Cheap Eats: Asian and Indian Cuisine

This compilation of Asian and Indian restaurants featuring can't-miss options at amazing prices.

Saigon in Millville
Saigon (Millville). Server Linzy Lagares presents the House Special Delight, $12.99; see page 41.
Photo by David Michael Howarth.

Asian:

Fortune Cookie
(Bridgewater) Ignore the silly name; you can’t beat this place for real Hunan. Silky braised pork belly Mao style is one thing the Chairman got right. Anything marked Hunan or in hot chili oil (chicken, beef, lamb, fish, bean curd) is highly recommended. So are hot pots, especially the smoky eggplant. Most hot pots under $13. 41 Old York Rd, 908-429-8886, fortunecookiesnj.com—PT

Max’s
(Jersey City) Filipino food is part Spanish, part Chinese, part Portuguese—and totally entranced with seafood and meat. Max’s, the only East Coast branch of a Philippine chain, nails it all. Its $7.95 lunch special of calamari and shrimp simmered in sweet coconut sauce includes bite-sized egg rolls filled with delicately seasoned pork. Stewed chicken adobo ($9.95) will leave the most well-mannered diner licking her garlicky fingers. For $12.95 you get a whole fried chicken—sublime with a squirt of banana ketchup. 687 Newark Ave, 201-798-2700, maxschicken.com—CB

Noodlelicious
(Edison) Chef/owner Grace Liang ran a similar place in Taiwan for 20 years before opening Noodlelicious with daughter Joyce in 2011. Choosing is easy—noodles with beef or pork in soup ($6-$8.45) or with sauce ($6.95-$8.45). Add cold sides like Taiwanese pickled cabbage ($2.15) or warm ones like bean curd sheets ($1.75) or sliced beef ($4.25) and you could be in Taiwan. 1857 Rt 27 (Lincoln Highway), 732-253-7501—BY

Peking Tokyo
(Millville) If this Chinese/Japanese restaurant’s greatest feat is fitting all 362 items on a standard folded take-out menu, its second greatest feat is charging $14.95 or less for all but a few of them. Though perhaps the lunch specials trump all: the 29 different Chinese specials come with pork fried rice and soup or egg roll for $5.55; the bento box contains teriyaki (beef, chicken, shrimp or salmon), a four-piece California roll, shrimp shumai dumplings, white rice and choice of miso soup or salad for $8.25. 101 East Main St, 856-765-1818, ourpekingtokyo.com—TN

Ploy Siam
(Robbinsville) Ploy means gem in Thai, and that’s what this is. The $10 lunch special offers 14 entrées plus soup or salad. At dinner, winners include noodle and rice dishes ($11-$14), including a pad Thai more vibrant than most, and five styles of curry with beef, chicken, seafood or vegetables ($13-$16). Authenticity extends to spice levels, so be sure to specify. 1041 Washington Blvd, 609-371-9600, ploysiamthaicuisine.com—PT

Saigon
(Millville) Wedged in a strip mall of fast food joints, Saigon is easy to overlook. But don’t. For $5.99, weekday lunchers can pick from 32 entrées, including piquant restoratives like Vietnamese chicken curry over rice and spicy pho noodle soup with meatloaf and beef strips. Each comes with hot tea and limitless sriracha, hoisin and chili-garlic sauces. At dinner, pho soups are $7.99-$9.99 and only a couple entrées exceed $10.99. 2180 N 2nd St, (856) 327-8878, saigonrestaurant.biz—TN

Sri Thai
(Hoboken) In a city where sleek new restaurants seem to pop up weekly, this unassuming 30-seat BYO continues to draw a crowd. And why not? Lunch combos offering red, yellow and green curries plus soup or salad hover around $6.95. For dinner, regulars swear by the spicy-sweet fried chicken with tamarind ($9.95); very fine pad Thai ($9.95); and ground chicken larb ($9.95) spiked with lemon, mint and chili. 234 Bloomfield St, 201-798-4822, srithaihoboken.com—CB

Tiger Noodles
(Princeton) Order anything labeled “home-style,” especially noodles ($5.50 and $9) and noodle soup with braised beef ($9). The whole menu is excellent. Cash only, but you don’t have to peel off many bills to eat like an emperor here. A sibling in neighboring Montgomery, Ya-Ya Noodles, has the same menu and prices, and takes credit cards, but you get strip-mall decor. Part of the fun of Tiger is sitting outside in warm weather and watching Nassau Street’s endlessly fascinating parade of profs, students and sightseers. 260 Nassau St, 609-252-0663, tigernoodlesprinceton.com—PT

Indian:

Brick Lane Curry House
(Montclair, Ridgewood) Pride goeth before a Phaal—that is, Brick Lane’s “excruciatingly hot” phaal curry. If you hold Brick Lane harmless, and manage to finish, you enter the P’Hall of Fame. But the chain serves complexly flavorful food at all heat levels. The $10 lunch special with rice, naan and dessert is tough to top. 540 Valley Rd, Montclair, 973-509-2100; 34 Franklin Ave, Ridgewood, 201-670-7311; bricklanecurryhouse.com—ASJ

Café Matt & Meera (Hoboken)
The Indian-born software entrepreneur who opened this casually elegant spot last year invented the names to suggest a culinary meeting of East and West. Forget the misbegotten naan pizzas and head East for the $6 vegetable and paneer kati rolls; flaky samosas (two for $6); or beautiful tamarind chicken salad with hunks of avocado and mint dressing ($7). 618 Washington St, 201-683-9431, mattandmeera.com—CB

Calcutta Chinese Food (Edison)
The bustling Chinese community of Calcutta has its own distinctive cuisine, often rendered in Jersey as sweet and gloppy. Here you’ll find real Indian/Chinese fish pakoras ($7.95), Manchurian soup ($2.95 and $4.95), basil lamb ($10.25), chili chicken ($9.50), Szechuan fried rice ($7.25-$8.25). Vegetarians will find much to enjoy. 2090 Oak Tree Rd, 732-494-1788, calcuttachinesefood.com—BY

Green Chilli (Iselin)
True to his South Indian roots, chef/partner M. A. Mannan packs his dishes with multiple flavors, not just heat. To see what that means, try the curries ($7.99-$12.99) and daily specials ($12.99) from his native Chennai. His dosas ($4.49-$7.99) boast the authentic tang that comes from proper fermentation of the lentil-flour batter. For two highlights on one plate, get the $9.99 dosa and chicken korma combo. The $9.99 lunch buffet Friday through Sunday is an irresistible bargain. 1192 Green St, 732-283-2175—BY

Hurry Chutney (Somerville, Princeton)
Superb chicken tikka masala ($11.50); smoky vegetables, lamb and chicken from the tandoor ($8.95- $11.50); chicken Manchurian, an exceptional Indo-Chinese hybrid with soy sauce, scallions, garlic and chilies ($10.95)—these are just a few of the reasons to duck into these modest-looking eateries prized by the local Indian communities. 97 Rt 206, Somerville, 908-450-7850; 465 Nassau Blvd, Princeton, 908-807-8899, hurrychutney.com—SK

Taj Mahal (Jersey City)
Bail bondsmen and other denizens of the Hudson County Superior Courthouse swear by this quiet little gem two blocks from flashy, frenetic Little India. The $9.95 weekday lunch buffet offers seven entrée choices. Beyond the buffet, garlic shrimp (five for $7.95) is worth the splurge. The pleasure of Baigan bharta, a smoky blend of roasted eggplant and tomatoes ($9.95), goes right off the charts when you add a $2 side of tangy raita. 663 Newark Ave, 201-963-9100, tajmahalromanceindining.com—CB

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