When our photographer suggested ‘Momo’ for lunch recently, I was more than a little sceptical. I love my city, she is a humble beauty, with tree-lined streets, an undeniable buzz and the nicest people. A few of our city’s weaknesses are clawing our way back from years of governmental corruption & neglectful councils and quite frankly our Asian food scene. When I think of Asian food, I think of towers of steaming baskets containing soft pillowy buns, deep broth’s, umami flavours and smoky sweet Korean barbeque. Bright greens, deep red birds eye chillis, perfectly balanced kimchi and the joy of soba noodles. As a continent Asia offers a diversity of cuisine like no other and yet somehow Jozi (Cape Town a little less so) seemingly got stuck in the dark ages with bulk Cantonese catering.
The kinds of places where MSG reigns and there is a lack of emphasis on freshness and quality. I am haunted by dirty curtains and lazy Susan’s, that if swabbed could reveal a worse terror than Ebola.
You can feel the palm oil destroying your insides while you wrestle your styrofoam punnet of greasy crispy beef, sweet and sour pork or cashew chicken! Enough already! This poor representation of a beautiful food culture, that is steeped in tradition and was built on fresh ingredients and healthy options long before the rest of the world went lighter on their dinner plates, needs to stop.
Momo Baohaus offers Asian fusion food done well. Baozi which is commonly known as Bao or hum bow, nunu and pau simply mean a steamed, filled bun. There is an art to Bao, and different regions and countries across South East Asia have their own variations, shapes and fillings.
Situated in Greenside which feels a bit friendlier these days. Momo Baohaus is tiny. The decor is minimal, the service friendly and the food quick.
The Ramen bowls are served with half a delicately poached egg, the noodles are silky and have an elasticity synonymous with classic Ramen. Then the Bao oh the Bao is pure dumpling heaven. Brought to your table in traditional steaming baskets, you could be forgiven for imagining you were in a Hong Kong street market or Dim Sum house. We ordered the Colonel Bao, I can only assume a fun ode to what Kentucky Fried Chicken once was (crispy fried chicken, hoisin, pickled ginger, QP mayo, sriracha, spring onion, coriander, cucumber, toasted sesame).
Momo Baohaus is a bright fresh burst that Joburg needs more of. The one-page menu is restrained and yet if ‘Bao lust’ sets in, you won’t know what to choose. Their ethos of fresh, good quality ingredients is evident in every bite. The Lai brothers are serving modern interpretations of their family favourites, although their mums Kimchi recipe didn’t need any changes. Their food feels like it should be served from the window of a food truck, it’s almost too cool for its humble abode, although don’t get me wrong, I am eternally grateful that they have chosen bricks and mortar to house their talent.
Yes, the place is small and along with that comes queues and waiting lists sometimes, but if we don’t get off our high horses and start supporting places just like this little gem, then we can’t complain about our culture of soulless watered down pseudo-Italian chain restaurants in shopping malls.
Go to Momo Baohaus with someone you want to bump knees with, and someone who will still love you after watching you tackle their Seoul Bowl (crispy Korean beef, Gochujang, Kimchi, Ramen egg, pickled shitake, Asian slaw and wokked greens) or go to town on their Beef and pickled Shitake Mushroom Gyoza Potstickers (pan fried dumplings with plum sauce and a Gyoza dipping sauce).
I have to confess to planning my next Momo meal already, I’ll be heading back for their Coconut Prawn Fried Rice (prawn, egg fried rice, light green coconut cream, spring onion, toasted coconut) and their Deep Fried Dessert Bun with Salted Caramel Dipping Sauce.
I love leaving a restaurant feeling uplifted and restored, lunch at Momo felt like a treat like a hidden treasure discovered. We can’t wait to eat our way through South East Asia with Momo. We’re rooting for them, our lust for Crispy Calamari with Hoisin and toasted sesame needs them to survive. You have to be ready to forgive the lack of silver service because they are doing so much right. An offering of generous, dare I say too reasonably priced, honest food. We’ll see you there! We’ll be the ones with too much food on our table and plum sauce on our cheeks!
010 900 4889
139 Greenway, Greenside