While in Kathmandu

Part of what I’m calling the “Golden Oldies” series: photos I had posted on Instagram in bygone days that surely belong here as well, from restaurants that are still doing business, still relevant, and still worth a trip.

While in Ridgewood or while in Bushwick, consider a stop at While in Kathmandu, the Nepali restaurant virtually on the border of those two neighborhoods. When we visited in September 2017, they were the new kid on the block, but they’re still holding down the fort at 758 Seneca Ave, Queens and their menu has expanded significantly since the early days. Here’s what we ordered back then:

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Masala Wings, crispy fried chicken wings tossed in a homemade spice blend.


Breakfast! Fapar Ko Roti, a savory traditional buckwheat pancake, served with potato curry, soup, and a fried egg.


Chicken Choila, grilled chicken marinated in a blend of spices and served with chiura (beaten, flattened puffed rice) and aachar.


And, of course, no Nepali meal is complete without Jhol Momo. Jhol means soup; I was told that mo means steam (then momo would suggest steam-steam so let’s just make the culinary quantum leap to dumpling and not look back: I’ve definitely heard more plausible explanations), hence soup dumpling. But despite what you might be thinking, there is no soup to be found inside these dumplings: rather the hot dumplings swim in a cold tomato-y pool that lies somewhere along the sauce <-> soup continuum and the two complement each other deliciously. They’re available in five of your favorite momo flavors: chicken (shown here), pork, shrimp, plantain (kera ko momo), and vegetable, each with its own characteristic shape. I understand that you can get them fried as well, so I guess that would be fried-steam-steam; I’m not going to go there linguistically, but I’m definitely going to go there for another delicious meal!
 
 
While in Kathmandu is located at 758 Seneca Ave, Queens.
 
 

Gorkhali

Instagram Post 3/11/2020

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It only seems like we’d been waiting forever for Gorkhali, the Nepali restaurant at 77-04 Roosevelt Ave, Jackson Heights, to open its doors. Any time I was in the neighborhood with extra time on my hands, I’d head over to see if the promise had been fulfilled, only to hear the sound of my crest falling. But not long ago as I was rushing past between pre-lunch (which had run late) and lunch-lunch (which was about to commence), wouldn’t you know it, the kitchen was truly in full swing. “How long would it take to get an order of Jhol Mo:mo to go?” I panted. “Ten minutes,” came the reply.

So totally worth the wait. Even after a microwave reheat later at home, they were excellent. Herby and spicy with a unique flavor profile, they were unlike some of the standard regulation versions I’ve had in the neighborhood. Obviously, I’m keen to return with more time and a tableful of pals to run the menu – which currently is more like a long, undifferentiated list of the usual suspects: choila, sekuwa, sandheko, thukpa, thenthuk and lots more begging to be tasted.

Stay tuned.


The inner workings.
 
 

Gujiya

Instagram Post 3/9/2020

The Equal Opportunity Celebrant strikes again, eating my way through Holi today, the Hindu festival of spring and colors celebrated predominantly in India and Nepal. The holiday recounts the heartwarming legend of Krishna coloring his face for Radha, his love, and heralds the arrival of spring.

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This is gujiya (you might see gujia), a classic Holi sweet, half-moon shaped and similar to a deep-fried samosa. Crunchy outside and soft within, it’s filled with sweetened khoa (milk solids), ground nuts, grated coconut, whole fruits and nuts (raisins and cashews in this one), cumin seeds, and a bit of suji (semolina) for texture. These Holi day treats came from Maharaja Sweets, 73-10 37th Ave, Jackson Heights, Queens.


The inner workings.

Oversized jalebi are popular for Holi as well, and just like on Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, all kinds of mithai (Indian sweets) are the order of the day. Read about them and check out the photos here.
 
 

Himalayan Yak Restaurant

Himalayan Yak Restaurant has been a Jackson Heights fixture since 2004. Specializing in Tibetan and Nepali cuisine with a soupçon of Indian and Bhutanese dishes sprinkled in for good measure, they’ve recently added a new “Yak, Yak, and Yak” section to the menu so, having dined there years ago, I had to go yak – er, back.

