Good to Go is a column where our food writers explore Dallas' restaurant scene through takeout orders, delivery boxes and reheated leftovers.
The arrival of coronavirus, and the subsequent cancelation of just about every event in Dallas, sent many pop-up food organizations into a panic. But not the dumpling makers behind Momo Shack Himalayan Dumplings.
Momo Shack, which had become a smash hit serving its pudgy veggie and pork momos at breweries, night markets and farmers markets across Dallas, was already planning its next move. And, as luck would have it, that next move turned out to be perfect for our current eat-at-home climate.
Beginning last fall, the co-owners behind the event group prepared to bag and sell frozen momos. Fans as far away as New York City had been requesting their dumplings. And in November, the group — all of whom are University of Texas at Dallas alumni — entered their frozen-momos-by-mail concept into a Shark Tank-style pitching competition at UTD.
“We were trying to convince the judges of being a nationwide dumpling brand, in terms of packaging our momos and shipping it to retail stores,” says Momo Shack co-owner Leezen Amatya, who operates the brand with his mother, Minu, and business partners Thang Duong and Daniel Flores. “When COVID hit, it became our obvious alternative to events. We had that in the back of our minds.”
Of 200 business ideas pitched, Momo Shack reached the competition’s top six, presenting to investors in the final round. To test the viability of the idea, they even had a frozen momo pickup day at Peticolas Brewing Co. that November, handing out dumplings in Ziploc bags.
What might be most impressive about Momo Shack’s adaptation is how quickly they responded to the virus. With the frozen momo idea already in place, along with an agreement by which the team could use a local restaurant’s kitchen for prep work, all the group needed was packaging.
That, too, came together quickly, as the Ziploc bags were replaced with a sleek matte-black resealable bag, imprinted with Momo Shack’s jaunty logo.
“In one month we were able to go from a Ziploc bag to a package like the one you just purchased,” Flores says. “We were really quick at executing.”
For customers, the ordering process is impressively easy. I paid online for two bags with a dozen pork momos each, which each come with small packets of two different sauces, then added an extra jar of my favorite sauce: the impossibly good, moderately spicy, tomato-sesame-red chile combo.
My pickup spot was Trinity Cider in the heart of Deep Ellum. (Make an excursion of it: Get some tacos at Revolver before picking up your momos, and add a six-pack of Dallas’ best cider.)
Instructions for preparing the momos are on Momo Shack’s website, and they’re simple. Steam them — making sure to grease the surface the dumplings sit on, an instruction I ignored the first time and will never forget again — or pan fry. The momos themselves are spectacular; don’t be concerned if the pork is a little bit pink, because it’s full of colorful seasoning.
A trickier question is how many to prepare. Each bag contains a dozen momos. I opted to steam four per person per meal, along with a vegetarian side dish; a hungrier person could easily eat more, while one or two momos by themselves can make a hefty snack.
Flores, Amatya and Duong are unanimous in their recommendation for what to do with leftover cups of sauce: Put them on breakfast tacos.
They’re also optimistic about the future of Momo Shack. The next step is to establish more drop-off points around Dallas, Fort Worth and the surrounding suburbs; customers can pick up at Sno Tea in Plano starting Saturday.
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Behind the scenes, the partners are also researching their move into the world of frozen momo shipping. Right now, all they’ll say is that they feel optimistic it can work.
Maybe that’s why Leezen Amatya describes the coronavirus as “sort of a weird blessing in disguise.” It’s helped the group refine their future plans for Momo Shack.
“We would say this is the foundation of what’s coming,” Amatya says. “We wanted to do this a few months back, but COVID just happened to accelerate the process.”