Kamala Gauchan is the godmother of Himalayan cuisine in Jackson Heights. The garrulous Gauchan is the driving force behind many of the neighborhood’s Tibetan and Nepalese eateries, including Himalayan Yak, Laliguras, and Dhaulaghiri Kitchen. For about three years she held court at the latter, a shoebox of a restaurant that shared a space with a roti factory. In a setup smaller than some Manhattan studio apartments she wowed expats and food geeks alike with cooking that managed to rustic and vibrant, featuring earthy goat jerky, vibrant pickles, and of course, momos.
About a month ago she decamped to Manhattan’s Curry Hill, across the street from Kalustyan’s and just down the road from Chef Hemant Mathur’s Haldi. Yesterday I finally made the trek to Manhattan to say hello to the woman I like to consider my adopted Nepalese mother.
When asked if there was anything new on the menu she recommended the goat sekuwa, which she said was marinated overnight and grilled. While I munched on sel roti, dipping the rice doughnut in some fiery pickle, my mother reminded me that more than three years ago I’d promised to give her a video of her and Andrew Zimmern from an episode we filmed.
Soon enough the sekuwa arrived, a dozen chunks of goat meat atop puffed rice stained red from chili powder and shot through with red onion and cilantro. It eats like a meat lover’s chaat. Upon closer examination the goat turns out to be kebabs, stripped of their skewers. Back home in Kathmandu these are a common street food, I like to think the combination of the puffed rice is Gauchan’s own twist.
Before I left I made sure to send Gauchan the video, which you can watch here. I suppose Jackson Heights’s loss is Curry Hill’s gain. I can’t wait to take another expedition and try the rest of her menu.
Dhaulaghiri Kitchen, 124 Lexington Ave., 917-675-7678