Top Cheap Bites of 2018

Top Cheap Bites of 2018

Sometimes a dish makes me forget that I’m supposed to be taking notes. I don’t want to analyze it; I just want to eat it, slowly, thinking giddy thoughts to myself. In no particular order, these are the dishes — more precisely, the eight dishes, a dessert and two drinks — that made me happiest this year.

Pusit sisig at Mama Fina’s House of Sisig

Pork sisig — ears, jowl and snout broken down into a seething hash — gets all the glory, but when I go out with fellow Filipinos, this is the dish that’s scraped clean: rough-chopped squid, crackling in its own brine, with a throb of chile and vinegar like a gentle smack.

167 Avenue A (East 11th Street), East Village; 917-262-0893;

Ashlyanfu at Lagman House

In this salad from Central Asia, cool, wobbly green-bean jelly lends a shiver to what is soon a maddened heap of hand-stretched noodles, creamy rags of omelet, raw vegetables and fried beef, finished with hot pickled garlic and a shriek of chile.

2612 East 14th Street (Sheepshead Bay Road), Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn; 718-872-5979;

Lu rou fan at Ho Foods

First, Berkshire pork belly languishes for eight hours in a pot of Taiwanese beer and rice wine steeped with dried orange peels, five-spice and shade upon shade of soy sauce. Then it’s turned to rubble and spooned over rice, with half a tea egg tucked in, its yolk a dying sun.

110 East Seventh Street (First Avenue), East Village; 347-788-0682;

Pollo guisado at Ajo y Orégano

This Dominican chicken stew starts with sugar in a pan, stopped just short of burning, to give the meat a dark, caramelly crust. By the end, the broth is almost the thickness of ink.

1556 White Plains Road (Guerlain Street), Parkchester, Bronx; 347-657-1201;

Kurutob at Cafe Dushanbe

In Tajikistan, bread is sacred and never attacked with a knife. So for this salad, the national dish, flaky fatir is torn by hand, then tossed in a milky dressing of kurut, staunchly salty sun-dried yogurt traditionally carried by nomadic shepherds as fuel to survive the steppes.

1788 Sheepshead Bay (Shore Parkway), Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn; 718-676-9404;

Gombo frais at Paradis des Gouts

There is not enough okra on New York City menus, a deficiency addressed by this Ivorian stew lush with palm oil and crushed tomatoes. Here, okra’s viscosity isn’t disguised, but celebrated and taken to its logical conclusion: velvet.

1136 Broadway (Kosciuszko Street), Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn; 718-443-4584;

Golden Pillow at Little House Café

This leviathan of a curry bun is served whole, then swiftly sliced open to reveal a steaming packet of Malaysian chicken curry, gilded with turmeric and ready to be soaked up by the fluffy, challah-like bread. Warning: It must be ordered at least six hours in advance.

Little House Café, 90-19 Corona Avenue (90th Street), Elmhurst, Queens; 718-592-0888; no website.

Sukuti momo at Momo Crave

Of all the nouvelle momos (dumplings) at this tiny, forward-thinking Nepalese restaurant, the most fervent are these deep-fried crescents littered with buffalo jerky that’s been salted and left to dry over the stove until purged of all but flavor.

3807 69th Street (Roosevelt Avenue), Woodside, Queens; 718-255-1714;

Fruits sandwich at Davelle

The most delightful thing I ate all year: fruit buried in whipped cream between two impeccably toasted slices of shokupan (Japanese milk bread), their crisp veneer giving way to beautiful sponge.

102 Suffolk Street (Delancey Street), Lower East Side; 646-771-7855;

Horchata at Cienega Las Tlayudas de Oaxaca

Mango shake at Em

In all my sips of the Mexican drink horchata, I’ve never encountered a version like this: more warmly spiced than sweet, and voluptuous, with ground walnuts in its depths and a crumble of pecans on top.

10432 Corona Avenue (106th Street), Corona, Queens; 347-353-2366;

I might be willing to make a new life in Bensonhurst if only to have constant access to this mango shake, a meld of sweetened condensed milk and, as if that weren’t richness enough, yogurt made in-house with condensed milk.

1702 86th Street (17th Avenue), Bensonhurst, Brooklyn; 718-232-3888;

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