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Posts by: Krista Garcia - Goodies First
These steaming personal-size cauldrons of Korean tofu stew provide a lot of bang for your buck. Accompanied by multiple raw and pickled banchan dishes, Natural Tofu’s soon dooboo jigae is brimming with soft, custard-y tofu awash in a spicy broth that will warm you from the inside out. Fillings run the gamut from simple vegetables to beef intestines to the light seafood combo (pictured above) with shrimp, oysters, mussels and clams. For extra fortification, quickly crack an egg into the bubbling hot stew and swirl it around with your chopsticks until it cooks.
40-06 Queens Blvd. nr 40th St. (map)
Queens, NY 11104
You’d be forgiven for mistaking “green pea” for “green tea” when glancing at the name card in Paris Baguette’s display case. But look again—this Francophilic bakery chain from South Korea uses sweetened mashed peas in the pastry, just as Chinese bakeries use sweetened red beans as fillings in buns and cakes. The result is a flaky treat, stuffed with a chartreuse paste that’s a pleasant blend of sugar and starch—almost reminiscent of marzipan. The sprinkling of slivered almonds on top only enhances that effect.
- $3.25 for Small
Like neighboring Smorgasburg on the Williamsburg waterfront, OddFellows trades in small batch, handmade fare. Made from Battenkill Valley Creamery milk (pasteurized in-house), their ice cream is especially rich. Their cups and cones might not be Mister-Softee cheap, but those ubiquitous trucks aren’t peddling flavors like Chorizo Caramel Swirl. OddFellows’ constantly rotating flavors, like Miso Cherry Butterscotch, are innovative and bold. Thankfully, the shop is generous with samples—in case you’re not sure you want to commit to a whole scoop of something like Toasted Sesame Kumquat Pumpernickel.
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The protein by the pound at Williamsburg’s BrisketTown exceeds the price limits of cheap eats. But for a fraction of the price, early birds can get a taste of the Central Texas-style barbecue in the form of Austin-style breakfast tacos. Hunks of smoked beef are mixed with scrambled eggs, a tomato-based chile sauce, cilantro and pickled red onions, then tucked into a soft flour tortilla. Even with all of the accoutrements, the salt-pepper-and-smoke flavors of the brisket shine through.
Perhaps the most un-Thai of all Thai curries, massaman doesn’t burn with the heat of chilies, go wild with fresh herbs or rely on aromatic citrus for flavor infusions. Instead, the dish warms and comforts like a beef stew, while throwing off any Yankee pot roast associations with its use of Indian spices like cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and nutmeg. At Sripraphai this curry is pleasantly minimal, with only falling-apart chunks of beef (or chicken), potato and onion wedges submerged in the peanut-topped sauce.
- $5.89 per lb.
It may not serve the prettiest piles of food, but in a pinch Yips can satisfy a Chinese food craving in the Financial District. Don’t balk at heading into a den of fluorescent-lit steam tables mobbed by office workers. Just bypass the uninspiring kung pao and lo mein for a few gems on the buffet line. Shanghai-Style Braised Bean Curd Sheets with Pork Belly and Peanuts, Crispy Salt and Pepper Shrimp and Squid, Stewed Eggplant Stuffed with Fish Paste (a.k.a. Yong Yau Foo) and Stir-Fried Bitter Melon with Black Beans are all good bets.
18 Beaver St. at New St. (map)
New York, NY 10004
You could have breakfast all day at this modern 24-hour Latin diner, but that means you’d miss out on the Pan con Lechon, a toasted and pressed sandwich to rival the more famous Cubano. The roast pork and garlicky mojo would be enough on their own, but the addition of crackly chicharrones pushes the porcine quotient over the top, while pickled red onions cut all that richness. If you like additional heat, be sure to ask for the house hot sauce, made powerfully spicy by habanero peppers.
Editor’s Note: Since this dish was added to Real Cheap Eats, its price has risen past $10.00. It’s still a part of the guide as a part of our “grandfather” policy.
Papaya salad is a staple on Thai restaurant menus, and at Zabb Elee, which specializes in food from Thailand’s northeastern Isaan region, you’ll find seven varieties of som tum—some more oddball than others. The Kortmuar hides a slew of unexpected goodies in a pile of rice noodles and shredded fruit: slices of pork sausage, raw Thai eggplant, crunchy fried fish, pork skin and tangy pickled cabbage. Spicy (a four on Zabb’s one-to-five scale packs serious heat) and a little funky, it may change your idea of what a papaya salad can be.
Thais know how to turn meat into a salad, and Ayada’s beef larb is a perfect example. Roughly chopped (not ground), ragged strips of meat are dressed with lime juice and fish sauce, then tossed with chopped scallion, red onions, cilantro, crushed dried chilies and finished with a dusting of toasted rice powder. Like a lot of Northern Thai food, larbs are particularly spicy—use the accompanying cucumber slices and a side of sticky rice to temper the heat.
