“I can get momo any time. It’s just too much of a scene for me,” is usually what I say when asked about the Momo Crawl. “I prefer to pay my respects to the winner afterwards.”
“You could say it’s the SantaCon of momos but I prefer to say it’s the WrestleMania,” tweeted Jeff Orlick founder of the annual event, which brings hundreds of fans hungry for Himalayan dumplings, to the neighborhoods of Jackson Heights and Woodside, in a reference to the coveted Momo Crawl trophy, which is modeled after a championship wrestling belt.
For the past four years that trophy has graced the wall of Nepali Bhanchha Ghar, thanks to Chef Bimla Hamal Shreshtha’s piping hot momos, served in a fiery jhol broth humming with ginger, chili and other spices. This year though not only did I pay my respects to the winner, I attended the crawl itself, and I’m glad I did. I ran into many dear friends old and new and frankly felt a sense of liberation despite my general distaste for crowds.
I tried only four of the 29 places on the crawl and couldn’t make sense of Momo Crawl mastermind Jeff Orlick’s map. “It’s a real Jeff Orlick special,” my pal Drew said with a chuckle. Later we sampled the winning momos from Nepali Bhanchha Ghar, which proved to be the hottest and freshest of the ones I tried, with lots of variety. I went for a trifecta of beef, buffalo, and goat with plenty of broth. The broth proved too spicy for my sweetheart Hannah’s daughter Vera, but that didn’t deter her appetite for more of the dumplings. In fact if she had her way I think she’d have done at least a half dozen more stops.
“They try very hard to win, and that makes a huge difference,” Orlick said of this year’s winner. “People seemed very happy to be there. Being outside also gave people some relief from being so concerned about coronavirus.”
This afternoon I took a long walk through the Heights to work up an appetite for a bowl of Chef Bimla’s momo. I opted for the buffalo. With a nip in the air and the second snow of the season falling it seemed like a perfect choice. Congrats again to Chef Bimla and Nepali Bhanchha Ghar, but most of all to Jeff Orlick for showing this sometimes jaded culinary king the joy of community in action.
Nepali Bhanchha Ghar, 74-15 Roosevelt Ave., (917) 745-0533
Surely Lhasa Fast Food’s “cold skin sushi” deserves Michelin recognition.
Earlier this week Michelin released its 2018 Bib Gourmand honorees, which “denotes establishments where diners can enjoy a great meal for a good value.” I’m glad the crew of inspectors from the little red book is focusing more attention on the so-called outer boroughs and happy to see they added my dear friend Helen You’s Dumpling Galaxy to the list, but the Queens roster is still lacking. What’s more, Brooklyn and Manhattan are broken out into subareas (Upper East Side, Williamsburg, etc.) while the Bronx, Staten Island, and Queens lack such distinction. If any from Guide Michelin is reading this, do look me up I’d be glad to consult with you on neighborhood geography for a modest fee. (For the record I live in the one called Rego Park.)
“I can name five more Southeast Asian restaurants that should be on that list,” read a quote from me in The Wall Street Journal’s piece on the Bib Gourmands. I can, but I won’t. Instead here’s a list of seven places of varying cuisines that should have made the Michelin cut.
1. Lhasa Fast food Everybody who’s into food knows about this spot, which Jeff Orlick hipped me to years ago. Call it a momo speakeasy if you must, but really what Lhasa Fast Food is is a window into another culture and cuisine that just happens to be tucked away behind a cellphone store. I like the spicy yellow liang fen done up to look like sushi and of course the momos, including the classic beef and the rarely seen chu tse, or chive version. . 37-50 74th Street, Jackson Heights
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…)
I should really stop eating, do some stomach stretching exercises, or hit the gym real hard today. I say this not out of any desire for physical fitness, but because I feel ill-prepared for Viva La Comida! The street food festival being held tomorrow from 4 p.m.to 10 p.m on 82 St. between Roosevelt and Baxter Aves., promises a dozen undersung street food superstars from Queens and beyond. Street foods of many nations will be represented, including the supersized Mexican sandwiches of Tortas Neza to Tibetan momos from the Potala cart. I am most impressed by the fact that festival curator Jeff Orlick has been able to lure Lechonera La Piraña away from the Bronx. The machete-wielding Piraña makes the best Puerto Rican roast pork I’ve ever had. (more…)
Gangjong Kitchen’s Ambassador Plate has several types of momo.
