Think of Nepal, and the first thing that springs to mind may be mountains. The South Asian country in the Himalayas is home to eight of the world’s tallest peaks, including the mighty Mount Everest. But one local business owner who grew up in Nepal is on a mission to put the country’s cuisine on Omaha’s radar.
Food is one of the best ways to get acquainted with other cultures, and for the past year or so, Sagar Gurung and his wife Mira Tamata have been introducing local diners to the flavors of Nepal by serving momos, or Nepalese dumplings, at various pop-up events around town. Last spring, they started bringing their pop-up eatery, Kathmandu Momo Station, to Scriptown Brewing Co. in Omaha’s Blackstone District for a few nights a week.
The dumpling spot is making the leap from pop-up to permanent shop, adding to the diversity of dining options in the Blackstone area. The momo shop had plans to occupy the same space as the pop-up—a narrow sliver of a room to the west of Scriptown, with rustic brick walls, vintage tile floor, and counter seating that looks out on Farnam Street. The eatery is scheduled to open by March, and the owners plan to offer momos five nights a week. Lunch service may be added later. Gurung hopes to expand the menu and offer a few other Nepali dishes, as well as drinks such as chai.
“It’s my momo dream come true,” says Gurung, who moved to Omaha in 1996 at age 16.
Nepalese food, with aromatics of ginger, garlic, cumin, and coriander, shares similarities with the cuisines of its neighbors, India and China. A popular street snack sold by vendors in Nepal, momos are stuffed, steamed dumplings filled with a mixture of ground meat, vegetables, and fragrant, warming spices. Small but packed with flavor, they’re often topped with a tomato-and-sesame-based sauce that ranges from mild to spicy.
During a December visit to the pop-up at Scriptown, I sampled all three of the available varieties of momos: chicken, pork, and vegan. Fresh from the steamer, the piping hot dumplings come eight to an order, nestled in small paper trays. The meat-filled momos contain ground chicken or pork seasoned with ginger, garlic, a blend of spices, and other ingredients. Vegan momos feature a mushroom-and-onion filling.
The pork and vegan dumplings are both half-moon shaped, with delicately crimped edges. The chicken momos—my favorite of the three—are plump, pingpong ball-size morsels with intricate pleats. Best eaten in one bite, they’re pure comfort.
Once the new space is up and running, the couple and their team may offer different kinds of momo fillings and sauces. They also would like to make the wrappers from scratch instead of using premade dumpling wrappers. Everything else is homemade, including the dipping sauces, which Tamata makes using her own recipe. Both the mild and spicy sauces are bright, fresh, and flavorful. Slightly spicy, sweet, and tangy, the reddish-orange sauce cuts through the richness of the savory fillings.
Besides the pop-ups at Scriptown, Gurung serves momos twice a week during lunch at his downtown Omaha coffee shop, Himalayan Java, near 16th and Harney streets. It took a while for momos to catch on with customers, he says, but they’ve become increasingly popular as word spreads.
It takes just one or two bites to see why many local diners have a soft spot for momos—they’re fast, fun to eat, and delicious.
Kathmandu Momo Station
3924 ½ Farnam St.
Visit @kathmandumomostation on Facebook for more information.
This article was printed in the March/April 2019 of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.