Shovel Time: Tawa Food/Dhaulagiri Kitchen
Technically, I had experienced a taste of Tawa at an across-the-hall neighbor’s dinner party in the form of freshly griddled (or should I say tawa’d?) chapati. But I finally got the full in-person steam table treatment thanks to Joe of Chopsticks + Marrow after confessing my inexperience with Nepalese food.
Dhaulagiri Kitchen is the not-obvious name of the restaurant–if you could even call it that–sharing space with small bakery, Tawa. It’s not a place I would typically stop in–not because the menu especially intimidating but because there’s really only one table, with four seats, and those seats are often occupied with hungry lurkers in the wings. And a thali to go just doesn’t make sense.
If you do score a seat, though, thalis, which very much remind me of nasi lemak in presentation, are the smart move. Of course I’m going to get goat jerky (sukuti) if someone’s offering. The dried meat, cooked down like a rendang (yes, all of my references are Malaysian) concentrates the spices in the curry and softens the flesh while allowing some chew. The fun really comes from the condiments, a spread of daal, saag, and achars made from bitter gourd, daikon, dried anchovies, and fermented greens. Something with pumpkin also showed up unexpectedly.
Roti sel, deep-fried circles of rice flour, resemble a giant onion ring, have a slight natural sweetness, and are snacky enough to be an appetizer or a stand-in dessert.
Chicken momos, juicy and gingery. I have completely forgotten what the orange and yellow-ish chutneys contained despite it being explained to me, though I think sesame, turmeric and tomatoes played a part in one.
One of our friendly Nepali tablemates encouraged me to take a photo of his food. He was also curious if we could handle the hot sauces. Sure. It’s always a concern with Americans. I threw out my speculative estimate that half of Americans are probably into spicy food.
And like that, real hot sauce research appeared to me shortly thereafter. According to NPD, 56% of American households are in possession of some form of hot sauce (likely Tabasco not sriracha) and DINKS are the most likely to eat hot sauce because apparently families with only one income prefer their food free of punishing heat.
Tawa Food * 37-38 72nd St., Jackson Heights, NY