Momo? What on earth is a “Momo”? Does it have something to do with Momofuku restaurant?
Momo is a dumpling with Himalayan heritage (Nepal, Tibet etc). Very similar to Chinese dumplings. Typically stuffed with veggies or ground meat. And guess where you can find a huge concentration of these vendors? Jackson Heights, Queens…. right in the heart of Little India! Sandwiched between Indian stores and Indian restaurants …. these tiny places are popping up and gaining popularity. Some are virtually impossible to find – until you know specifically what you are looking for and precisely where to look. I mean, in one case we are talking an entrance, hidden amidst tons of sign boards, that lead to a small and narrow hallway, packed with counters upon counters selling products like jewelry, mobile cases etc etc … and way past that, all the way in the back, huddled in a far corner, there is a teeny tiny restaurant selling momos and other Himalayan cuisine.
Last Sunday was the 5th annual Momo Crawl and it was an utter blast. There were about 20 restaurants listed on the crawl, and our job was to take a fun map handed to us, and find our way to each Momo vendor. These momos could be purchased for a $1 a piece, plus $5 for the map. The vendors ranged from small restaurants (some literally were like holes in the wall), to food carts to food trucks. It was all in just about a mile radius (maybe not even that) of Jackson Heights. Absolutely amazing!
I went with my new foodie friend who happens to be of Asian heritage and absolutely LOVES dumplings! Yes!!! I really know how to pick ‘em, don’t I? Ha! Ha!
Our mission was to try as many momos as we can from these vendors and grade them by our preference. The final votes were to be counted at the end of the event. I could not believe how many people showed up for this crawl. Looked like at least a thousand to me. Everyone was having a good time and enjoying this unusually sunny and warm Sunday afternoon in November.
I learned so much about momos that day and was amazed at how many variations of dumpling shapes, dumpling fillings and sauces can be had. Of course there were chili sauces and soy sauces … but also some sesame based sauces and some tomato and cilantro based sauces. It was so much fun trying out all these flavor profiles, talking to other momo-fans about what they liked or disliked and debating our faves.
This year’s winning momos came from Little Tibet. But my friend and I LOVED momos at Tawa and Lahsa.
The crawl was centered around Diversity Plaza… a small street blocked off from any traffic. A meeting place where ethnically diverse people (living in these neighborhoods) gather and share their culture with the rest of the community. That one sunny afternoon spent in such a culturally diverse neighborhood as Jackson Heights – made me remember how absolutely amazing this country really is. And how special Jackson Heights is… a true melting pot of world cultures.
… And I also thought that perhaps we are on the brink of a new fad about to take over our culinary scene. Hmm… are momos the next “it” food?