In a Little India storefront we’ve passed a thousand times, under the radar of every cultural xenophile I know, is the center of Tibetan activity in Jackson Heights. On a yak assignment a few months ago, I went to a Tibetan trinket shop, selling Free Tibet flags, blankets, pins, and packaged foods like tsampa and yak cheese. I started asking questions, and they told me I had to go to “Tibetan Mobile.” There was my greatest food find to date.
Lhasa Fast Food c/o Tibet Mobile
37-50 74th St, Jackson Heights, NY 11372
Through a collage of business flags, none mention a momo for sale.
Inside the foyer, a door on your right will lead you to a mobile store. A few Himalayans will be getting something done here, but you probably won’t – I know you. Continue through, past the Dolma’s Suphen chili sauce fridge and down to the DVD store.
You’ll find hundreds of Himalaya-scene media as well as candles and other Tibetan doodads, but mostly it’s people playing around on their computers. These customers are generally Tibetan or Nepalese, with the few non-Asian fans of the Himalaya generally going as far as here.
Keep walking the aisle to Lhasa Fast Food.
The communication is troubled, yet endearing. An apron lady will point you to the menu, and even price discussions are nearly impossible other than by the display of dollar bills. If you get inquisitive, there are usually ESL customers who can be somewhat of a guide. They’ll be at the one table, big enough for 6 or so Tibetans, or the counter seating for 4 or 5 more (don’t worry, there’s room for you). The menu is simple, with seven items listed; but most of the actual orders barely span that.
Momos crowd nearly half of what comes out of the kitchen, and half of those are hits: when freshly made, they are herby, juicy, and perky. Other times, when they come to you suspiciously quick, they sag and can benefit from a dunk in the accompanying simple soup. Their Thukpa is reliably better. Always made fresh, even ordering two at the same time holds up the tiny kitchen. Noodles are obviously from packaging, yet the pile of greens and crumbled beef on top the bony soup make it nearly impossible to find something to complain about – other than the snobbish one’s, ehhh, I’ve had better… Other orders I’ve seen are fried potatoes, tripe, gyuma blood sausage – but with much less frequency.
Although natives don’t regard this as the best Tibetan food, they do come here for a sense of belonging. Tourists like me, however, and maybe you (will) come because it’s a peek into a hidden land. It’s not quite a foodie’s shangri-la, but for me, with the urban spirit of Chris Columbus, as a find, it is.
There are 3 phone stores in Little India within 100 feet of each other; that should have tipped me off. These businesses in and around Little India have depth. In the Bangladeshi section (73rd St/37th Ave), there are at least 4 malls of businesses, most which I didn’t realize until recently. But for me, the holy grail is food. A while ago, the Jackson Heights Food Group met at Grand Restaurant, which was down an alley, quietly, off 73rd Street. That was an interesting find. But this is on an other level.