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Best Ethnic Food in New England

DUMPLINGS + POTSTICKERS, Taiwan Café, King Fung Garden, China Pearl
Chinese dumplings are boiled, steamed, or pan-fried, with the latter called “potstickers.” Enormous, pan-fried, pork-filled ones can be had at Taiwan and the slightly smaller vegetable ones at King Fung Garden; both versions are delicious. Delicate steamed ones, in many shapes, stuffings, and adornments, are found on the dim sum menu at China Pearl. Dipping sauces range from thinned and gingery soy sauce to a fiery hot sauce.Taiwan Café, 34 Oxford St., Boston, MA; 617-426-8181. King Fung Garden, 74 Kneeland St., Boston, MA; 617-357-5262. China Pearl, 9 Tyler St., Boston, MA; 617-426-4338

Thin slices of soft tofu, vegetables, and a raw egg broken into a simmering, chili-laced broth are the basics of sundubu (“pure tofu”), a Korean stew. Chef Sang Cho makes seven kinds at ChoCho’s, including one nod to New England: lobster sundubu. 1815 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA. 617-792-5499;

Drawing on the Ocean State’s excellent and continuous source of fresh littlenecks and its strong Italian American heritage, linguine with clam sauce is a Rhode Island institution. White or red, the best recipes put chopped clams in a garlic-laden “gravy” and whole ‘necks along the edge of a plate of al dente noodles. Mike’s Kitchen does all that and more. 170 Randall St., Cranston, RI; 401-946-5320

BLINI, Vernissage
Closely related to blintzes and crêpes, true Russian blini are yeast-raised and melt-in-your-mouth light. The blinis at Vernissage are served as appetizers, alongside caviar or filled with chicken, wild mushrooms, or seafood. The dessert blintzes have sour-cherry fillings and are drizzled with chocolate sauce. 1627 Beacon St., Brookline, MA. 617-566-3340;

MOMOS, Rangzen
Shaped like tiny coin purses, these dumplings, indigenous to Tibet and Nepal, release a wonderful fragrance of ginger, coriander, or cumin with each bite, enhancing the fillings of beef, chicken, veggies, tofu, or cheese. Momos may be steamed or fried; they come with various sauces or may be served with soup. 24 Pearl St., Cambridge, MA; 617-354-8881

KNISHES and LATKES, Barry’s Village Deli
Sephardic or Ashkenazic? Jewish food means different things to different people, but a plate that includes a knish (filled savory turnover) and a latka (potato pancake), plus lokshen kugel (noodle pudding) and chopped liver–a.k.a. the “Jewish Pupu Platter” at Barry’s Village Deli–is food everyone can agree on. 6 Windsor Road, Waban, MA. 617-527-8244;

PUPUSAS, el salvador
These soft, thin, tortilla-like cornmeal pancakes, a national treat in El Salvador, are filled and quick-fried. The pupusas at El Salvador are a delightful combination of crispy exterior, moist cornmeal, and molten cheese on the inside. 514 Burnside Ave., East Hartford, CT; 860-528-2442

CUBANO, Soul de Cuba
The Cuban sandwich (layers of ham, roast pork, cheese, and pickles) has made its way to the menus of many an all-American pub, but Cuban-born brothers Jesus and Robert Puerto and cofounder Yoon Kim offer the definitive version at Soul de Cuba. It’s the best we’ve ever eaten. Que rico indeed. 283 Crown St., New Haven, CT. 203-498-2822;

Originally from Vienna (Wien), flattened veal cutlets get a breadcrumb dip, then a quick pan-fry. A good Wiener schnitzel is crispy yet fork-tender and buttery. The Green Barn’s traditional preparation and its chicken variation are served with a jäeger sauce. 5 Hampstead Rd., Salem, NH. 603-893-3780;

LAHMEJUNE, Massis Bakery
Featuring a round sheet of paper-thin dough layered with Mediterranean ingredients, lahmejune is sometimes called Armenian pizza. Granted, the spreadlike topping does contain ground-up tomatoes, green peppers, and onions, along with beef, chicken, lamb, or just vegetables. Massis Bakery has been making its lahmejune since 1938, and all four varieties are utterly addictive. 569 Mount Auburn St., Watertown, MA. 617-924-0537;