Don’t be fooled by the geography in this dish’s name; Cambodia has nothing to do with the noodles at this chiu chow (also called chaozhou and teochew) restaurant serving a Chinese cuisine not common in Manhattan. Available in rice or egg form, the chewy noodles lay a foundation for fish balls, shrimp and sliced and ground pork garnished with chopped scallions and cilantro. Ask for broth on the side—the traditional way of eating it—and dole out the soup as you like, or simply slurp as you go. Don’t forget to add chile-infused vinegar and the robust, house-made chile oil with dried shrimp and peanuts for the full effect.
80 Bayard St. at Mott St. (Map)
New York, NY 10013
New Bo Ky
216 Grand St. at Mott St. (Map)
New York, NY 10013
Cold salads are a staple of Sichuan cuisine and make a perfect shared appetizer before jumping into more substantial dishes, like double-cooked pork or tea-smoked duck, at Bensonhurst’s Bamboo Pavilion. Ox tongue and tripe are a classic duo; the thin, beefy slices and springy ribbons of stomach taste like more than humble organ meat when drenched in fiery chili oil and dusted in Sichuan peppercorns and raw minced garlic. Your chopsticks will barely get a rest after the first spicy, buzzing mouthful.
Bamboo Pavillion on Goodies First
6920 18th Ave. at Bay Ridge Ave. (Map)
Brooklyn, NY 11204
Taqueria Puebla’s cow’s-eye, tongue and head-meat tacos might be a draw for offal appreciators, but if you find yourself nearby on a weekend, the pancita (served only Saturday and Sunday) demands a stop. The steaming bowl of spicy orange broth is filled with large chunks of honeycomb tripe that’s tender enough to cut with a spoon. Add a squirt of lime and a handful of chopped onion and cilantro for contrast. Whatever you do, don’t neglect the tortillas—these thick corn-based rounds are handmade and arrive at the table hot off the griddle. Weekends only.
1285 Castleton Ave. at Clove Rd. (Map)
Staten Island, NY 10310
As if a kosher schnitzel purveyor in the corner of an unassuming Staten Island strip mall isn’t cross-cultural enough, Holy Schnitzel’s “Franky” sandwich makes the most of this mash-up. A chicken cutlet coated with Italian-seasoned breading and crushed garlic is stuffed into a baguette and topped with optional lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions and your choice of sauce. Why settle for garlic mayo or mustard—two valid choices—when you can have hummus or schug, a chunky Yemeni chile relish that’s popular in Israel?
- $7.50 for a single
Sushi and ramen get all the love, but ask a Japanese expat what she misses most, and she might say curry. Neither Indian nor Thai, this curry is a Japanese riff on a British interpretation of an Indian classic. Flavored with pureed apples, ketchup, curry powder and garam masala, the brown gravy is sweet and mild (even if you order a spicy version) and is popularly topped with tonkatsu, a breaded, fried pork cutlet. A drizzle of thickened Worcestershire sauce adds a savory finishing touch.
144A W. 19th St. at Seventh Ave. (Map)
New York, NY 10011
231 Thompson St. at W. 3rd St. (map)
New York, NY 10012
12 John St. nr. Broadway (map)
New York, NY 10038
This Turkish bakery and café excels at baklava, and a visit wouldn’t be complete without picking up a few pistachio and phyllo treats. Don’t ignore the savory offerings, though. Gül böreği, an eggy pastry that is more quiche-like than flaky, comes stuffed with spinach and feta, potato or spinach and ground beef. Paired with an intense shot of Turkish coffee, this is a perfect breakfast.
982 Second Ave. at E. 52nd St. (Map)
New York, NY 10022
30-92 31st St. at 31st Ave. (Map)
Queens, NY 11102
La Newyorkina may have popularized Mexican popsicles as part of NYC’s ever-growing food fair scene, but Sley Deli’s paletas have been stocked in shops all over the city for years. Go to the source, an unassuming bodega in Borough Park, and ogle the rainbow of more than 30 flavors stacked in the freezer case. Choose from tropical fruits like guava or passion fruit, creamy arroz con leche, cookies and cream (it’s not Latino 24/7 here) or spicy-tart tamarind spiked with chile.
4217 Fort Hamilton Pkwy at 43rd St. (Map)
Brooklyn, NY 11219
If there’s anything you need to know about Filipino food, it’s that pork rules. No matter how many farm-to-table renditions of pork belly you’ve tried, lechon kawali, uncured bacon deep-fried and cut into cubes, is a simple delight. The crackly skin and meat, striated with luscious fat, is good on its own, but once dipped into the thick, tangy sauce, these pork blobs are taken to another level. You’d never guess that the condiment was made from liver, bread crumbs, sugar and vinegar.