More and more Nepalese restaurants are opening in Chicago with momos, acting as the unofficial ambassador for the South Asian country. On Wednesday, a new restaurant dedicated to the Nepalese dumpling will open in University Village. It’s called the Momo World and it’s a small and casual space at 727 W. Maxwell Street.
There’s a chance the opening will be pushed to Thursday. The menu will change to feature six to 10 momos at a time, said owner Madhu Budhathoki. Budhathoki has worked in Chicago restaurants for more than a decade. The Momo World is the first restaurant of his own. Up until three years ago, he worked at Himalayan Restaurant, a mini chain with a Chicago location and two in the suburbs. He returned back to Kathmandu until recently.
The menu includes steamed momos made with pork, chicken, or fish. The Nepalese answer to Chinese xiao long bao could be the jhol momo. These are dumplings served in a spicy liquid (but on the outside). The menu will also include tandoori momos which have the same red coloring as tandoori chicken with more kick to them. Budhathoki also mentioned a chipotle momo.
Budhathoki was concerned that he could push away customers if they thought the food had too much heat. It’s 2019, and there are still stereotypes about South Asian food. He reiterated that the restaurant could adjust to different heat tolerances just in case people were worried.
The menu also features more than momos. It’ll have biryani and chatamari, a street food item that’s similar to pizza in the manner in how it’s topped. The crust’s made of rice flour and topped with an assortment of veggies and ground meat. It’ll have a variety of vegetarian options, too.
The restaurant has size limitations inside which is why Budhathoki won’t make his own momo wrappers. He hopes he’ll be successful and can eventually find a larger space. Budhathoki wants to introduce Nepalese food to more Chicagoans.
“Momos are eaten in so many countries, so many people have climbed the mountain [the Himalayas],” he said.