Inside Merit Kabob and Dumpling Palace: Momos, Achar, Shapta
After itching to stop by Merit Farms in Jackson Heights ever since it was profiled on Serious Eats, today was finally the day for a momo binge. As it turns out, Merit Farms has changed its name to Merit Kabob and Dumpling Palace, a more apt moniker.
Beef momos, eight for $6, including a bottle of water
There are three main stalls inside the palace, the first selling kabobs and fried snacks like onion rings; the second offering a range of subcontinental dishes like chaats, pakoras, biryani and Indo-Chinese; and the third cooking up food from the Himalayas, displaying Tibetan, Nepalese, and Bhutanese flags.
That third stall is called Namaste, or Tashi Delek Momo, which seems to mean Momo Palace. The momos are perhaps not the best in the city, but are very fine dumplings--squirting copious juice at the first bite, and containing loose, flavorful chopped beef inside a chewy skin. You can also get momos filled with chicken or vegetable. Don't forget to dip them in the fantastic homemade hot sauce.
Namaste also has a steam table filled with a half-dozen or so good-looking dishes: potato achar, spiced tripe (dropa khasa), diakon radish achar, and shapta beef. That last dish is composed of agreeably chewy beef slices in a dryish masala with chiles and coriander.
Pickled daikon and shapta beef
But the best reason to seek Namaste out is the achar (pickle)--especially the version with daikon radish and cucumber. It's pungent and a tiny bit oily, the way many Indian pickles are (probably because of the common use of mustard oil), and dyed yellowish with turmeric. But although the dish has intensity, it's also a bit sweeter and more refreshing than most Indian or Pakistani achar--delicious on its own and needing no augment or partner.
37-67 74th Street, Jackson Heights, Queens