Lhasa Fast Food is a favorite stop on my Himalayan Heights Food Tour. Tucked away behind a cell phone store, it’s a veritable Shangrila of Tibetan cooking. Last year the hidden restaurant’s beef dumplings took home the coveted Golden Momo, the trophy awarded to the best momo in the annual Momo Crawl. Juicy and scented with Sichuan peppercorn and Chinese celery the little packages are made to order and well worth the wait. The other day I discovered a secret momo being served at this momo speakeasy: chu-tse momo.(more…)
There are so many dumplings in the bustling and delicious Chinatown of downtown Flushing that keeping track of them all would be a lifelong task. A task for which I am ill-equipped. Perhaps that xiao long bao obsessive guy whose exhaustive soup dumpling survey is making its way around the interwebs will come to Queens one day, calipers and scale in hand. Until he does I will muddle along as best as I can. That being said, let’s talk about two of my favorite new dumplings. (more…)
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. (more…)
The stars of Shandong dumpling making have a new home.
After years of being on the chopping block, Flushing Mall finally closed its doors late last month. I can’t say I’ll miss the odd collection of retailers, but the main food court was always a favorite food tour stop, particularly for Diverse Dim Sum’s excellent xiao long bao. And then there were the Shandong Dumpling Ladies located on the already sleepy mall’s even sleepier side. (more…)
Rugelach and babka are the first things many people think of when they hear the phrase “kosher bakery.” You’d be hard-pressed to find either at Rokhat Kosher Bakery, though. The baked goods—round loaves of lepeshka and flaky onion filled piyozli qatlama—here skew savory, evoking Uzbekistan more than the Lower East Side.
Samsa—meat pies filled with beef or lamb—cooked inside a tandoor are a favorite snack among the Rego Park locals. Recently the bakery added a new item, manty. I discovered the beef dumplings (8 for $10) the other week when I stopped in to thank the owner for letting me take a tour group there.
A gent was tucking into a small plate of four. Thinking that four was too few, I opted for a full order. The operative word being full. The beef and onion stuffed packages resembled gigantic soup dumplings and made for a formidable morning repast. With three pieces of lovely lokum for dessert I was one happy glutton.
Rokhat Kosher Bakery, 65-43 Austin Street, Rego Park, 718-897-4493
Great N.Y. Noodletown’s shrimp dumpling soup is a classic.
The other night I attended a panel discussion “Historic Preservation, Meet Restaurant Preservation,” where food writer and longstanding Greenwich Village resident Mimi Sheraton and Robert Sietsema, senior restaurant critic at Eater, discussed restaurant preservation in New York City. Rapacious landlords and the idea of forming a body to help restaurants as well creating a list of places that should be preserved, and just who determines who to include on said list were all discussed. When it was over the question of where to eat weighed mightily on my mind. Katz’s came up in the discussion several times, and I briefly considered it, but I ruled it out as too heavy.
Then I started to think along the lines of restaurants and Manhattan neighborhoods that I feel should be preserved. And I headed down to Chinatown. Fish Corner Market’s long gone. Mei Lei Wah ain’t as pretty or tasty as she used to be. Yet Wo Hop, whose sweet and sour pork my dear old Mom reproduced at home, and Great N.Y. Noodletown still abide. I opted for the latter. It’s survived a couple of name changes. The menu and the room remain the same. And they’ve still got one of my favorite dishes, shrimp dumpling soup. It’s a generous bowl of thin-skinned beauties packed with shrimp and mushrooms. I like to liven things up with a few spoons of the citrusy house hot sauce.
Time and tradition seem to have done a good job of preserving stalwarts like Katz’s and my Chinatown haunts, but who knows if scrappier underdog eateries will survive. So here’s what I’d like to know what New York City restaurants, dishes, or neighborhood’s are on your preservation list? Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter.
Phayul’s fried momo are even tastier than they look.
There are many wonderful things about Phayul, the second-floor Tibetan eatery overlooking the hustle and bustle of Himalayan Heights. Chele khatsa, spicy fried beef tongue, and tsak sha chu rul, a pungent beef and cheese soup come to mind. Even though I’ve been eating at Phayul for several years I’m still discovering new things, like fried momo. (more…)
Tianjin Dumpling House’s snazzy new customizable dumpling menu.
One of the coolest things about Golden Shopping Mall apart from all the delicious regional Chinese food is watching the ebb and flow of the various family run hawker stands. Over the six years I’ve been eating at the labyrinthine Flushing food court there have been stands that keep chugging along—Sichuan specialist Cheng Du Tian Fu and Nutritious Lamb Noodle Soup come to mind—and wild success stories like Xi’an Famous Foods.
Lately one of my favorite stands has been Tianjin Dumpling House. Back when I took Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert to the Golden Shopping Mall the most notable thing about the dumplings at what was then called Xie’s Home Cooking, or Xie Jia Tsai, was an off-flavor that Ripert said resembled cigarette ashes. About a year or so Xie’s was rebannered Tianjin Dumpling House. A menu boasting a dozen kinds of dumplings, including the amazing lamb and green squash, was added. And about two weeks ago things got real deep when my friend Helen rolled out a customizable dumpling menu. For a mere $5 a dozen (a buck extra for shrimp or fish) you can design your own dumplings, which are freshly made and steamed on the spot. Some folks—not me, mind you—might call them bespoke dumplings. (more…)
Today marks the third day of Losar, a lunar New Year festival that’s celebrated as much in the Himalayas themselves as it is in Himalayan (aka Jackson) Heights. In order to help you get into the spirit of the 15-day celebration of the Year of the Wood Horse, here’s a list of my favorite Tibetan and Nepalese dishes in the neighborhood.
1. Goat Sukuti at Dhaulagiri Kitchen
“Oh, we have buffalo and goat sukuti too,” Kamala Gauchan the matriarch of this shoebox-sized Nepali gem told me a few weeks ago. I almost fell out of my chair when she said the types of this traditional jerky went beyond beef. And then I tasted the goat version. I’d be lying if I said I fell out of my chair, but it is absolutely amazing. Drying the meat has concentrated the goat flavor to such a degree that it almost tastes like cheese. Served in a spicy sauce—a Nepali ragu if you will—as part of a thali it is simply lovely. 37-38 72nd St., Jackson Heights
These thick-skinned beauties are perfect on a winter’s day.
At the end of the day momos are just beef dumplings and I will never ever get as excited about them as folks from the Himalayan diaspora do. There are now more than a dozen restaurants and four food trucks in Jackson Heights that serve them. Momos are to Tibetans and Nepalese as hamburgers are to Americans—a national dish that evokes gatherings with family and friends. “What’s the big deal about a hamburger?” I imagine a Tibetan saying. “It’s just two pieces of bread with ground beef in between.” But enough momo musing. I’m here to tell you I’ve discovered a momo that is the very essence of winter comfort food: the kothe momo. (more…)