A new strand of Tibetan prayer flags going up off Southeast Clinton Street hardly merits mention. Except this time, for once, it actually signifies the presence of something Tibetan. And, for that matter, Indian, Bhutanese and Nepalese.
The Himalayan Food cart that recently appeared at Southeast Division Street and 50th Avenue offers a wildly diverse cuisine that's both familiar—the housemade dumplings called "momo" could pass for pot stickers at any Chinese restaurant in town—and distinctive.
Take the hot sauce, made partly with peppers imported from Nepal. It comes in wee plastic cups and has the orange shade of Google Maps' freeways. It's pure scorching magma below earthy layers of rich volcanic soil.
The best dipper for that sauce is the chicken curry ($6.50) with rice and dal, an herby slurry of cooked-down, soft yellow lentils somewhere on the spectrum between sauce and soup. The cart's oniony, garlicky version isn't so different from the kik alicha wot you'll find at the Ethiopian restaurant across the street. The same curry spices are also used on tender hunks of lamb ($7.50).
The dumplings come with ground beef, pork or veggies ($6.75 for eight), and are shaped to signal their contents. The meat versions, plump and juicy inside, with a tangy hot dipping sauce, are especially satisfying. Unlike the other quick-service fare, they take 15 minutes to cook, so plan accordingly.
Also enjoyable is a chow mein-and-veggie plate ($6.50) with chicken, pork, beef or extra veggies. The noodles are springy wheat, the size of spaghetti, served in a heap that fills an entire standard-sized to-go container. Thin slices of beef were a little gamey, and especially good in that house hot sauce.
The only thing I didn't like was thakpa, a 32-ounce bowl of chicken noodle soup ($5.50), which was, well, way too much like other chicken noodle soup, a bland broth in need of more salt, with gummy noodles and a few shards of greens. Given the number of other Himalayan dishes—there are hundreds of recipes in the canon—it shouldn't be hard to find something else to carry those colorful flags forward.
- Order this: Chicken curry with dal ($6.50), beef momo ($6.75).
- Iâll pass: Thakpa soup ($5.50).
EAT: Himalayan Food at A La Carts Food Pavilion, Southeast 50th Avenue and Division Street, 740-8122.