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COURIER LIFE, DECEMBER 20-26, 2019 37
Take a Tasty Trek to Tibet via Khampa Kitchen Inn
BY JOE DISTEFANO
As the Culinary King of Queens, I’m so very fortunate
to live in the most diverse and delicious destination in
all of New York City. Really I’m not royalty though,
I’m an ambassador, and a hungry one at that. Today,
we trek to Tibet via Roosevelt Avenue to explore
the cuisine of Khampa Kitchen Inn, one of the most
unique Tibetan restaurants in all of New York City.
“Feel and taste like home,” reads Khampa Kitchen
Inn’s motto, which graces the front of the menu at this
spot opened by Thupten Bachan and his fiancée, the
chef Tashi Dechen, last year. While that menu may
first appear very Tibetan with dishes like momo—the
dumplings that are ubiquitous in Himalayan Heights—
and gyuma a rustic blood sausage, the inn is unique
because these innkeepers hail from Tibet’s Kham region.
Paoze, a quintet of fluffy meat filled buns served with
a comforting split rice porridge and strips of sonlabu, a
pickled radish, is a traditional breakfast in Kham, and in
Jackson Heights too; the restaurant opens at 10 a.m. The
juicy buns flavored with black pepper, chive, and garlic
can be had filled with chicken, pork, veggies or beef, but
I recommend the latter. “I used to eat it for breakfast as
a kid, in Kham they use yak meat,” says Bachan who can
usually be found pouring butter tea or in his antique shop
filled with Tibetan artifacts to the left of the restaurant’s
Another traditional Kham specialty is the twice-fried
beef ribs flavored with chili,salt and Sichuan peppercorn.
Bachan says that Khampa Kitchen Inn is also unique
in that it is the only restaurant serving Lhasa Shaday, a
hearty plate of rice, potatoes and beef gone yellow from
turmeric. The whole lot is topped with dried chilies. Need
more spice? Avail yourself of the two homemade hot
sauces: a chili paste singing with the flavor of Sichuan
peppercorns or sepen, a fiery orange blend of chilies,
ginger, and Sichuan peppercorn.
It is not unusual to find a maroon robed Tibetan
monk or two tucking into a plate of Lhasa Shaday as
the Dalai Lama beams down from altar above the cash
register. “They want to come here because we have
traditional food. They feel like they have food from
their home,” Bachan says.
Khampa poethek, one of the best dishes is literally a
home food, traditionally found at family gatherings. “This
is a very joyful food for me,” Bachan says of the giant
domed meat pie filled with beef and spinach seasoned
with green onions, garlic, Sichuan peppercorn. There’s also
another flavor that I’ve never had in Tibetan food, caraway
seed. or gonyo as it’s called in Khampa. “It’s not traditional
without that,” Bachan says. Khampa poethek, takes about
a half an hour to make, but it’s well worth the wait. The
braided pie is served with the saucer shaped lid cut open.
Use it as a plate to present your guest of honor with the first
You won’t find it on the menu but for dessert there’s
bhatsa marku, a sweet Tibetan pasta served with brown
sugar and yak cheese. The little folded over bits of pasta
resemble the Italian cavatelli, so much so that some
Tibetan restaurant cooks have been known to cheat by
using that, but not Dechen, who makes the dough fresh.
The result is tangy and sweet and will make you feel at
home even if you’ve never been to Kham.
The chef, Tashi Dechen, preparing Khampa
poethek, a giant meat pie traditionally eaten
at festive family gatherings.
Paoze, fluffy meat buns served with rice
porridge and pickled daikon are a typical
breakfast in Tibet’s Kham region.
The Dalai Lama
presides over the
dining room from
an altar set on high.
“Each Tibetan has a responsibility to
preserve their culture whether it’s food or the
language,” Bachan says when asked why he
and his fiancée opened the restaurant. In case
you’re wondering the beef momo, crescent
shaped dumplings that clearly show the chef’s
handiwork served a beef broth that’s been
cooked for 24 hours are excellent.
75-15 Roosevelt Ave.
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
Phone: (347) 507-0216