It’s not everyday that a meal leaves its imprint on you. Sure, plenty of dishes are complex, inventive, or cooked by notable chefs, but that doesn’t always mean they stand out as memorable.
But there’s one restaurant I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since I first dined there last month: Mount Masala in Voorhees, the only Nepalese restaurant in South Jersey, which opened in May 2017. Prior to stepping into Mount Masala, I had very little, if any, experience with Himalayan food, a type of Nepali cuisine culturally influenced by Tibetan people. Now, I obsessively crave it.
Much of Nepali cuisine is a variation on different Asian dishes, with Tibetan, Indian, and Thai influences. Common ingredients include lentils, potatoes, tomatoes, cumin, coriander, chilies, peppers and garlic—flavors that are familiar yet distinctive at Mount Masala.
If you’re not familiar with Himalayan-style dishes, Mount Masala’s menu can be a bit daunting at first. There is no oversimplification of dishes or lists of ingredients that might cater to the typical suburban crowd, something I admired. Not to worry. Our server was patient and willing to explain the different dishes and types of sauces, and then made a few suggestions for how to order.
Let’s start with the sizzling vegetable momos, a sort of Himalayan dumpling served in an earthy tomato sauce. They arrived at the table in a cast iron dish in a way that reminded me of a sizzling, smoke-filled fajita skillet, except instead of a mess of meat and peppers, our prize was six perfectly plump dumplings.
Other starters we tried included the crispy chicken lollipops, a popular choice at other tables around us. Our server also offered us a complimentary order of fish fingers, too. These were no ordinary fish sticks. The pieces of white fish were covered in a somewhat spicy breading, and then delicately fried. Moist inside and crunchy outside, they were rather addictive, and came with a sweet and sour vinegar-based dipping sauce.
As for main courses, there are endless options. You can get chicken, goat, shrimp, beef, fish, or vegetables in various preparations, but you should focus on the four most commonly used sauces: Masala, an herbal paste of garlic, ginger, chili, and other spices; Chili; Manchurian, a spicy brown sauce; and Himalayan, which utilizes a different spice blend. You can order your choice of protein to be cooked in the gravy/sauce or served dry, with the sauce on the side. Our server guided us toward dry Manchurian beef and dry Himalayan goat, which each came with rice. The respective sauces, each served in a small dish on the side, were flavorful and revelatory, and the beef and goat were both tender and juicy.
There are also 20 different kinds of fried rice, and more than 30 variations of noodle dishes—many of which are chowmein, a Nepali favorite based on Chinese-style stir fried noodles. It was hard to get a full grasp on the menu in just one visit, and I look forward to diving deeper into the rest of it on a return visit.
Dining at Mount Masala was a delightful experience, one I look forward to repeating. Though I’m certainly not the first to discover the sublime pleasures of Mount Masala. The restaurant was completely packed on the Friday night we visited, despite it being well after the usual dinner rush. Be prepared to wait for a table. I assure you it’s worth it.
Mount Masala, 300 White Horse Road, Voorhees; 856-281-9711; BYOClick here to leave a comment