The Momo Queen

Her restaurant has won accolades, but owner Yamuna Shrestha has left family behind in Nepal, and may just want to go home.

Meghna Rao

July 24, 2019

The Momo Queen

Yamuna Shrestha can make a perfectly round sel roti. She can also sing and housekeep, the latter of which she did for seven years in Long Island, New York, before starting Nepali Bhanchha Ghar, a Nepali restaurant off Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights, Queens.

Shrestha is also the reigning momo queen of New York. Her restaurant is the first two-time winner of the Queens momo crawl. The yak-hide championship belt hangs proudly over her kitchen ledge as a reminder. “Two years,” Shrestha reminded me, “and three, after we win in September.”

Yet, Shrestha, 51, speaks often of returning home to Nepal. She hails from Pokhara, a region popular among tourists as the gateway to the Annapurna mountain range in the Himalayas. She immigrated to New York in 2008, leaving behind her son, daughter, and husband. She expected to bring them over once she got a green card, which she is still waiting for — “and I don’t think it’s going to happen soon,” added her brother Sangram Hamal. “I want to go back one day,” admitted Shrestha.