Momo—juicy beef dumplings seasoned with ginger,onion, and special momo masala—are the national dish of Tibet. A Tibetan loves his momo as much an American loves his hamburger perhaps even more so. In no place in NewYork City is this more true than Jackson Heights. Momo are ubiquitous at the hood’s many Tibetan and Nepalese eateries. There are three food carts and a truck selling the dumplings and even an annual Momo Crawl founded by local tour guide Jeff Orlick. So it was only a matter of time before someone invented a momo burger. That time is now, and that someone is Lobsang Choephel, the chef of Little Tibet.
Choephel created the American twist on a Tibetan favorite as part of a new late night menu rolling out later this month. Lucky for me it is available as an off menu special. I tried one the other day and it was quite good. A patty of momo meat topped with cilantro and fried onions sits between a griddled tingmo swiped with homemade spicy mayo. It is a juicy, tasty burger that takes well to the chili sauce that’s usually eaten with the dumplings. I mixed the same sauce with my ketchup to create a Tibetan-American dip for my French fries.
Choephel serves his momo burger with, of all things, a papaya salad, a dish he learned how to make while cooking Thai food in India. While Choephel says he digs hamburgers, he doesn’t have a favorite hamburger place. He’s strictly a cheeseburger man. “Bacon I don’t like.”
When introducing people to momo on my Tibetan food tours, I tell them I like momo, but will never quite love them as much as Tibetans do. “It’s like trying to American’s love for hamburgers to a Tibetan,” I’m fond of saying. Now that the momo burger has been invented, I’ll have to come up with something different to say.
Little Tibet, 72-19 Roosevelt Ave, Jackson Heights, 718-505-8423