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.
Ken’s Noodle House
WHAT TO ORDER "The Sapporo" miso ramen, $9.50 WHAT MAKES IT SO GOOD Noodle soups are a bona fide obsession in Japan, and most regions have their signature flavor. In Sapporo, miso-based soups are king (there’s even a ramen theme park). Ken’s does well by this style, starting with a nutty, buttery broth and adding perfectly chewy noodles, scallions, bean sprouts, sliced pork, seaweed, and half an egg. Slurping is not only acceptable, it’s encouraged. One Brighton Ave., Allston, 617-254-5524, kenramen.com.
WHAT TO ORDER Chile relleno torta, $9.95 WHAT MAKES IT SO GOOD Apparently, roasting a poblano pepper, stuffing it with cheese, frying it, and loading it onto a crispy-soft roll — where it’s then slathered with smoky chipotle-spiked molasses, refried beans, creamy avocado, and even more cheese — is so labor-intensive that La Verdad’s staffers aren’t allowed to order it, confessed one waitress. "But," she added, "I hear it’s to die for." It is. One Lansdowne St., Boston, 617-421-9595, laverdadtaqueria.com.
East by Northeast
WHAT TO ORDER Crispy pork belly, $10 WHAT MAKES IT SO GOOD Lots of places serve interpretations of gua bao, the savory Taiwanese snack of fatty pork belly sandwiched in a fluffy steamed bun with pickled greens. But only Inman Square’s East by Northeast manages to turn out pork this crispy and succulent, with tender house-made man tou bread, sweet bean paste, and pickled daikon hitting the full spectrum of salty-sweet-sour-soft-crunchy notes. 1128 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-876-0286, exnecambridge.com.
WHAT TO ORDER Ají de gallina, $10 WHAT MAKES IT SO GOOD A creamy chicken stew that doesn’t inspire grade-school cafeteria flashbacks? This classic (circa 1700s) Peruvian staple will banish all thoughts of lunch lines. The flavorful base is seasoned with ají amarillo, Peru’s signature yellow chili. The result is supremely rich, and more than a little addictive. No wonder the recipe has been around this long. 409 Chelsea St., East Boston, 617-569-4942, rinconlimenorestaurant.com.
SO YOU’VE GOT…$20
WHAT TO ORDER Boiled fish fillet in fiery sauce $10.75 WHAT MAKES IT SO GOOD The server will demur when you tell her you want it spicy. Persist: "Very spicy — authentic spicy." As she turns to put in your medium-spicy order, smile and say, "I’ve had authentic spicy before." You’ll get a steaming bowl full of flaky white fish, Chinese celery, cabbage, ginger, and more lip-numbing Szechwan peppercorns than is probably legal. Down a few spoonfuls straight. Switch to rice for a breather. Repeat. 2382 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-492-7540, qingdaogarden.com.
WHAT TO ORDER Bon Chon chicken, $11 WHAT MAKES IT SO GOOD If you’re unfamiliar with Korean fried chicken — so much lighter and, dare we say, better than American-style birds — you’re in for a treat. Boston’s only outpost of this international chicken chain is connected to Allston’s Privus Lounge, and serves ultracrisp, nongreasy wings and legs lightly glazed with your choice of garlic or chili sauce. Go with the drumsticks, which are meatier, and try the crunchy pickled radishes that come with every order. 165 Brighton Ave., Allston, 617-787-7483, bonchon.com.