CROISSANTS, Rosemont Market
Oh-so-light and airy on the inside, flaky on the outside, croissants may have won more people over to the infinite subtleties of French cuisine than bouillabaisse, cassoulet, or coq au vin combined. The house-made ones at Rosemont Market are full of flavor, with intriguing layers of texture. C’est magnifique. 559 Brighton Ave., Portland, ME; 207-774-8129

JAMAICAN PATTIES, Scotts’ Jamaican Bakery
These treats are akin to Cornish pasties, those turnover-like meat pies that fit so snugly in your hand. Hartford’s Albany Avenue is strewn with bakeries and small eateries offering a variety of patties. One constant is turmeric in the yellowy dough. Scotts’ patties are nongreasy pockets of shredded chicken with just a hint of a pepper kick. 1344 Albany Ave., Hartford, CT. 860-247-3855;

PIEROGI, Staropolska
These boiled Polish dumplings are made in savory versions, filled with mushrooms, sauerkraut, cheese, or meat, and in sweet versions, with dried fruit or fruit jams. Traditionally made at home for festive occasions, especially Christmas Eve (Wigilia), pierogi may be enjoyed all year long at Staropolska. The pierogi here are large and plump, pan-fried in butter. The surprise treat is the dessert pierogi–filled with a summery burst of raspberry. 252 Broad St., New Britain, CT. 860-612-1711;

Churrasco is the Brazilian method of slow-roasting meats on a spit; a churrascarria is a Brazilian-style steakhouse. Gauchos is one of the best, owing to quality cuts of meat, skillful preparation, and a number of choices: beef fillet wrapped in bacon, prime rib, flank steak, short ribs, sirloin, lamb, chicken, and spare ribs. 62 Lowell St., Manchester, NH. 603-669-9460;

SPANAKOPITA, Parthenon Diner
Although spanakopita is usually a multilayered pie of phyllo dough, spinach, and feta cheese, the Parthenon Diner’s delightful variation has just one crispy layer between custard-like spinach, offering just the right amount of texture contrast and buttery dough. 809 Boston Post Road, Old Saybrook, CT. 860-395-5111;

Updated Monday, April 20th, 2009

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7 Responses to Best Ethnic Food in New England

  1. sid davidson May 14, 2009 at 4:38 pm #

    That is a great list. I’m going to try some of them.
    Waltham, Mass. has some great ethnic restaurants up and down Moody ST.

  2. Elizabeth A. Johnson May 14, 2009 at 6:52 pm #

    All I can say after reading this list as I am salivating! is YUMMY! I shall print out this list and keep it with my travel information . If I am ever in the area I will check them out! Love you magazine! Have been reading it since I was 16 yrs old.Longer than I care to admit!
    God Bless!
    Elizabeth Johnson, Hunterdon County, N.J.

  3. marianne caldwell May 15, 2009 at 9:14 am #

    The addition of lime, bean sprouts, Asian basil or mint, and cilantro to the pho soup is not an American addition. It is part of the original Vietnamese recipe. It is served that way in Southeast Asia, as well as in Western countries which have a large Vietnamese population: like France. The only American adaptation I know of is substituting the original tripe or grizzle/chewy meat with more tender slices of beef. There are different sorts of pho; with tripe and beef, just beef, meatballs, or a spicy sat

  4. Ulysses Agpaoa June 15, 2009 at 11:27 pm #

    Great list. Thank you.

  5. Azar ATTURA March 4, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

    There’s a restaurant (whoe name escapes me) in Worcester Mass that serves THE BEST Indian food I have ever eaten– plus Apricot Almond Naan — feathery soft and hot from the oven. YUM!

  6. Chris Heckman March 4, 2010 at 4:42 pm #

    I wish you had gotten out of Massachusetts more. Only two out of twenty-seven in Maine! Portland has some great restaurants, I’m sure you could have found more than one.

  7. Deirdre Lee March 5, 2010 at 10:07 am #

    Federal Hill…can’t beat it!!!

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