Big Papa has an expression he’s fond of using.” I haven’t [insert phrase here] since the high slopes of Everest. For example, “I haven’t seen this many pigeons since the high slopes of Everest,” which is a true statement since we did indeed see pigeons at Everest Base Camp.
So this past Friday as we sat having lunch at Tom Douglas’ new restaurant, Ting Momo, Big Papa said, “I haven’t had yak like this since the high slopes of Everest.” And why wouldn’t he say that? Because the last time we had yak was on the high slopes of Everest.
Sitting in a Seattle café, cute as it was tucked into an historic brick building in Seattle’s gentrified South Lake Union business zone, is not like being in Tibet. And yak from the high slopes of Colorado, while tasty, didn’t hold a yak-butter candle to the real deal.
Maybe it was the fact that instead of sitting at a cozy table cradling a warm cup of aromatic Chai while waiting for a server, we had to belly up to the counter and place our order while an impatient blond staff member behind the register said snarkily, “What do you want?”
Or maybe it’s just the hard, cold reality that Tibetan food in Seattle is not the next best thing to being there. I know both Big Papa and I long to return to that magical place, but for the moment city yak is all we’ve got.
We each ordered momos, Tibetan steamed dumplings and a cup of Thukpa soup. Big Papa chose a can of Tibetan tea (made in Bellevue, Washington no less!) and I asked for a glass of warm Chai.
The thukpa was made with hand-pulled noodles, red pepper, shitake mushrooms and coconut milk. It was spicy with a lovely kick and tasty though I don’t remember thukpa like this when we traveled in Tibet.
I ordered the momo combo with two yak momos and two shrimp momos. Big Papa went yak momo all the way. The yak momos, in my opinion, were by far the better treat. Golden Colorado yak (yep, yak are trekking in the hills of the U.S.) were spiced with star anise, bay leaf and a cranberry on top. Cranberry? That seemed a bit odd to me. Tibetan fusion food, I guess.
My momos were middling. If this is as close to Tibet as I can get, I’ll visit Ting Momo again though I wish the Chai had been richer, the momos lighter and crispier, the staff friendlier. For $35, I hoped for a bit more enlightenment.
As I walked toward our car, all I could see were modern high rise buildings—there were no pilgrims circumambulating in prayer around me. Car exhaust replaced the sweet scent of burning sage hanging in the air. And sadly, very sadly, melt in your mouth momos and the high peaks of Everest were just a distant memory.
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