Inclusivity Through Momo on the Danforth
Momo Hut & Gardens bring their unique Tibetan culture to the community through homemade and diverse momo.
Growing up in Asia, I’ve always resonated with Asian food—dumplings being the most iconic within my Chinese culture. As I travelled, I realized that dumplings can be found in many countries. In 2018, I travelled to Nepal and discovered momo, a type of Nepalese and Tibetan dumpling. Momo is so common that every restaurant offers it, which is how it became my comfort food.
Tibet and Nepal are geographically adjacent, and share similar cultures in terms of religion and food. Momo is an important dish in both places; it is served in their daily meals and festivals. Before the 1930s, the Newar traders of Kathmandu, who were trading goods with Tibet, brought the concept of the dumpling to Nepal. Variants of the dish developed in Nepal since then.
After a two-month food exploration in Toronto, I found a Tibetan restaurant on the Danforth that specializes in momo. The owners named it Momo Hut & Gardens. It’s a family business run by Tashi Nangsetsang and Ohondup Yangzom, both first-generation Tibetans who were born in India and immigrated to Canada in 1998. They opened the restaurant at 401 Danforth Ave. in 2018.
Yangzom told me, they had a Tibetan restaurant in the West End of Toronto twenty years ago. Since their children were born, they came out of the restaurant business. “Now my husband wants to open up a business again,” says Yangzom. Nangsetsang wanted to convey their unique culture through momo, so they decided to specialize in it.
Momo is a family tradition to Yangzom. “Momo is part of my, I’d say all our Tibetan childhood. Momo back home is [something] you get once or twice a year,” says Yangzom. “When I was in childhood during a school holiday, my family all got together. My dad would go and buy meat. He brought it home and my uncle and my dad would mince the meat. My mom and my aunt would be cleaning and cutting the onions.”
“It’s not just a restaurant. I want everybody who comes in here to enjoy our culture. Whatever you eat is healthy and tasty,” says Yangzom. “We don’t use any frozen vegetables; they are all fresh. Vegetable momo and all our meat momo have less fat and less salt.” Yangzom was a nurse when she came to Canada, so she understands how important healthy food is for the body.
Not only do they offer vegetarian momo variations on their menu, but they also have vegan variations. “Now we have a variety of gluten-free [options]. I’m so happy to say that because we have put a lot of effort into that, it took a couple of months to have the perfect texture,” says Yangzom.
Nangsetsang and Yangzom want to adapt to bring in customers of various cultural backgrounds—they offer four sauces. “Back home, we only had one sauce. Now we have diverse customers, so we account for their needs,” says Yangzom.
“The neighbourhood is really friendly and caring,” says Yangzom. She wanted to give “the love” back to the community, she said, “so we donated food we made here and gave them to the organizations [during the pandemic].” With the love this couple gave to the community, it’s no wonder Greektown has been called home by many immigrants. I want to say thank you to Momo Hut & Gardens, as Yangzom says to the community, “Thank you for your love and support!”