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3 Sisters Momo
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3 Sisters Momo
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Dumplings are not always a part of American cuisine, unless you count the doughy lumps sometimes floating in a broth-y chicken dish. Three Sisters Momo is challenging that idea with a savory South Asian twist on the humble dumpling.
Growing up in Kent, Tiffany Ann Stacy was always the kid who made friends with the exchange students. Awkward herself, she empathized with how it must feel in a strange place on the first day of school and tried to make these newcomers more comfortable. In college, Stacy was a conversation partner for international students. In her junior year, she started volunteering at the International Institute in Akron and met a handsome young interpreter from Nepal who had only been in the U.S. for six months. A romance blossomed between the two, and Stacy changed her mind about going into the Peace Corps to stay closer to her then fiancé. She has no regrets about that choice now, though, because “my whole life is like the Peace Corps,” Stacy says.
With a two-year-old son and two-month-old daughter, in-laws living with them and a full-time job, it hardly seems Stacy could have time or energy to open a small business. But the communal nature of Nepali life has carried over here: childcare is shared among all family members, and large meals are always simmering for unexpected guests.
“One of the first things my sister-in-law, now business partner, gave me to eat were momo,” Stacy says of the filled dumplings her nascent company now sells. “I had never had anything so delicious in my life.”
Momo filling starts with a base of ground cabbage and a blend of seasonings. Meat can be added, but without it, they are vegan, as the wrapping contains no eggs or dairy. The dumplings are stuffed by hand, steamed in a special Nepali steamer called a maktu, and served with a tomato-based sauce. The result is a warm pillow of spicy, satisfying goodness.
Stacy realized right away that Americans would probably love the savory Nepalese staple, and set about convincing her sisters-in-law that starting their own business making and selling them was a good idea. It was a hard sell, as the women were newly arrived in the U.S. and a little overwhelmed just building a life in a new country. Then, in the summer of 2015, Better Block came to North Hill, and Stacy seized the opportunity.
She launched a Kickstarter campaign online to raise money and attended community meetings, where she met Charly Murphy, owner of Stray Dog Cart.
“The equipment to start a mobile business was hard to acquire and expensive,” Stacy says. “It is also required that food be cooked in an inspected industrial kitchen, which is hard to find. Luckily, Charly Murphy loaned us a set of equipment for the season and let us use his kitchen as our commissary.”
With support and mentoring from Murphy, Stacy and her two sisters-in-law spent last summer vending dumplings at events and festivals all over The 330, babies and toddlers in tow.
“Owning our own business has given us flexibility,” Stacy says, because women so often have to choose between working and spending time with their kids.
For now, Three Sisters vends only in the summer, but they’re looking for a brick-and-mortar site in the North Hill area while awaiting the next festival season. Aquaduct Brewery, whose owner is friends with Murphy, is letting the women use his facility as a commissary, while Murphy builds them a portable sink. They also plan to bottle their sauce and freeze the dumplings to sell at local grocery stores.
“We look forward to the day when we can hire employees and contribute to the development of the community,” Stacy says. “We want to create jobs, especially for local women with young children who need flexible employment.”
To learn more about Three Sisters Momo, visit their Facebook page www.facebook.com/3sistersmomo/.