Aside from a few “finer dining” places, Asian restaurants tend to be relatively inexpensive. Still, even in this category, there are cheap eats to be found. Eater has crossed through a range of Asian cuisines to find the best deals that will save you some money while delivering delicious flavors of the East.
1. BCD Tofu House
The two in the area (Edmonds and Lynnwood) are part of a big chain, but this casual eatery offers the best value in soon doo boo chigae. There are other items on the menu, but the soft tofu soup is the main draw, the fiery bowls filled with a choice of beef, pork, seafood, intestines, dumplings, mushrooms, and more. Each order comes with a stone pot of rice and a decent selection of banchan–including a whole fried fish. (Figure about $10 for a basic bowl.)
2. Dim Sum King
With dim sum quality sadly lacking in Seattle, why pay top price? With various baked buns at seventy cents, and steamed dumplings and shumai (and chicken feet!) even cheaper, Dim Sum King offers a fair price for ma-ma (so-so) dim sum. On the sweet side, in addition to egg tarts, check out the massive amounts of sponge cake. Best of all, Dim Sum King opens daily at 7 a.m.
3. Dough Zone Dumpling House
Now with two locations in Bellevue, Dough Zone is your place for noodles, dumplings, buns, and more. The soup dumplings give legendary Din Tai Fung a run for the money, with a fried version (sheng jian bao, here called jian buns) an added bonus. (Both are $8.50.) Small portions at reasonable prices make this a popular place.
4. Huong Binh Vietnamese Cuisine
This standout in a strip mall at 12th and Jackson hits the mark in its intersection of authenticity, quality, and value. (Just about everything is under $10.) The grilled pork, perfectly caramelized, is a specialty, particularly as part of banh hoi thit nuong, where pork skewers accompany intricate bundles of thin rice noodles garnished with ground shrimp and scallion. The intriguing menu expands on weekends, when specials include duck noodle soup as well as congee served with blood sausage, pork tongue, liver, and ear.
5. Katsu Burger
After a short closure, Katsu Burger is back (now also open in Bellevue, with Lynnwood to open soon), offering the original menu of panko-breaded, deep-fried meats for their burgers. While beef and chicken (there’s also tofu) are options, pork is classic for katsu, fantastic with mayo and tonkatsu sauce along with the standard toppings of cabbage, tomato, red onions, and pickles. Add nori fries and a green tea milkshake to round out an East-meets-West fast food meal that’s actually made to order. (Cost is about $7 for a Tokyo Classic with pork.)
6. King Noodle
If you want to customize your own bowl of noodles, then you’ll feel like royalty at King Noodle. For a set price (about $8), you get your choice of soup base, noodles, and meat/vegetable toppings. The noodles themselves range from rice noodles (vermicelli to wide ones), udon, QQ noodles, and even instant noodles. Soups include chicken broth, original fish soup, hot spicy, Szechuan spicy, sour & hot, and Thai tom yum goong. Offal lovers will find tripe and kidney, while those seeking safety can order beef brisket and free range chicken.
It’s worth the drive to Edmonds for the oil-seared biang-biang noodles ($7) alone. These wide, hand-cut wide noodles are delightfully springy, and while meat toppings are available, the simplicity of hot chili oil shows them off best. Go with a group, and you can those same biang-biang noodles layered at the bottom of the big plate of chicken known as dapanji.
8. Saigon Vietnam Deli
When you’re at the intersection of 12th and Jackson in Little Saigon, you’re a stone’s throw from at least a dozen delis serving banh mi sandwiches. There are many good ones, but Eater recommends Saigon Vietnam Deli. Of all the sandwich choices, get the $3 BBQ pork, and say yes when asked if you want “spicy” via jalapenos. The “lunch boxes” of two entrees and a ton of rice are also a bargain at $6, with beef stew, stuffed bittermelon, and coconut chicken among the top picks.
9. Song Phang Kong
Song Phang Kong is a true mom-and-pop operation: she’s Lao and he’s Thai. Being a hole-in-the-wall is part of the charm; upon entry, “Mom” gives you free soda and water, and a stack of papers that constitute a menu. Everything’s made from scratch, with the pad thai offering a perfect balance of spicy and sweet. The noodles are both soft and slightly chewy. You get a generous portion at a low price (most dishes are $8), so you’ll certainly want to get another dish on the side. Recommended is the handmade green papaya salad, which comes with enough sticky rice to satisfy anyone who’s carbo-loading.
10. Thai Curry Simple
Simple is the key word at this International District hole-in-the-wall that’s lunch only, weekday only, cash only, and almost curry only. Oh, there are noodles and a couple of other dishes, but take inspiration from the name of the restaurant and go with one of the curries on offer (about $8). The only choice you’ll then have to make is whether to add homemade hot sauce for more heat.
This easy-to-miss place in the historic Nihonmachi part of the International District is reminiscent of restaurants in Japan. There’s a wrap-around sushi bar with eight seats, along with a small scattering of tables. Check the blackboard for items like the “Ika Special” (squid simmered in its own guts) and other plates that pair well with sake and beer. The best bet for cheap eats: the Friday-only lunch ramen—a carbo-heavy bargain for about $9 that includes gyoza and rice with the shoyu ramen.
As in Japan, grab a tray and slide along the line, cafeteria-style, to place your noodle order. (Bowls start at about $5.) After getting your bowl, choose some deep-fried delights at the indicated à la carte price. (Recommended: the tempura chikuwa, which is fishcake in the shape of a tube.) UDon is the first to serve house-made udon noodles in Seattle, with the cold preparations showing off the chewiness of the firm, al dente udon best. You can watch the noodle-making process while you wait to order.
Originally published on Eater Seattle 7/15/15. Search on my blog for more about these restaurants, including their addresses.