Dor­jee Momo helps Wash­ing­to­ni­ans fall in love with Ti­betan cui­sine

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Weekend - BY VIC­TO­RIA MILKO

IBETAN refugee Lob­sang Dor­jee Tser­ing has tested out his plump mo­mos — Ti­betan dumplings — on monks and friendly neigh­bors over the years. Now, D.C. din­ers can get a taste. “I still get ner­vous ev­ery time some­one eats my food,” Tser­ing says. “I al­ways want to make sure they like what I am mak­ing be­cause I know it might be their first time try­ing [Ti­betan food].”

Tser­ing is in­tro­duc­ing his restau­rant con­cept, Dor­jee Momo, to Wash­in­ton D.c.area din­ers through a series of pop-up din­ners this sum­mer and fall. Those who were quick enough to se­cure a ticket to his first event ear­lier this month en­joyed Ti­betan dishes in­clud­ing yel­low laph­ing (Nepalese rolled noo­dle crepes), juicy lamb mo­mos and a troma (sweet yam) dessert.

Born into a no­mad fam­ily, Tser­ing moved into a Ti­betan Bud­dhist monastery at 6 and be­gan study­ing to be­come a monk. Per tra­di­tion, he also learned how to cook, spend­ing hours each day knead­ing dough to bake for the monks. Af­ter 16 years, Tser­ing sought new op­por­tu­ni­ties, so he trekked across the Hi­malayas and regis­tered with the United Na­tions as a refugee in Dharam­sala, In­dia.

“When I left the monastery, I thought to my­self, ‘What can I do? I don’t have many skills or an ed­u­ca­tion,’ ” Tser­ing says. “But I re­mem­bered how happy I felt while singing and cook­ing with the other monks at the monastery and re­al­ized that I wanted to be a chef.”

Tser­ing be­gan work­ing at a cafe in Dharam­sala, even­tu­ally meet­ing his now-wife Am­ber­jade, an Amer­i­can who was work­ing in the re­gion. The cou­ple moved to D.C. in 2014 when Am­ber­jade be­gan grad­u­ate school at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity, and Tser­ing be­gan work­ing in kitchens at Bull­frog Bagels, Maketto and Sospeso. Be­tween shifts, he made mo­mos for his neigh­bors. “Some morn­ings, I’d wake up to the sound of Dor­jee pound­ing dough, get­ting ready to make mo­mos,” says Peter Aquino, a for­mer neigh­bor of Tser­ing’s. “Good food doesn’t go un­no­ticed in D.C., and I think peo­ple will be able to taste that his food is made with love.”

Even­tu­ally, with money raised from Kiva, an on­line lend­ing plat­form that helps tra­di­tion­ally un­der­served mi­nori­ties re­ceive mi­croloans, Tser­ing was able to join the food in­cu­ba­tor Union Kitchen, where he de­vel­ops recipes and plans his busi­ness.

Tser­ing’s goal is to even­tu­ally open a brick-and-mor­tar restau­rant in D.C. that will train and hire other refugees, but in the mean­time he gets in­spired by watch­ing his din­ers from the com­fort­ing con­fines of the kitchen.

‘When I left the monastery, I thought to my­self, ‘What can I do? (...) I re­alised that I wanted to be a chef.’

Photo: Far­rah Skeiky/the Wash­ing­ton post

Chef Tser­ing’s hicken chu-mok (chicken dumplings in star anise and black sesame broth).

Photo: Far­rah Skeiky/the Wash­ing­ton post

Chef Lob­sang Dor­jee Tser­ing.

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