Dhaulagiri Kitchen, Jackson Heights, NYC
Dhaulagiri Kitchen hides inside the tiny storefront in Jackson Heights called “Tawa Foods”. This Nepalese eatery has home-style foods which can be taken out or eaten in (space is very limited).
As you walk in you will be greeted by the shy warmth by the ladies known for rolling out their delicious rotis, which sell like hot cakes!
Take a seat and start by trying out their fiery “sandheko waiwai” a spicy, crispy noodle based chaat rife with chilies and tang. This is my favorite dish there.
You must also must sample their “Sukati Roll” which is their take on an Indian kathi roll.
To get a wide variety of tastes just try any one of the “Thalis” or “Samae Baji” which comes with an array of different curries, meats and vegetables with white rice or crispy de-husked rice.
The “Roti Sel” is another must try made with rice flour – they look like gigantic onion rings.
Dhaulagiri Kitchen was my first foray into exploring the treasures that Jackson Heights has to offer in Nepalese food and it certainly wont be my last.
Here is some of what we ate:
Chicken Momo Aloo Dum Sel Roti Sandheko Waiwai Samay Baji Thali
A Duo of Thalis from Dhaulagiri Kitchen
Dhaulagiri”s fantastic fish thali.
Dhaulagiri Kitchen, a tiny Nepalese outfit that’s the latest eatery to take up residence inside roti bakery Tawa Foods, is easily my favorite place in Jackson Heights these days. It’s named for the third highest mountain peak in the world, but as far as I’m concerned the flavors here—fiery pickles; sukuti, an air-dried beef jerky; and spicy chicken choila—are the tops. Lately I have been partaking of this eight-seater’s thalis. Thali literally means plate and it consists of a mound of rice ringed by various accoutrements, including pickles, daal, fried bitter melon, mustard greens, and a center of the plate item like chicken beef, or goat. The rice and the sides are refillable.
One day I was eating a fish thali ($11) whose main attraction was two crisp fried hunks of fish, a nattily dressed gent entered. As I ate my fish and rice while picking at the gudruk, a Nepalese kimchi of sorts, and other pickles arrayed around the circumference of the thali he rolled up his sleeves and washed his hands. And then he got down to business. That is to say he began eating his thali with his right hand, pouring daal over the rice and mixing in the other savory pickled items. What impressed me most was the speed and utter abandon with which he dispatched his thali. I don’t remember if he got a refill on his rice, but I remember him licking index, middle, and ring finger clean just as if they were the tines of a fork. As I forked bites of crunchy fried bitter melon, rice, and dried sardines in a fiery sauce into my mouth I couldn’t help but think I was missing out.
Bursts of flavor like green pea pickle are best when hand mixed into the rice.
So the following week I ordered a fish thali and resolved to eat it with my hands. As I poured the daal over the rice and mixed in the various items surrounding the hillock of rice I had an aha moment. These bursts of flavor—tart, spicy,bitter, fiery—aren’t meant to be enjoyed separately but mixed into the rice to flavor it. Yes I was self-conscious and felt like I was playing with my food, but this proper, multisensory thali experience was so enjoyable I had two servings of rice, a first for me.
The secret off-menu omelet thali.
As I was a drinking a post-meal chai a Nepalese customer was presented with an off-menu thali I’d never seen and proceeded to eat it with silverware. On my next visit I ordered the off-menu egg thali ($10), a specialty cooked up by the owner’s daughter, Rojina. The star of the show is a fluffy omelet studded with onions and chilies. I ate it with a spoon, mixing it in with the rice and other items. When I left some food on the plate and didn’t ask for seconds Rojina noticed immediately. Perhaps there is something about eating with one’s hands that makes the thali tastier. One thing’s for sure it leaves my fingers stained with curry for the rest of the day. On the day I ate the egg thali they were hanging a new batch of sukuti to dry. I have a feeling there’s a sukuti thali in the very near future for me. I might even eat it with my hands.
Dhaulagiri’s Sandheko Waiwai is a Fiery Nepalese Chaat
Ramen noodles get the chaat treatment.
Wai Wai Noodles have always been something of a mystery. The counter at Dhaulagiri Kitchen is lined with little packages of the instant Nepalese ramen. I always thought they were used for soup. Then a friend told me about sandheko Wai Wai ($3.50). “It’s like an instant Nepali chaat,” she said. There are many ways to repurpose instant ramen, including what I like to call spaghetto carbonara, which involves an egg, plenty of Kraft parmesan, and black pepper. Chaat is not the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to ramen recipes, but it’s one of the tastiest ramen creations I’ve ever had.
Wai Wai’s packet of chili powder and ‘taste enhancer.’
“Spicy is OK?” the cook asked when I ordered sandheko wai wai. I nodded enthusiastically. It was quite hot in Dhaulagiri that day as I waited for my first ever Nepali chaat. Soon I was presented with a plate of crumbled noodles mixed with onions, tomatoes, and plenty of green chilies, among other things. Crunchy and spicy it’s the best and only packet of raw ramen noodles I’ve ever eaten. As I mopped the sweat from brow a guy the next trable chimed in, “This one is good for drinking.” I’ll bet he’s right.
Behold the Sukati Roll: A Pakistani-Nepalese Mashup
The sukati roll’s the very essence of Himalayan Heights.
For as long as I have been eating my way through Queens, Tawa Foods has housed a small battalion of South Asian ladies rolling out scores of paratha and roti. As Jackson Heights has morphed to become Himalayan Heights the tiny Tawa has taken on a co-tenant, the wonderful Nepalese restaurant Dhaulagiri Kitchen.
Nepali in the front and Pakistani in the back Tawa tells the story of the neighborhood. As Nepalese and Tibetans diners seeking a taste of back home tuck into exquisite thalis—mounds of rice ringed with various pickles and curries—South Indians stroll in to stock up on some of the freshest Indian bread in Queens. The space is a fusion of two cuisines that have seldom, if ever, mingled. To my mind this is a great shame. Thus was born the sukati roll.
The bread ladies graciously a fresh roti for the newly born sukati roll.
On the day that the universe’s culinary energy was channeled through me to create this tasty marvel, I walked into Tawa and wasn’t quite sure what to eat. I wasn’t super hungry, but as usual wanted something tasty. Then my eyes fell on the selection of breads. “Can you make me a kati roll using sukuti?” I asked my friend Rojina. The bread ladies actually made a fresh roti for my newly invented sandwich. Soon the roti was filled with toothsome chunks of sukuti, the air dried Nepalese beef jerky that can be seen hanging in the front window. I chose to pair it with a vibrant orange-hued spicy pickle that includes green peas and cucumbers.
The burrito-like sukati roll wasn’t quite as dainty as an Indian kati roll. “No crying it’s spicy,” Edi Thapa the matriarch and head chef of Dhaulagiri said as I bit into it. Spicy and meaty it was the very essence of Himalayan Heights. And not a bad deal at all for $7.