The Vegetarian Option: Himalayan Flavors at Mustang Thakali Kitchen in Jackson Heights
When I ate at Cafe Himalaya a while ago, a Serious Eater recommended I check out Mustang Thakali Kitchen in Jackson Heights for a more authentic experience. So when I wanted to seek out another Himalayan restaurant to try, Mustang Thakali came to mind immediately. We sampled several different dishes, all completely vegetarian, and discovered a wide range of flavors worth ordering.
We started with jomsom ko aloo ($6.50), simple potato wedges crisped in ghee (clarified butter). The potatoes were good on their own, but were improved greatly by their garnishes. One was a slightly spicy tomato-chile sauce, and the other was a fiery chili powder that our server assured us was traditionally Himalayan. The best thing to do, I discovered, was to first dunk a piece of potato into the sauce, and then into the powder. The heat wasn't overwhelming, but made for a pleasant burning sensation in the back of my throat.
Vegetable momos ($7.25) were initially disappointing. The steamed dumplings were filled with an unseasoned mix of vegetables, and the dumpling skins were slightly thick and chewy. But once again, the sauces made the dish. There was a thick sesame-based sauce, more of the tomato-chili sauce, and an even hotter sauce. The best results were achieved by combining all three.
The best way to get a sample of lots of different foods is to order a thali plate, in this case the vegetable thali ($9.50). The plate came with a flavorful lentil soup, a pile of lightly pickled vegetables, some chili sauce, some simply sautéed mustard greens, a dollop of potato curry, and your choice of either poori (a puffy fried flatbread) or a ting momo.
A ting momo is a steamed bread dumpling, made of twists of dough shaped into a beautiful shape. You tear strips off of the ting momo and use them to scoop up little bits of everything, mixing and matching as you please.
Although the stretch of Jackson heights near the Roosevelt Avenue subway stop is best known for Indian food, there are also other cuisines to be found. It's true that Mustang Thakali also offers Indian food on their menu, but you're better off going for the Himalayan cuisine.
Mustang Thakali Kitchen
74-14 37th Avenue, Jackson Heights, NY 11372 (map)
About the author: Howard Walfish is a Virginia native who has been living in New York since 2003. He is, in fact, a vegetarian, and is the co-founder of Eat to Blog and the creator of BrooklynVegetarian.