The Momo Spot is introducing Ottawa to a bite of Nepali culture, by serving up momos, a traditional Nepali dumpling, at the Lansdowne Park farmers’ market.
Rahul Bura, co-founder of The Momo Spot, says momos are a type of steamed dumpling with a spicy sauce and are a common street-food in Nepal. The Momo Spot has a booth at the farmers’ market every Sunday and Bura said there are plans to expand. The momos come in three flavours: chicken, pork and vegan.
Bura and other Nepali students in Ottawa started serving momos as a fundraiser after the 2015 earthquake that hit Nepal. They started with an initial bazaar style event where they served the traditional food, but Bura said making momos has expanded into its own business.
“It’s an ongoing rebuilding process that’s going to be years, so how can we continue helping that?” Bura said. “We decided to come up with The Momo Spot as a more sustainable way for us to enjoy what we do but also at the same time to see if we can continue helping with that cause.”
Momos are something very close to his heart and for everyone from Nepal, according to Bura.
“Momos are my favourite food in the world,” he said. “When I was growing up you could smell a block away that your family was making momos, so you would run home because you knew momos were there."
Making the dumplings is a family event, he said. It takes many hands to chop the eight to 10 ingredients in each dumpling, marinate the meat and roll them up.
“When you make momos you don’t make them just by itself, you make it as a family or you make it with friends…. so it’s basically a momo making party, everyone contributes.”
Bura said the team behind The Momo Spot calls themselves the ‘momo squad’ because of how many people it takes to make the 1,800 to 2,000 momos they sell every Sunday.
“It’s just a communal activity, everyone enjoys it and then it’s just that much better to eat when you’re done making them.”
He said the entire process of starting The Momo Spot has been a learning experience since it started with the 2015 fundraiser. When they held a pop-up event at a restaurant in the middle of winter there was a line out the door. He said the demand and popularity has been “overwhelming.” When the ‘momo squad’ held their second pop-up restaurant the weather was colder and the line was still out the door, but Bura said things went more smoothly and the line kept moving.
“Food is one of the easiest ways to introduce someone to someone’s culture, nobody knew what a momo is," he said. "We wanted to kind of introduce people to the Nepali culture through food."
The Momo Spot will be at the Lansdowne Farmers’ Market each Sunday until the end of October, and will be back for future seasons. He said they are experimenting with other ways of serving momos, like selling them frozen and trying to get on Skip the Dishes or Uber Eats. They are also looking at catering parties.
“People love that, the idea of having something different, something that is not just cucumber sandwiches,” he said.
Bura said many in the Ottawa Nepali community are excited the Momo Spot is teaching people a little bit about Nepali culture and what momos are.
“We’re really excited that people are going to find out about momos… I think we’re trying to start a movement where people are going to be more educated about Nepal and it’s going to help Nepal in general, keep it front of mind for people.”