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My understanding is that the principal meat consumed in Tibet is yak, so we ordered the Yak Sizzler since it appeared to be the most straightforward presentation of the meat. Salubrious health claims notwithstanding, yak tasted a lot like beef to me but that’s giving it too much credit. To these taste buds it didn’t have a lot of personality and it was a little tough and chewy. It arrived with linguini-like noodles that stuck to the pan a bit which made for a little pleasant crispness, and that’s as it should be – it’s a sizzler after all – and they released when mixed with the meat juices. Since that “sauce” is primarily pan drippings (and perhaps some butter?), their flavor was intense and particularly good.


Yak Shapta (you might see shaptak) features the meat in a more elaborate guise, stir fried in a medium spicy chili sauce with onions, red pepper and scallions. Again, the meat was a little chewy, but that’s yak for ya.


Yak Gyuma Chilli. Gyuma is blood sausage, the Tibetan answer to morcilla and so many others, prepared from ground yak meat, chilies, and a starchy filler, served here with onions and bell peppers in that medium spicy chili sauce. Less dominant character than some blood sausages, but in this case, that’s a good thing.


Not to neglect yak appetizers, these are Yak Chilli Momo. Flavorful whole wheat dumplings filled with ground yak, onion, scallion, cilantro, garlic and ginger covered with onions and bell peppers in that familiar spicy chili sauce…


…and Yak Cheese. An Emmentaler doppelganger. Seems like the next word in sequence should be “expialidocious”. Go ahead, try it. I’ll wait. Apologies for the earworm. (Anyway, wasn’t Emmentaler-Doppelganger the third stop on the Orient Express?)
 
 
So I gathered a group of world food lovers for a subsequent visit. We tried almost everything above, in addition to these yakless selections:

Chili Momos with Pork. If you’re going to do Himalayan food, then you’re going to do momos in one form or another. These crunchy (because they were fried, not steamed) yumballs were slathered in that medium spicy chili sauce with red and green peppers, onions, and scallions rounding out the dish. Good way to start things off.


For a change of pace from steamed momos, we ordered Fried Momos with Chicken. Good, but they benefited from this array of sauces:

Akin to traffic light protocol, green was the mildest (avocado!), red warned us of spicy chili, and the yellow (well, sort of orange really, but I’m taking license – literary, not driver’s) fell somewhere in between.


Choila. A cold appetizer of chicken chunks marinated with onion, garlic, ginger and mustard oil. We enjoyed this particularly spicy Nepali dish so much that we ordered two.


Pork Labsha is a Tibetan radish curry; the word labu refers to daikon. The sweet pork contrasted perfectly with the slightly bitter daikon in this home-style dish – not spicy but quite good.


Gundruk Ko Takari. Gundruk is a fermented mustard green curry, a signature dish from Nepal. We opted for the vegetarian version which highlighted dehydrated potatoes and mushrooms. Kinda funky but in a good way, and a proper contrast to everything else we enjoyed that evening.

Fried Thenthuk. Pan fried Tibetan flat hand pulled noodles with pork, daikon and bok choy. Thenthuk noodles often show up in soups, but this stir fry was welcome in the context of our dinner.


Ngyashya Zema, a Tibetan chili fish recipe. Slices of tilapia, breaded and stir-fried with garlic, ginger, red onions, broccoli, mushrooms, and bell peppers, falling apart tender in a medium spicy sauce. Again, a tasty dish that was unique among our choices.


Sekuwa. From the Nepali side of the menu, tender lamb, marinated and charcoal grilled, served over crispy puffed rice. A fine example of the Maillard reaction; no complaints.

Alas, I didn’t get a photo of the Nepali Khasiko Sukka Masu, dry goat curry, but it was excellent – good to know in case you head out to Himalayan Yak.

Himalayan Yak is located at 72-20 Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens.
 
 

Momo Crave

Instagram Post 10/25/2018

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At first, basing my expectations solely on a text menu sans pix, I anticipated a plate of typical momos but with a filling of sukuti (Nepali dried meat) or perhaps some kind of chili instead of regulation beef, chicken, or veggie. A few minutes of explanation from Jyoti, the chef/owner, and a few photos later, I realized that these are not your mama’s momos. Momo Crave, 38-07 69th St in Woodside, Queens has come up with a set of fusion variations that are a must-try. The fillings are indeed the prevailing big three (all nicely seasoned, by the way) but the treatment is what sets them a world apart. The list includes unique varieties like chili, sandeko, tandoori, sukuti, chaat, and kothey (in which the bottoms are crispy fried) along with a respectable number of other items. You can order any of those adaptations in beef, chicken, or veggie although they’re happy to provide recommendations to assist with your mixing and matching fun.

