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Judging by the 650-plus people who RSVP’d for the momo crawl this Saturday, it appears that the era of the momo is very much upon us. This is the third year of the $1 dumpling event — which encompasses 17 locations in the Himalayan-heavy community of Jackson Heights — and word is spreading quickly thanks to the work of Queens food tour guide and writer Jeff Orlick.
Orlick says about 30 people — mostly his friends and family — showed up for the first year of the event, and he credits the rise in popularity to the success of local businesses. “The Himalayans have taken this and run with it,” he says. And people have embraced the chance to explore a culture through its food. Orlick, who is Jewish, notes that living in the neighborhood and getting to know many of its new residents has helped him see a lot of parallels with the history of his ancestors.
The event also resonates with restaurant owners. Last year’s winner of the “golden momo,” Phayul (37-65 74th Street; 718-424-1869), was so proud of coming out on top that the restaurant elected to keep its trophy instead of passing it on (Orlick is making a new one for this year’s top momo maker).
Scheduled events this year include a whistling competition and a make-your-own-momo session. And as is traditional Himalayan custom, three bills of any denomination secure an official map leading the way.
“This is one of the most rewarding things that I do,” says Orlick. “I’m very happy to help a new immigrant community…The momo is an incredible ambassador to the culture.”
Can an event like this help the momo become mainstream in the States? Orlick thinks so. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that the flavor of the burrito had yet to find mass market appeal. “I think this year it will finally reach its breaking point, like a xiao long bao or any other dumpling in New York. It’s going to put the momo on a lot of people’s radar.”
Participants can enjoy $1 momos with the purchase of an official map from 2 to 5 p.m. The official start and end point is the Jackson Heights Food Court (73-07 37th Road, Queens).