You’d think a joint named Himalayan Yak would serve the meat of long-haired bovines that roam the mountainous rooftop of the world. However, until Tuesday night the restaurant substituted beef in many dishes traditionally made with yak. The owners of the Jackson Heights restaurant were unable to source yak outside of Nepal.
Leave it to The Gastronauts, or "the club for adventurous eaters," to solve this problem by bringing their own. They purchased some 40 pounds of yak meat online from Desert End Ltd. Yaks, a Colorado ranch that raises grass-fed yak, and brought it to the restaurant.
A dining companion offers an amuse-bouche from her stash: Mopani worms, or sun-dried emperor moth caterpillars. The one I crunched into tasted of twigs and psilocybin mushrooms with a dash of salt.
Dhoepekhatsa, isn’t made with yak; it’s boiled beef tripe. Nevertheless, the chewy innards laced with ginger, garlic, onion, and chilies were a great way to ease into what turned out to be a very fiery meal.
Sekkua, or tandoori-cooked chunks of yak chuck, had a crunchy exterior, but could have been a tad hotter. Given that Himalayan Yak isn’t accustomed to serving parties of 50 who bring their own meat, I suppose this lapse can be forgiven.
La phing is another non-yak specialty. The wobbly blocks of cold mung bean jelly were coated with a mixture of garlic, ginger, and plenty of red pepper. So much so that the Gastronaut who provided these photos exclaimed, “I feel like I have pepper all over my teeth now!”
Bhuttan, or cold chunks of yak liver and heart, were seasoned with ginger, garlic, red chili, and garama masala. Shortly after we started tucking into this Nepali specialty, one of the group’s organizers began doling out shots of Khukri, aka “Nepal’s finest rum.”
One of several tables of happy Gastronauts. Note the Nepali pop band in the background.
Chayley, or yak tongue, isn’t quite as rich as beef tongue, but it's still tasty.
On my first visit to the yak, I didn’t get to try the momo, so I was glad they were on the evening's menu. The Tibetan dumplings were packed with juicy ground beef.
Dessert included bhartsa markhu, a traditional dish of handmade pasta with sugar and butter that always reminds me of cavatelli doctored up for kids. I had a bit, but I was more excited by these chocolate-covered giant ants. The one I had tasted like popcorn covered in dark chocolate. All in all it was an evening of firsts: sun-dried caterpillars, yak meat, and ants.
Those willing to make the, ahem, trek to Jackson Heights will be pleased to know that Himalayan Yak plans to start serving yak meat in a week or so.
72-20 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights NY 11372 (map)