12 January 2023

Multicultural Eats: Friends and Momos

| Lucy Ridge
Two men smiling with red food truck

Sushant Pantha (front) and Aashis Ayer (back) started their food truck because they missed having Nepalese momos in Canberra. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

If you head to the Woden Skate Park in the afternoon, you’ll find a bright red truck serving delicious dumplings. Another recent addition to the thriving local food truck scene, Friends and Momos is bringing street food from Nepal to Canberra.

Owner Sushant Pantha came to Australia from Nepal 10 years ago to study accounting. He first moved to Sydney where a sizeable Nepalese community ran restaurants, grocers and food trucks. But when he moved to Canberra, he found himself with fewer choices.

“In Canberra, there’s not a lot of Nepalese food places to go and eat,” he told Region.

“One day, me and my friend decided: let’s do something ourselves.”

three containers of food on milk crates

Don’t skimp on the dipping sauce and chilli! Photo: Lucy Ridge.

That’s the ‘friends’ part, and momos – Nepalese-style dumplings – were a natural choice for their menu.

“Momos are the national food of Nepal! Everybody loves it. Everybody eats it everywhere,” Sushant said.

Sushant has front-of-house hospitality experience and his friend Aashis Ayer has previously worked in kitchens, so they were well-placed to run a business together. After seeing the impacts of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry, they decided a food truck was the safest option to bypass wasted rental payments in case of further lockdowns and avoid indoor transmission risks.

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Since opening in April, they have developed a loyal following of customers who come for the taste of authentic Nepalese food. The cuisine is distinct from neighbouring countries China and India but shares some key flavours and dishes with both. Sushant describes it as a mix of both without being too oily or too spicy.

Container of fried noodles

As well as momos, you can also get Nepalese-style noodles, a popular street food. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

The Nepalese community in Canberra is growing, and Sushant says that they have Nepalese customers from all over Canberra and even Queanbeyan who come to see them. Plenty of newcomers to the cuisine have developed a taste for the more-ish momos.

“People are starting to know us now … they see the van and try it once, then they are regulars.”

Aashis hand makes three different flavours of momo: chicken, paneer (cottage cheese) and buffalo, a commonly used meat in Nepal. They can be served steamed, fried, or in a warm tomato soup called jhol. The dumplings are full of flavour and are made with a delicate, silky, smooth wrapper that is just the right amount of chewy.

Container of red spiced dumplings

The chilli momos are a delicious mix of crispy, spicy and delicious! Photo: Lucy Ridge.

For lovers of heat, Sushant recommends their chilli-fried momos.

“We deep fry the dumplings, then we stir fry it with sweet chilli, sriracha, capsicums and onions. That’s one of our signature dishes. It’s really popular.”

The result is a satisfying mix of crunchy fried dumplings with a deliciously sticky chilli coating. For steamed or fried momos, ensure you get the dipping chutney with a side of house-made chilli sauce containing mouth-tingling Szechuan peppers. Add more or less, depending on your tolerance.

“Some people like spicy and some people don’t. We start with mild and then have the spice on the side,” said Sushant.

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Friends and Momos also sell fried chicken sausages, served with their house-made tomato chutney, and Nepalese-style chow mein noodles, popular street food dishes in Nepal.

People sitting under trees on crates in front of red truck

Pull up a milk crate under the trees or have a picnic with friends in Eddison Park. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Within minutes of opening, there was a steady stream of dumpling devotees making their way to the food truck for their favourite dish. There’s a scattering of milk crates under the trees to perch on or find a spot in Eddison Park to spread out a picnic blanket. Either way, bonding over a shared love of momos is a great way to make new friends and catch up with old ones.

Friends and Momos are located at 25 Launceston St, Phillip, next to the Woden Skate Park. They are open from 2 pm to 7.30 pm Monday to Friday, and from 1 pm to 7.30 pm on weekends. You can occasionally find them at special events. Follow Friends and Momos on Facebook or Instagram.

Original Article published by Lucy Ridge on Riotact.

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