Fried whole red snapper at Kunga Kitchen, a new Asian...

Fried whole red snapper at Kunga Kitchen, a new Asian fusion eatery in Hicksville. Credit: Newsday/Scott Vogel

Press-shy and determined to let his food speak for itself, chef-owner Thinly Dorji would only say “We eat it for breakfast” — and that through an interpreter — when asked about tsampa, a barley flour porridge rarely seen on Long Island menus but popular in his native Tibet, and allegedly eaten by none other than the Dalai Lama every morning. Fittingly, a portrait of the spiritual leader hangs over the cash register at Dorji’s tiny restaurant Kunga Kitchen in Hicksville, which opened in the spring. Scrunched between a Margarita’s Cafe and a nail salon, its space is barely wide enough to accommodate the list of cuisines advertised on the marquee outside: “Indian, Tibetan, Chinese and Thai Asian fusion foods.”

Somewhat remarkably, Dorji’s no-stone-unturned kitchen turns out chicken biryani ($15.99), pad thai chicken ($12.99), chicken tikka masala ($15.99), szechuan chicken ($15.99), sweet and sour chicken ($16.99), hakka chilli chicken ($15.99), tom yam gai with chicken ($5.99), chicken fried rice ($12.99), and chicken chop suey “American” style ($16.99) — all within minutes. And that’s just the chicken.

Oh, and lest we forget, there is chicken tsampa soup ($6.99), a gruel that is hearty, pea-soup-esque, mud-hued and far less lumpy, blessedly, than oatmeal, its closest competitor at breakfast time. The subtly delicious barley base pairs as well with chicken as dumplings do, and the dish sticks equally fast to your ribs. Less heavy, but only slightly, is Kunga’s sweet tsampa soup ($5.99), a warm treat that’s just what it sounds like.

Chicken tsampa at Kunga Kitchen in Hicksville.

Chicken tsampa at Kunga Kitchen in Hicksville. Credit: Newsday/Scott Vogel

“Momos and tsampa are what we are known for,” said Dorji of his Tibetan fare, which nonetheless represents only a fraction of Kunga’s menu. Most of the Indian dishes, from various biryanis ($13.99-$19.99) to butter chicken ($15.99), are a bit tame by comparison to Gorji’s buttery onion kulcha ($4.99), a riotous take on whole wheat naan, although the fried whole snapper ($25) gains as much from masala spicing as it does from the Thai chile sauce in which it swims, and the Indochinese hakka noodles with shrimp ($11.99-$13.99) are stir-fried, spicy perfection (mild version available).

Kunga’s address is something of a graveyard of restaurants past, from falafel spot Baba’s Grill to Chinese eatery Red Dragon Kitchen to, most recently, Currikitch, an Indian-only spot. Given its precedents, Dorji’s residency on Woodbury Road is already a success, especially if, as the Dalai Lama himself once put it, “the goal is not to be better than the other man, but your previous self.”

Kunga Kitchen, 390 Woodbury Rd., Hicksville, 516-490-5501, Opening hours are Wednesday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Closed Tuesday.

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