The secret to eating well in Boston on a budget? Go ethnic. Consider this your cheat sheet: 35 ethnic restaurants – and dishes – you can’t afford to miss.
Jo Jo Taipei
WHAT TO ORDER Special mini steamed buns, $6.99 WHAT MAKES IT SO GOOD "Special mini steamed buns" is actually what Jo Jo’s calls its Shanghai-style soup dumplings. They have the juicy pork filling, exceptionally tender skin, and signature gush of tasty broth that make this dish so crave-worthy. We’ve slurped soup dumplings all over the city, and none measure up to these. 103 Brighton Ave., Allston, 617-254-8887, jojotaipeiboston.com.
WHAT TO ORDER Kaddo (pumpkin with meat sauce), $7.50 WHAT MAKES IT SO GOOD By listing this as either vegetarian or nonvegetarian, the menu implies that meat sauce is optional. It is not. These chunks of pumpkin — pan-fried, then baked until ethereally light — don’t reach must-eat status until topped with the unctuous Afghan version of Bolognese. 143 First St., Cambridge, 617-492-4646, helmandrestaurantcambridge.com.
Viva Mi Arepa
WHAT TO ORDER Cheese cachapa, $7.50 WHAT MAKES IT SO GOOD This little diner on the edge of West Roxbury makes the best Venezuelan arepas in town, particularly the pork-and chicken-filled varieties. But don’t miss the cachapa, made from sweet cornmeal dough studded with fresh corn kernels. Stuffed with queso de mano and griddled to a crisp, it’s breakfast, lunch, and dessert rolled into one. 5197 Washington St., West Roxbury, 617-323-7844.
Pho ‘n’ Rice
WHAT TO ORDER Pho ga (chicken pho), $7.95 WHAT MAKES IT SO GOOD Among the many bowls of pho served around the Hub, the one at Pho ‘n’ Rice stands out for the intensity of its broth, vibrant with chili and star anise. Add tender rice noodles, moist chicken, and fresh basil, cilantro, onion, and lime, and you’ve got the ultimate feel-good food. 289 Beacon St., Somerville, 617-864-8888.
WHAT TO ORDER La phet thot (tea leaf salad), $8.25 WHAT MAKES IT SO GOOD A pile of shredded cabbage. Diced tomato. A mélange of garlic chips, sesame seeds, peanuts, and puffed-up fried peas that looks like a crazy Burmese trail mix. A puddle of canola oil. Minced hot chilies. A pungent mound of fermented pickled tea leaves that resemble brownish pesto. Toss it together and eat it. You’ll be hooked. 5 N. Beacon St., Allston, 617-783-1372, yomaboston.com.
S & I Thai
WHAT TO ORDER Pad ga pow moo krob (crispy pork with chili sauce and basil leaves), $8.95 WHAT MAKES IT SO GOOD We’re not going to lie to you: This dish is essentially flash-fried bacon chunks in a spicy-sweet sauce. But if you haven’t tried it at least once, then you’ve missed one of the city’s great guilty pleasures. The basil and chili do a little tango in your mouth, cutting through the richness of the meat. To ease the guilt, split your order with a friend; served with a pile of steamed rice, there’s plenty for two. 168A Brighton Ave., Allston, 617-254-8488, si-togo.com.
WHAT TO ORDER Spicy snow-crab cucumber hand roll, $9.25 WHAT MAKES IT SO GOOD While the brasher superstars on Douzo’s 266-dish menu practically shout their hotshot ingredients — yuzu! truffle! Kobe! — this understated number bowls us over with a whisper. A carpaccio-thin slice of crunchy cucumber is fashioned into a cone, then filled with fresh, feather-light snow crab that’s been tossed with an all-but-imperceptible dollop of delicately spiced mayo. 131 Dartmouth St., Boston, 617-859-8886, douzosushi.com.