The “We Knead To Bake” bread baking group and to me, if there’s yeast in the bread dough then the recipe qualifies for us to make. So we’re making a savoury Tibetan yeasted bread called Tingmos or Ting Momos (also called Te Momos by the Sherpas), which are not baked but steam cooked. If you’ve never heard of Tingmos before, they’re a steamed bread that is usually used by Tibetans to soak up everything from soup to curries and even spicy pickles/ sauces.
The Tingmo is a sort of a cousin to the Chinese steamed buns called Mantou and is also popular in the Indian state of Sikkim whch has a geographical border with Tibet. You can also generally find it on the menu at most Tibetan eateries all over India, along with Momos. Chinese steamed buns, Momos and Tingmos all probably have a common origin.
I should think the traditional version of this bread actually doesn’t use yeast but only baking powder as a leavening agent. However, I have seen a few Tingmo recipes using yeast as well, and that’s the version I picked for us to bake. This recipe is adapted from Rick Stein’s cookbook “India”, and while I’ve found Mr Stein’s recipes on his television series on Indian food are not always the most authentic, this one seemed doable.
Rick Stein describes Tingmos as “spongy, slightly gelatinous little steamed Tibetan buns, pleasingly savoury with ginger, garlic, coriander and tomato. Rather irritatingly more-ish on their own, they’re addictive when dunked into a rich curry or the very yummy Tibetan red chilli sauce”
In Tibet, this little bun is apparently eaten usually at breakfast with a rice porridge called “Dreythuk”. They’re quite popular though with a very spicy red chilly dipping sauce called Sepen. They can also be served with soups or “curries”
When made and cooked properly, Tingmos should be soft, fluffy and slightly chewy. There are two types of Tingmos, from what I been able to figure out – one that’s plain and one with a little filling. This video is a good insight into how Tingmos are made
This recipe is made with filling as I personally like these better than the plain ones. I’ve come across different ways of shaping Tingmos and they range from intricately fashioned rolls, through plainly rolled and tucked breads to rather shapeless lumpy looking steamed dough. I’ve chosen an easy method of shaping which involves rolling up the dough and slicing it pretty much in the fashion of making cinnamon rolls.
Tingmos, in most restaurants here, are served with a red and very hot/ spicy dipping sauce/ chutney called Sepen. Sepen is a Tibetan sauce/ chutney that is apparently served at almost every Tibetan meal. Sepen gets it’s colour and heat from the main ingredient – dried red chillies.
As as is the case with most recipes, you will find a good deal of variation in recipes for Sepen depending on who is making it, but the traditional Sepen is usually a fiery red, really spicy, thick and slightly chunky sauce/ chutney that screams “chillies”
While searching for a good recipe, I discovered a non-traditional version of Sepen that is tomato based and somewhat like a really spicy Salsa. The.
I liked the sound of this better as the tomatoes would tone down the fire of the chillies, while adding a little acidity and sweetness to the Sepen. While picking out the tomatoes from the vegetable drawer in my fridge, I found a red bell pepper so I added half of that to the Sepen.
While this does take away from the authenticity of the recipe, I felt it added to the flavour of the sauce/ chutney. (Tingmos adapted from Rick Stein’s India and the Tomato Based Sepen / Tibetan Hot Sauce or Chutney is adapted from YoWangdu)
Tingmos/ Ting Momos (Tibetan Steamed Buns) With Tomato Based Sepen ((Tibetan Hot Sauce/ Chutney)
For the dough:
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup warm water
For the filling:
- 1 1/2 tsps ginger paste or finely minced ginger
- 1 tsp garlic paste
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsps chopped fresh coriander
- 1/4 cup finely chopped spring onion greens and whites
- 2 tbsps oil
Tomato Based Sepen (Tibetan Hot Sauce/ Chutney)
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1/2 tsp finely minced garlic
- 1 large onion sliced
- 4 to 5 dried red chillies/ red chilli powder to taste
- 2 large tomatoes chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper chopped (optional)
- 2 chopped spring onion whites and greens
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
- to taste salt
To make the Tingmos
- To make the dough, combine the flour, baking powder, yeast and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Add enough of the warm water (and flour if necessary) and knead to make a soft and smooth but not sticky dough.
- Knead for 1 to 2 minutes in the bowl and then cover and set aside for about 45 minutes to an hour until it rises to almost double in size. You can also make the dough by machine.
- Now make the filling. Heat the oil and add the ginger and garlic and sautxe9 until the raw smell disappears. Keep aside to cool. It is not necessary to do this and the ginger and garlic can be used as they are but I prefer to get rid of the raw small of garlic.
- Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into two pieces. Roll each piece into a rough rectangle (this makes rolling up easier) about 5mm thick. Brush half the ginger-garlic paste across the surface. Mix the salt with the spring onions and sprinkle half of it over this.
- Roll up the dough fairly tightly, from the long side as you would a Swiss roll, then cut it into 6 or 7 slices about 3 to 4mm thick. Repeat with the remaining half of the dough and filling.
- Lightly oil a steamer and place the rolls upright in the steamer (so the cut sides face up/ down) leaving about 2 to 3 inches space in between as they will expand on steaming. Loosely cover and let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. In the meanwhile, get the water in your steamer boiling.
- Steam the Tingmos over simmering water, covered, for about 15 to 20 minutes until they’re puffy, firm and cooked. Serve warm. This recipe makes about 12 to 15 Tingmos. Double the recipe for a larger batch.
To make Tomato Based Sepen (Tibetan Hot Sauce/ Chutney)
- The original recipe calls for 1 cup of dried red chillies! An authentic Sepen is meant to be very hot/ spicy. I decided to use red chilli powder instead of chillies as it would be easier to adjust the heat to our taste. I’d suggest using as many chillies as required to tailor the dipping sauce to suit your preference. You can also use green chillies or red chilli powder instead of the dried red chillies.
- Heat the oil in a pan and then add the garlic and the onion. Sauté until the onions are soft, then add the red chillies. Stir a couple of times and then add the tomatoes. Cook for a couple of minutes then add the red bell pepper, spring onions and the coriander. Cook for 2 minutes and take it off the heat. Add salt to taste, mix it in and let it cool a bit.
- Then blend it till smooth. The finished sauce should be as thick as ketchup, so thin it down with a little water while blending, if necessary. Garnish with a little fresh chopped coriander and spring onions if you like. Serve as a dipping sauce with the Tingmos.
- This recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups of Sepen. This sauce/ chutney is best made and consumed fresh but will keep refrigerated for a day.