Tibetan hot sauce, called sepen in Tibetan, is a popular accompaniment to Tibetan momos and other dishes.
While the nuns hand chop all their ingredients, this recipe can be made with a food processor or blender. Add this spicy sauce to anything you like, but be careful, this sepen is extremely hot! You can adjust the heat of the sauce by reducing the amount of red pepper.
Ingredients for Tibetan Hot Sauce
- 1 medium onion
- 2 medium tomatoes (Roma tomatoes work well)
- 2 tablespoons cilantro
- chopped 2 stalks of green onion
- 2 stalks of celery
- 3 cloves garlic
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup dried red peppers (see the note below)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil for cooking
NOTE: You can adjust the spiciness of this recipe by using less red pepper and/or more of the other ingredients.
Preparation of the Hot Sauce
- Roughly chop the celery, tomatoes, green onion, and cilantro.
- Peel and roughly chop garlic.
- Peel and cut onion in half lengthwise, then slice fairly thin.
- Slice tomato in thinnish circles.
- Heat oil in pan on high.
- On high heat, cook garlic a few seconds, then add onion slices and stir fry about 1 minute.
- Add celery and whole red peppers, stir fry another minute.
- Add tomato slices, and stir fry for a minute or so.
- Stir in cilantro, spring onion, and salt.
- Cover and cook for about 3 minutes.
- At this point, everything should be cooked down a bit. Put everything in a blender or food processor until you have a sauce. Stop at the thickness you like.
Buddhist nuns at Dolma Ling chop ingredients for Tibetan hot sauce. The nunnery is home to about 230 nuns. Photo courtesy of Dustin Kujawski
Thanks to Lobsang and Yolanda at YoWangdu Experience Tibet, we have a number of other Tibetan recipes to share with you including:
When you make vegetarian food for 230 nuns there’s a lot of chopping involved. Here the nuns have chopped ingredients for their Tibetan hot sauce, using green chilies instead of red. Photo courtesy of Dustin Kujawski
Tsel Momo or Vegetarian Momos: Steamed Vegetable Dumplings
Our profound thanks to Lobsang and Yolanda at YoWangdu Tibetan Culture for their support of the nuns and for sharing both this recipe and their beautiful photos. The recipe has been edited here for length. If you want to see more of their Tibetan recipes, including meat momos, visit their website at www.yowangdu.com
Traditionally in Central Tibet, there were sha (meat) momos and eventually vegetable fillings began to appear as well. Typical vegetarian momos (tsel momos) are stuffed with a potato filling, but Lobsang at YoWangdu Tibetan Culture has created his own blend of tofu, bok choy and shiitake mushrooms to make momos that are light and delicious.
For 2 people (Makes about 25 momos)
- 2 cups white all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup water
If you don’t have time to make them yourself, look for dumpling wrappers, wonton, potsticker, gyoza or shu mai wrappers in many major grocery stores. These will taste a bit different than the kind we make, but they will work.
Filling Ingredients for Vegetarian Momos
- 1/2 large onion (we use red onion)
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup minced cilantro
- 1 cup baby bok choy (about 2 clusters) or cabbage
- 5 ounces super firm tofu
- 2 stalks green onion
- 6 largish shiitake mushrooms (you can substitute white mushrooms)
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to your taste
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon vegetable bouillon
- 1/4 cup of cooking oil (we use Canola)
Prepare the Dough
- Mix the flour and water very well by hand; knead until you make a smooth, flexible ball of dough (About 5 minutes)
- Leave your dough in a pot with the lid on, or in a plastic bag, while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. You should not let the dough dry out or it will be hard to work with.
Prepare the Filling for Vegetarian Momos
- Chop the onion, ginger, garlic, cilantro, bok choy, tofu, green onions and mushrooms into very small pieces.
- Heat 1/4 cup of cooking oil in a pan to high and add chopped tofu. Cook on medium high for 2 minutes, until the edges are brown (cooking all water out).
- Add chopped mushroom and cook another 3-4 minutes. Cool completely (very important) and add to filling mix.
Making the Momo Dough Circles
When your dough and filling are both ready, it is time for the tricky part of making the dumpling shapes.
- Place the dough on a chopping board and use a rolling pin to roll it out thinly, about 1/8 inch thick. It should not be so thin that you can see through it when you pick it up.
- Cutting the dough into circles: Turn a small cup or glass upside down and cut out circles about the size of your palm. Pinch the edges of each circle to thin them.
Shaping a Half-Moon Momo
(To do this, you might want to also watch this video showing how the two traditional shapes are made.)
- Prepare a non-stick surface and a damp cloth or lid to keep the momos you’ve made from drying out while you’re finishing the others (lightly-greased trays of steamer with lid or wax paper and a damp cloth).
- Hold a dough circle in your left hand, slightly cupping it. Put about a tablespoon of your veggie filling in the center of the dough. Start with a small amount, try to not overfill.
- Starting on one edge and moving to the other, pinch the two sides of the dough together, creating a curved crescent shape. The bottom side of the momo will stay relatively flat, whereas the pinched edge has folds to allow for the bulk of the filling. Be sure to close all gaps so that you don’t lose juice while cooking.
Cook Your Momos!
- Finally, you should boil water in a large steamer. (Tibetans often use a double-decker steamer, to make many momos at one time.)
- Oil the steamer surface lightly.
- Once the water is boiling, place the momos a little distance apart in the steamer as they will expand a little bit when they cook.
- Steam the momos for 10-12 minutes, with the water boiling continuously.
- Momos are done once the dough is cooked.
- Serve the momos right off the stove, with the dipping sauce of your choice. At home, we mix together soy sauce and Patak’s Lime Relish, which we get in Indian stores, or the Asian section of supermarkets. Tibetan hot sauce is also very good.
- Be careful when you take the first bite of the hot momos since the juice is very, very hot, and can burn you easily.