Momos. There are suddenly so many places to find these delicious dumplings in Queens. In my research I came across more than a dozen restaurants, cafes and shops that sell this Tibetan and Nepalese treat. I would have liked to try them all, but for one post, five is enough. For now. To narrow it down, I decided to eliminate full-service restaurants. I wanted to focus on places that either only sold momos, or had a small take-out counter with a limited menu and only a few tables. It didn't make it easier, but it was a start.
Momos are a filling and very tasty snack. Like dumplings, manti, ravioli, kreplach, and pierogi, a momo is a circle of dough filled with meat or vegetables, which are folded, sealed, and cooked. In this case, they are usually steamed. What makes momos unique are the seasonings of the fillings, and the sauces that are served with them. Of the five that I tasted, some were heavy with garlic and ginger, some with scallions and soy sauce, and some with curry powder, depending on the origin and the chef of each place. They were all very different, all very good, and all found within blocks of each other in Queens.
Elm's Cafe is an American-style, full service deli that has a display case full of ready-made sandwiches. They sell lotto, they make coffee. But there is a small sign under the menu that advertises 8 Momos for $4.00. They only sell one kind, chicken. I ordered them, and the girl behind the counter said it would take a little while. She actually pan-fried the momo a little before steaming them, the only place on the list that did. The momos came with three sauces: sweet chili, a smooth sriracha-type sauce, and soy sauce. They were thin-skinned with a loose filling, full of scallions and chopped dark meat chicken. The flavor was mild with a salty, soy sauce finish. Perfect with the spicy chili sauce.
Price: 8 pieces for $4.00
Highlights: Pan-fried, good filling, thin dough.
74-32 Broadway, Elmhurst (map)
When given the choice between chicken or beef momos, I asked the man at the register what he preferred. "Some people like beef, some people like chicken," he replied. Turns out that when pressed, he belongs to the chicken camp, so that's what I got. Lali Guras' momos have a beautiful shape, little purses packed with a moist, tasty filling. The skin is thick and doughy, and the filling is loosely packed, with chunks of chicken, scallions, with a touch of spice. The two sauces were great. Along with a ground red chili paste was a paler orange sauce that was salty, spicy, and had a great nutty, toasted flavor.
Price: 8 pieces for $5.00
Highlights: Beautiful shape, great sauces.
37-63 76th Street, Jackson Heights(map)
At Bhim's, when I couldn't decide between chicken or beef momos, they were nice enough to give me four of each. They were thin-skinned and nearly bursting at the edges, with a very loose filling of both beef and chicken. The beef had cilantro leaves, crisp chunks of fresh ginger, and a mild curry flavor. The chicken had a stronger curry taste, along with fresh ginger as well. Moist and incredibly flavorful. The sauces were a nice addition. A typical ground red chili sauce, and another orange sauce; a smoother, creamier, and milder version of the sauce at Lali Guras.
Price: 8 pieces for $6.00.
Highlights: Curry flavor, nice sauces, friendly staff.
74-10 37th Road, Jackson Heights (map)
Tashi Delek Momo Dumpling Palace
This little dumpling and noodle stand, at the back of Merit Kabab & Dumpling Palaca, has sheet trays full of fresh momos in their display case. The counter man told me that the beef momos were fresh and ready, so it didn't seem like a difficult choice to make. The momos had a thick, chewy skin, and the beef filling was packed and compressed into a little scallion studded meatball. A strong beef flavor, and nothing else. The sauces were again, a red and an orange. The red was fiery, the orange was mild, I was told it was tomato sauce, and it had a roasted, smoky finish.
Price: 8 pieces for $6.00
Highlights: Freshly made dough, chewy texture.
37-67 74th Street, Jackson Heights(map)
The beef momos at Shangri-La Express are the largest momos I've found so far, with the most filling. They also have the thickest, chewiest wrappers. Another beef mini-meatloaf inside of dough, but these also were very juicy, with a beefy liquid surrounding the dense meat filling. Again, no flavor but the meat, which lets the spicy red sauce stand out.
Price: 8 pieces for $4.99
Highlights: Large, meaty momos, extra juicy.
72-24 Roosevelt Avenue (map)
So what have we learned?
Momos come in many shapes and sizes, and the flavorings vary widely. When it comes to picking a favorite, it's difficult. Bhims' momos, with their thin dough and strong curry flavor were delicious. But not all momos are meant to be curried. Elms' momos were light, delicate and subtle. Lali Guras' momos had a satisfying chewiness to them, and the sauces were outstanding. Of the two dense beef momos, Tashi Dalek has a slight edge over Shangri-La Express. And there are still so many more places to try. Should there be a Momo Search Part II? Where are your favorite places for momos?