August 26, 2021
From Vegnews

When you think of vegan food in New York City, Williamsburg or the Lower East Side quickly come to mind for the variety of juice shops, aesthetic eateries, and vegan-only restaurants. Jackson Heights—with its meat-heavy Latin American and South Asian cuisines—is typically the last neighborhood you would describe as even remotely vegan friendly. However, those looking to try new food from around the world shouldn’t pass on this bustling immigrant neighborhood located in the heart of Queens. Here are 10 places to chow down on a flavor-forward, entirely vegan meal as you explore Jackson Heights.

Trisha Mukherjee

1. Bangladeshi food at Fuska House

This humble food cart on 37th Avenue boasts fresh and fast fuska—a popular Bangladeshi snack consisting of crunchy brown semolina shells filled with mashed potatoes, chickpeas, onions, cilantro, spicy masala, and tamarind sauce. Pour the tamarind sauce into one of the shells, and pop the entire thing in your mouth for a mind-blowing burst of flavor. To follow up with something fruity, try the guava or mango chaat—a South Asian snack of spiced fruit. 
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Try Jackson Heights

2. Thai food at Sompong

Cozy with wooden walls and Buddha statues, Sompong serves up a bounty of vegan options. The many vegan appetizers and entreés—including steamed vegetable dumplings, creamy green curry with crunchy vegetables, and spicy drunken noodles (minus the egg)—are made even tastier by knowing that there is something sweet to follow. Sompong offers vegan dessert in the form of mango sticky rice infused with coconut milk.
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Arepa Lady

3. Colombian food at Arepa Lady

The Latin American cornmeal cakes that are the namesake of this restaurant are typically made with cheese, but Arepa Lady has several vegan options to choose from. The owner of the restaurant hails from Medellín, Colombia, and started the venture as a street cart 10 years ago. We highly recommend the street corn as an appetizer for the arepa de choclo. Topped with black beans, guacamole, sweet plantains, lettuce, tomato, and avocado, it’s one of the most popular menu items. To ensure your meal is animal-free, ask for your food veganized, and the chefs will accommodate!
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Trisha Mukherjee

4. Tibetan food at Phayul

Expect an elegant and streamlined dining experience at Phayul. While many of the items like Veg Momos and Veg Lhasa fried noodles seem to fit the criteria for vegans, be careful as the momo skins and noodles are made with egg. For a totally vegan meal, order the laphing as an appetizer. The thick noodle-like chunks are made of mung bean flour and served cold in a spicy sauce. Follow the laphing with a heaping bowl of veg Thenthuk—a warm noodle soup that helps Tibetan nomads fight off the chill in the winter. These typical Tibetan foods taste like nothing else in the world. If you have a low spice tolerance, let your server know and the chefs will customize your dish to save your sensitive palate.  
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5. Middle Eastern food at El Toum

Take your pick of any appetizer at El Toum—they’re all vegan! We recommend the El Toum Appetizer which encompasses a variety of small bites from smoky spiced hummus to herbaceous tabouli. Couple that with the falafel platter or the falafel sandwich and your completely vegan meal is complete. Take note of any daily specials which usually feature a vegan option or two. Hop on it as it may be gone the next day!
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Trisha Mukherjee

6. Mexican food at Taqueria Coatzingo

Embodying the exceptional diversity of the surrounding neighborhood, Taqueria Coatzingo’s entrance is shrouded with flags from around the world. This casual Mexican joint has been around for 20 years and has enough vegan food to get you through a few meals. Like with most Mexican food, you will have to order a vegetarian dish like the Tacos Vegetarianos and request a few modifications—no cream, cheese, or other dairy product. If you need to increase your veggie content, consider trying the nopal salad—a bed of greens topped with tender cooked cactus. To wash it all down, head next door to California Sport Bar for a cocktail while watching a live futból game on TV with the locals.
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Bhancha Ghar

7. Nepali food at Nepali Bhancha Ghar

At this mom-and-pop restaurant right below the 74th St-Roosevelt subway stop, guests are greeted by a lively interior with large friend groups speaking Nepali, music playing from the speakers, statues of the Buddha and Ganesha, and photos of the Himalayas mounted on the orange walls. The tofu chili serves as a mouthwatering albeit spicy appetizer. If you’re seeking uniquely Nepali food and are open-minded to new textures, try the Nepali Dhido as an entrée. This dish is made by adding flour to boiling water until it attains a bready texture and is served with a variety of vegan curries. Otherwise, try the puri (an Indian fry bread), which arrives at the table hot and inflated with a side of potato curry. 
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Trisha Mukherjee is a writer and podcaster working on stories related to global human rights and social justice living in New York City. 

Photo credit: Fuska House and Arepa Lady

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