Shown here are the sukuti with beef filling and the sandeko with chicken. The spicy sukuti (on the left) boasts chunks of the Nepali jerky as the accompaniment. The sandeko has a kicky mustard oil overlay reminiscent of Bangladeshi cuisine and is topped with a dry bean garnish. Both variants are fried and all are beyond clever. And yes, I intend to go back to try the rest.
 
 

Bajeko Sekuwa

Sekuwa refers to seasoned meat that’s been roasted over a wood fire and Bajeko means grandfather, so we headed off to grandpa’s Nepali grill! Bajeko Sekuwa, 43-16 Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside, Queens, is a restaurant chain that has its roots in Nepal so they clearly know their way around this hearty, meat-heavy cuisine. Here’s some of what we had:

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Bengoli Fish Curry cooked with mustard (a Bengali giveaway 😉), tomato and spices. Excellent.


Haas Ko Choila (you might see chhwela). Choila is a dish of heavily seasoned grilled meat, in this case duck enhanced with tomato, garlic, ginger, coriander, dry red chili, and lemon juice. On the side, that’s beaten rice, flattened into dry, light flakes.


Jhol Momo (you might see the word as mo:mo). These were filled with chicken but they’re available in goat and vegetable versions as well. The dumplings themselves were delicious, but the key here is jhol, the Bengali word for broth; the steamed dumplings arrive swimming in a pool that lies somewhere along the sauce-soup continuum, and the two complement each other perfectly.


Eggplant Curry. Spicy, deep-fried baby eggplant touched by ginger, garlic, and coriander, bathed in a traditional Madras style sauce – a welcome respite from this otherwise meat-heavy cuisine.


Hyakula Sekuwa. Sekuwa, from which the restaurant takes its name, refers to marinated, grilled cubes of meat, in this case hyakula (mutton); puffed rice on the side. Tasty.


Sukuti Sandheko. Sukuti is Nepal’s answer to jerky: dried, highly seasoned strips of meat; sandheko refers to the spice blend that permeates it. It’s a delicious snack, but the texture may be a challenge for some: imagine the driest, hardest jerky you’ve ever encountered, almost like chewing on softened bones, but not quite. Personally, I loved it.


Paneer Pakoda. Paneer is a fresh (unaged) cheese that doesn’t melt when subjected to high heat. Battered and deep fried for a delicious crispy coating, it was accompanied by two chutneys, cilantro and tamarind.


Chicken Chhoila (you might see chhwela, choila or other spellings). Chhoila is a dish of heavily seasoned grilled meat, in this case chicken marinated in soy sauce with onion, tomato, bell pepper, garlic and hot sauce. Flattened dried rice flakes on the side.


Sekuwa Bandel. Chunks of marinated, grilled, wild boar. Good stuff!
 
 

Bhanchha Ghar

Instagram Post 11/7/2017

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If you’re going to enjoy a Nepali 🇳🇵 feast, Jhol Momo would certainly be the ultimate comfort food; as a matter of fact, we were even mo’motivated to do it because of the encroaching cold weather. At Nepali Bhanchha Ghar, 74-06 37th Rd, Jackson Heights, Queens, winner of this year’s #momocrawl 🥟, we tasted a bit of many dishes, specifically:

• Chicken Choila, grilled chicken marinated in a blend of spices.
• Buffalo Sukuti, dry meat, like jerky.
• Achar, a pickled dish, here half fish and half mula (radish).
• Bhuttun, organ meats; tasty indeed.
• Sel Roti, a ring of fried rice flour, traditional in Nepali cuisine; get at least one!
• and last, but certainly never least, Jhol Momo, chicken and pork, each with its own characteristic shape. The steamed dumplings swim in a pool that lies somewhere along the sauce-soup continuum, and the two complement each other perfectly. The word jhol means soup and here it was delicious in its own right.

Tip: When you enter, you’ll see two tiny tables. Don’t be discouraged: go downstairs and you’ll discover a much more capacious dining room. Warmer too! 😉