PLEASE NOTE THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED
“It’s a combination of Tibetan and European, the chef at Ganjong Kitchen said as he set down a plate bearing three kinds of steamed momo, some daal, bits of grilled chicken breast, and what looked to be a homemade take on a frozen vegetable medley. There was also a side car of broth.
This cross-cultural offering from the Tibetan eatery located in Jackson (aka Himalayan Heights) was part of the Ambassador, a Jackson Heights omakase dreamed up by Jeff Orlick. The two-week old program is simultaneously simple and brilliant. Diners look for restaurants in the nabe bearing a sticker that reads, “Ambassador/Don’t Know What to Try?/Let The Chef Decide/$10/Jackson Heights,” and then simply point to the sticker placing themselves in the chef’s hands. (more…)
Phayul’s momo took home the prize after a three-way tiebreaker.
Forget the James Beard Awards. When it comes to recognition in the culinary arts I’m all about the Golden Momo. Yesterday was the Second Annual Momo Crawl in Jackson (aka Himalayan) Heights. The object of the event organized by Jeff Orlick was to find the best momo of the 20 places in the hood. I am still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that there are 20 places offering the beef dumpling beloved by Tibetans and Nepalese, I thought there were a dozen at most. I was unable to attend the crawl as I was giving a food tour of Elmhurst, but judging from the activity on the Twitter machine, the rain did not keep folks away.
One of Phayul’s momo maestros with the coveted trophy.
Late yesterday evening I learned that Phayul took first prize after a three-way tie-breaker with Ganjong Kitchen and Lhasa Fast Food. I was pleased to hear this as Phayul is one of my favorite Tibetan spots, so much so that I took Andrew Zimmern there. So I jumped on the 7 train to get a glimpse of the coveted Golden Momo and help my friends at Phayul celebrate.
The Dalai Lama flanked by a basketball trophy and the Golden Momo.
When I got to Phayul it was crowded—not with the 80 momo crawlers that had roamed the streets earlier in the afternoon—but with the usual mix of Tibetan families and young people all eating momo. I shared a table with a couple who each had an order of momo ($5). They were amazed both by the Golden Momo, and the fact that I was thoroughly enjoying their national dish. As I slurped a complimentary bowl of beef stock, the Nepalese gent next to me asked if the restaurant was given the award last year. “No, earlier this afternoon,” I replied. “It’s one of my favorite place for Tibetan food.” Oh and if Phayul isn’t your favorite momo place, don’t worry there are 19 other joints to choose from.
Phayul, 37-65 74th St, Jackson Heights, 718-424-1869
Writing for the Times Peter Kaminsky, who’s perhaps best known to this carnivore for his book “Pig Perfect,” tells a mouthwatering tale of a beefier nature, an Argentine “Secuencia de la Vaca.”
Meat maven Nick Solares pens an ode to Osteria Morini’s 120-day-aged ribeye, which has “a profoundly funky, Gorgonzola cheese like tang thanks to the long aging, and a correspondingly buttery, tender texture.”
My favorite culinary Vikings over at First We Feast take a look at U.S. chefs’ ramen creations, including some that”stretch the definition of ramen a little too far.” Delicious as it sounds I’d put the Pozolemen from Chi-town’s at Oiistar in that category.
Sandwich Surprise ponders whether lettuce wraps can be considered sandwiches, and answers with a delicious-sounding yes: bulgogi lettuce wraps with kimchi chips and fried rice. Best of all, as always there is a recipe.
Looking for a more ambitious, and historical recipe to try? Stop by The Morgan Library and Museum to check out a 15-century cooking scroll written in Middle English.