Lots of food trucks throw around the word “authentic,” but when Nomad Momo rolls up with Tibetan prayer flags in the window, the one-man operation serving golf ball-sized dumplings filled with beef, chicken or veggies packed with fresh herbs is the real deal.
He goes by one name only, Rabgee, and moved to Santa Cruz in 2011 after stints in New York and India (since there isn’t a Tibetan grocery store nearby, he still uses Indian spices in his addictive, face-sweat-inducing hot sauce). Rabgee has brought his momos all over Santa Cruz County since he started up three months ago, to locations like Land of Medicine Buddha, Elkhorn Slough Brewing, Steel Bonnet Brewing, and Beer Mule.
What is a momo?
RABGEE: A momo is basically a dumpling. In Asia, every country has a different style or flavor of dumpling. Here no one served Tibetan dumplings.
How did you learn to cook?
Oh my god, I was a little kid. In Tibet we lived in the little village, you know, and your favorite food was a dumpling. Always your parents have you make the dumplings, so all little kids know how to cook.
Did you work in food before you started the truck?
Yeah, I worked at Whole Foods. I still work at Whole Foods now. It’s crazy busy.
How fast can you make a momo?
If you see it, it’s really, really fast. We make our own dough, everything by hand. We just buy flour, add water, make dough. I thought I would buy a machine, but I’m faster than the machine. Seriously, it took forever to roll. You gotta get the shape right, so that takes a little bit of time.
You serve at a lot of breweries. What beer pairs best with momos?
Any kind of beer. My food is kind of light. I thought I was gonna pan fry or deep fry, but everybody likes steamed. Especially if you eat veggie. In Santa Cruz, it’s a lot of veggie and chicken. In Watsonville, a lot of beef.