Photo by Erica Löfman
We encountered a bearded American fellow selling momos in the Prinzessinnengarten a year or two ago, and naturally the few Nepalese and Tibetan restaurants around Berlin (like Tibet Haus) have been serving the Himalayan dumplings for years, but it took two German lads and a whole lot of conceptual fun to devote an entire business to the doughy pockets.
Marc Thomas and Martin Fehre approached their momo project with a healthy mix of engineering precision and boyish energy: they refer to their kitchen as a “lab” and their enthusiasm for their own creations is infectious.
The duo travelled to Kathmandu for research purposes, but these momos are only ‘inspired by’ the Nepalese originals. For one, the all-veggie fillings don’t feel especially Himalayan – no yak meat here. Instead: Mediterranean spinach-feta, potato-carrot-ginger and our favourite, the vegan-friendly tofu-sesame, which packs an unexpectedly high-flavour kick thanks to ginger and spring onions. each filling comes wrapped in a slightly different delicate dough, subtly tinged with allspice, turmeric and parsley respectively.
The pockets are all-organic (with official certification pending), handmade and steamed – you can’t get much healthier, unless you’re gluten- phobic, of course. And for those craving something a little richer, they’ll fry the dumplings up in a pan for you (a good option to punch up the less adventurous potato-carrot).
It’s quite pleasurable to eat these momos by hand at one of the pavement tables on the quiet side street. Dipping is key. Of the three dips available, we definitely recommend soy-sesame – it will add a delicious salty-sour tang to those low sodium treats. The yoghurt mint is uneventful and the mitho (based on a Nepalese recipe) tastes a bit too much like pasta sauce, lacking real flavour or spice. Apparently they removed the chilli following customer complaints, but we wish they’d concoct one seriously hot chilli sauce to win over fire-craving international palates.
For something green, the daily salad makes for a nice fresh side but feels a little pricey at €3.50. Why not offer a salad-momo menu, on top of the existing dumpling-dip combos (12/1 dip for €4.50; 2x10/1 dip for €6.50; 3x9/2 dips for €9)?
The momo boys’ latest, proudest creation is sweet fried momos filled with banana and dappled with maple syrup (8/€4), proof that anything delicious can be done with dumplings – provided a pair of momo-maniacs put a bit of energy into it – so expect more unusual adaptations of this humble food.
And so focussed is their concept, they don’t care if you grab a flat white from Antipodes coffee bar next door to slurp, provided it helps you appreciate their latest sweet momo.
Originally published in issue #117, June 2013