapa came to the United States more than two decades ago. Cafe Momo resumed operations on June 23 after closing in mid-March, using a takeout window out of the restaurant’s adjoining space.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

A frying pan … and a knife.

What would you have for your last meal?

I love all food, basically. … I like a good curry.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

Actually, I’m not really a restaurant … person. I can eat anything, but whenever I’m hungry, usually I come home and eat.

What celebrity would you like to see ordering from your restaurant?

Tom Cruise [or] … Dwayne Johnson.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

If I’m going to Cafe Momo to eat … I would choose the lamb chili.

What is the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now?

When people are health-conscious … they always think about fat, and what ingredients are in it, and they might say, you know, ‘don’t put this’ or ‘don’t put that.’ … We are able to do that, because we make it right then, whatever they order.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

I like to cook goat curry.

Steamed chicken momos
Courtesy of Rajen Thapa of Cafe Momo in Manchester (makes about 50 momo pieces enjoyed as a meal or an appetizer)
1 pound ground chicken
1 red onion, chopped
1 cup chopped cabbage
1 bunch cilantro
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 tablespoon fresh ginger paste
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 to 4 tablespoons salt
Flour
Water

Mash the ground chicken with chopped veggies and season with the pastes. Add fresh chopped scallions and salt as desired. Add mixtures of ingredients slowly and evenly. Add a little bit of water so it’s not dry (mixture shouldn’t be liquid, but softer than meatball meat). Knead the flour so it becomes a dough and cut out circular pieces, using a small cookie cutter about the size of the top of a drinking glass. Take the ground meat and veggie mixture and make a small ball with your hands to be placed inside the dough. Make sure that the wrapper is thin in shape and that it is closed tightly — thick dough will take longer to cook and will not give you a consistent cooking temperature for the meat inside. Place the wrapped momos in a three-layered steaming dish with water at the bottom layer. The momos take about 20 to 25 minutes to cook, depending on the size of the steaming pot and the meat consistency (tightly sealed momos with thinner wrapping keep the moisture in, making the taste better). Remove from the steamer and serve with your favorite sauce.

Featured Photo: Rajen Thapa. Photo by Matt Ingersoll.

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