This is also where you will find Everest Momo Plus. Photos on a TV display mounted on the wall to the left of the counter show what’s on the menu of Nepali dishes, the stars of which are chicken, veggie and chicken chili momos.
Krishna Shrestha runs this operation with his wife, Rita, from a small kitchen in the back. They glide effortlessly around the cramped area to dunk battered chicken in a basket of hot oil, heat up frozen biscuits and potato wedges in an oven, and assemble momos by hand. You’ll often see Shrestha manning the stove and fryer station at the same time, with momos steaming on one burner and a wok sizzling with Nepali-style noodles on the next.
When Shrestha took over the existing Krispy Krunchy Chicken franchise in March 2018, he added momos to the menu, preparing and serving them himself. In the beginning, he says he sold around 30 momos a day; he now sells between 600 and 1,000 dumplings daily and often sells out by closing time. He still sells the Cajun-style fried chicken, which helps support his momo business, and started selling pizza earlier this year, to bring in more customers. “It’s my opportunity to introduce my food,” he says.
On a recent Sunday morning, Shrestha prepares the smooth and soft dough, pressing down with his knuckles and twisting the sticky mixture of flour and water in a bowl until it transformed into a thick ball the size of a small watermelon, enough to make up to 400 dumplings. While the dough rests (wrapped inside a plastic Krispy Krunchy Chicken bag), he works on the meat filling.
He mixes freshly ground chicken with cabbage, celery, onion and cilantro that was chopped up by Rita the night before. He seasons the mixture with his homemade “momo masala” (a blend of coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, cloves and a hint of fresh ginger and garlic). The veggie momos are packed with finely diced carrots, cabbage, green and red peppers, cilantro, spring onion and bits of mozzarella cheese that melts nicely with the vegetables that are mixed with the same Himalayan spices.
In between working on the momos, Shrestha calls to his wife that a driver is in the store, ready to pick up a new Krispy Krunchy Chicken order. Shrestha quickly switches gears and warms up mashed potatoes with gravy for another order, then turns his attention back to the momos.
Shrestha rolls out the ball of dough by hand and cuts it into individual pieces, pausing briefly to take an order for a chicken sandwich. He flattens the dough into disks the size of silver dollar pancakes, then delicately wraps it around a bite-sized mound of filling. Shrestha’s fingers neatly and quickly press the edges of the dough to seal the momo; he can complete eight to 12 momos per minute. He places the fresh dumplings on a tray and stores them in a freezer next to packets of frozen mac and cheese and other frozen Krispy Krunchy Chicken items. The momos are folded into different designs so he can easily recognize the fillings: The chicken ones resemble mini steamed buns, and the vegetable ones are crescent-shaped.
The chicken and veggie momos are steamed to order. The ground chicken filling is soft and juicy, and you can taste a subtle hint of cinnamon and the other roasted spices that are infused in the momo. When you take a bite, the filling remains intact.
For the chicken chili momos, Shrestha deep fries the chicken momos before sautéing them in a wok with chopped cabbage, ginger and garlic paste, green and red peppers, a bit of ketchup and soy sauce. You can tell him how spicy you want the momos and he will adjust the amount of red chilies. The fried dough becomes a little more challenging to bite into, and the mix of the sauces, veggies and chicken filling makes this dish sweeter than the others.
The steamed momos are served in foam bowls on a tray with two homemade sauces: a mild orange one made from tomatoes and a variety of spices, which Shrestha says is just like the sauce found in Kathmandu, and a spicy red chili sauce. You can dip your dumplings into the small dishes, or you can eat them in the traditional way, which is to have the special orange sauce poured over the momos, covering them like a soup (ask for “jhol momos”).
Regular customer Allen Rai stops by for a late breakfast of jhol momos, which he used to eat every day when he was living in Nepal. “The momos are really good but what makes it special is the momo soup that we can find over here,” says Rai, who moved to Virginia five years ago. “Momos for Kathmandu people — it’s like breakfast, dinner, lunch, brunch. We love momos all the time. There is no ‘no’ to momos.”
Shrestha, who was a partner in Everest Kitchen, a well-reviewed Nepali restaurant in Ashburn that closed during the pandemic, hopes to expand Everest Momo Plus to other locations in Northern Virginia, including a food truck. He’d like to broaden the menu to include other types of momos: spinach, mushroom, beef, even gluten-free momos. In the meantime, the restaurant inside the Liberty gas station is keeping him busy.
On that recent Sunday, the flow of customers ranged from first-timers to loyal regulars who came for fried chicken or momos. One couple ordered the veggie momos for the first time and ate them in their car. A few minutes later, they returned to order another plate. Divya Varier drove from Clifton with her son and arrived just before closing time.
“We were craving momos,” she says. “These ones are just perfect.”
If you go
Everest Momo Plus
43673 John Mosby Hwy., Chantilly. 703-327-3942.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Prices: $8.99-$12.99 for momo dumplings.