For many people, Jackson Heights has been a destination solely based on Jackson Diner. Yes, THE Jackson Diner, with the most out of this world awesome all you can eat buffet. Last year we deviated slightly from the norm and went on TONY’s Jackson Heights 1$ Food Tour, and while that was an eye-opening taste experience, there was still so much unexplored territory. So this rainy Sunday we went back to one of the most culturally eclectic neighborhoods in all the city to try out even more delicious cuisine.
Enter the Momo.
The momo is, for all intents and purposes, a dumpling. Although similar to Chinese dumplings, these little guys were born in the far reaches of Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. We trekked all over Jackson Heights (and Woodside) to a variety of joints by way of the 2nd Annual Momo Crawl held by Jeffery Tastes (http://iwantmorefood.com/). We didn’t get to all the momo vendors in the 3 hours allotted for the crawl, but we did get to sample some from each place listed below- usually beef, chicken or vegetable- one place even had a back order of Yak (which is almost out of season, if you didn’t know). So please, read on, eaters, and then, have some momo.
1. Woodside Cafe
Way off the beaten path of Jackson Heights proper, you have to crossover the BQE. They offered the only momos that were Kothey momos- meaning they are pan fried after steaming giving it a crispy underbelly but retains the softness of the dumpling.
2. Himalayan Yak
Now THIS place is what I’m talking about. This place is a real gem- and the bartender/manager/owner ( didn’t get his name) explained a lot of the background of the momo to us, and a few extra tidbits of information, mainly:
In order to get around eating beef, Hindus eat yak meat momos.
Imported Yak meat costs around $12 a pound.
Yak meat season is nearly over, soon they will have water buffalo meat-based momos.
The momos here- not bad. I really wanted to try the yak momos, but since they only charged us $1 for a single momo, the nice informative proprietor would have lost out.
3. Potala Fresh Momo Cart
Broadway (between Roosevelt/73rd St.)
Although it seems like just any other cart, you could see the steam billowing out of both windows. You’re gonna need a spare 15 minutes, but it’s well worth the wait. Gonna have to warn folks, the red sauce that comes with it looked way too spicy for me.
5. DhaulaGiri Kitchen
3738 72nd St
Taking it’s name from the 7th highest mountain in the world, this tiny tiny kitchen cranks the momos out. It feels exclusive- the place only seats 4 against the wall across from the kitchen- which makes up the rest of the place. The momos here were much lighter than the others; the chicken and beef were less dense. They had three different sauces that we sorta learned the names of as the day went on, but I have to say at this place, we kept dipping, and dipping, and dipping… not afraid to double or tripled dip they were so good.
6. Gangjong Kitchen
7224 Roosevelt Ave.
The owner of Gangjong Kitchen, Tenzinga La, must be doing something right. He was the executive chef of the Russian Kalmyk President, which earned him a gold medal for excellence of service. So you know the momo is going to be good here. They also seemed fried- a lot harder skin that was wrapped tightly around the meat and vegetables, like a cocoon of goodness.
7. A+G Himalayan Cart
73rd Street (btwn Roosevelt and Broadway)
This is where we got a bit more of a lesson in momos on the varying regions. The guy who runs the cart explained that he was from Tibet, and that there was a wide variety of momos. By the time we got to the A + G Himalayan Cart we were falling into that gray area where we weren’t exactly momo novices, but we could comment intelligently at a party (excuse me, are those Nepalese or Tibetan momos on that tray over there?) Here we got a small history lesson to increase our knowledge, along with some deliciousness which is always good. The dumplings had stewy juices in them, which really enhanced the flavor. Not sure what his hours are or how often he’s there slinging these out, but it’s right next to all the trains, and worth a try.
8. Lali Guras
3763 76th Street
Once again– tiny dining room, just enough to seat eight people comfortably, but where they lack in space, they’re big on flavor. The chef is also a cutup- he knew that there were going to be so many people coming for the momos- he just started to give them away for free. We had the chicken momos here. I’d like to come back and try some of the other dishes that were listed. I just learned that Lali Guras means Rhododendron, which is the national flower of Nepal. They’re cash only, and if I was out for a night out and needed something quick, this would be the place. I had to ask the chef several times to repeat what sauce we were eating (turns out to be a tomato chili sauce) and he shouts next time I come back he’s gonna charge me. I’ll definitely spend my money there.
9. Chilli Chicken
75-18 37th Ave.
This was a really standard spot- absolutely no ambience, but the service was good at least. The momos were so-so, they really were…. forgettable.
10. Mustang Thakali
7414 37th Ave.
Not quite sure what’s going on around the 37th street momo spots! Mustang Thakali is a block away from Chili Chicken, and I could swear they were the same place. Except at Chili Chicken they service was way better. At Mustang Thakali they were not into it, and didn’t even try to be into it. Everywhere else we went they were happily selling the dumplings for $1 a person. This place flatly told us that they were $5 for 8- which I think to their chagrin we ordered anyway. The momos were really bland, and they tasted as if they were steamed quickly after they were pulled from the freezer for defrosting. Real generic here. On the way out they refused to stamp our crawl map, as all the other vendors had willingly done. Come on.
11. Wasabi Point
7618 Woodside Ave.
I had to put aside all my reservedness for things being labeled Fusion. Wasabi Point was another that was quite off the beaten path, but the momo was great. It’s not THE pick of the litter, but honestly, looking for some good simple food this far out, it’s a good spot.
12. Delhi Heights
37-66 74th St, Jackson Heights, NY 11372
What got me about this place is they have a walkup window- you can stroll on past and grab your fix on the way off the train. The dude was super friendly, and was excited that people were eating momo from all over. He was eager to stamp our map, I could see in his eyes that he wanted that Golden Momo trophy.
At the end of the crawl, all of the participants voted on the best momo in the area, and the Golden Momo trophy was given to Phayul, which was unfortunately one of the places we didn’t make it to.
All in all it was really great to get out there and try something new, and eat some great food. To be honest, we are already planning our trip back for more momo. First stop: Himalayan Yak. I don’t think I’d get to try Water Buffalo anywhere else. Really.