I read this article in the New York Times yesterday, which, if you’re too lazy to click through and look at it, is about Tibetan food, specifically beef dumplings called mo mo. (I feel like I’m being un peu snob when I start a sentence with “I read in the New York Times…” but it’s my blog, so there!)
Anyway. After reading the article, I remembered that actually, there’s a Franco-Tibetan restaurant across the street from my conservatory, on Rue Saint-Jacques. I’ve been meaning to try it for ages, but from the outside it’s kind of unassuming and hard to tell what might be lurking within. I did a little Google hunting, and the reviews were all mostly positive, which led me to believe this was the real deal. So I decided to take myself (and Anne Brontë) out for lunch today, partly to avoid dealing with this:
The restaurant is really quite lovely (if virtually unheated…I was at my favorite place for extremely cheap coffee–on Rue des Écoles, right next to Le Champollion movie theater–the other day, and there were these two ladies there who were complaining loudly that there was “pas de chauffage!” I would have thought that people in Paris would have gotten over this by now, since there really isn’t adequate “chauffage” anywhere…). It’s got stone walls inside, and every surface is covered with Tibetan prayer flags in bright colors, and elaborate wall hangings.
The woman who sat me seemed to be the owner (and she was French, which is maybe why it’s a Franco-Tibetan restaurant and not just Tibetan), and she pegged for an American right away, because I still haven’t mastered how to tell somebody that you want a table for one. It always comes out sounding moronic. She asked me if I understood the menu, I said yes, and she went ahead and explained it in English anyway. I asked for an order of sha mo mo, beef dumplings, and a Tibetan tea, thé beurre salé, about which I had read in the New York Times (I had to explain that part to her as well, because I did appear very well-educated on the matter of Tibetan salty tea). When she also explained to me that Lithang, the name of the restaurant, is also the name of a province in Tibet. #themoreyouknow #whyamIhashtaggingIdontevenhaveTwitter!
The tea was really fascinating, and for my first taste of Tibetan food, I don’t think I could have chosen better.
The tea is made with butter and some kind of grain, and it really isn’t sweet at all; it was almost more like soup than tea. (All I could think of was that in Tibet it was probably made with yak butter, and yaks are always funny to think about.)
My only complaint about the sha mo mo was the salad on the side, which was kind of pathetic and dressed with a very strong French-tasting vinaigrette. Spare me.
But the dumplings themselves were delicious. When I cut into them, the juices from the beef just poured out. It reminded me a little of the pasta I had in Florence, though of course the flavors are different, because of the simplicity. The flavor of the beef really shone through, combined with a little onion and some kind of herb and wrapped up in a doughy envelope. I did ask what was in the sauce, because while I can sometimes guess at ingredients, my palate isn’t quite sophisticated enough for this. It was made with house-made yogurt, mint and raisins (apparently). Delicious, and a really nice cool contrast to the steaming dumplings.
Then I ended with a mango lassi, because who doesn’t want a mango lassi? Plus I had a feeling that if that sauce had been made with house-made yogurt, the lassi probably would too. And I was right, and it was exceptional.
I tried to make a mango lassi once, last year when I kept going to Market Place on Oakton and buying boxes of ten mangos that would then go soft before I could get around to eating them…but there’s nothing like a mango lassi at an Indian/Pakistani/Tibetan restaurant. It’s perfect.
This is what Daniel Handler, AKA Lemony Snicket, has to say about mango lassi, from his book Adverbs (half of which I read a few years ago):
“Have you ever had a mango lassi? Thick down the throat, crazy orange, delicious and happy if you like that sort of thing? What else can a fellow do, in the grip of mango and yogurt and fruit, spun up into a substance just like love? It is love. It’s a part of it.”
Far out, man.
P.S. BRUNO: “That’s ‘the brunette named Annette.'” C.J.: “Wouldn’t you just give anything if she was from Tibet?” BRUNO: “I’m actually fine with her being from Philadelphia.”