Dishes from Asia deliver big flavors, unusual ingredients and a break from meat and potatoes. And with so many restaurants to choose from on Long Island, the choices can be dizzying. From India to Thailand to Vietnam to Pakistan, here are our top picks for 2016.
Dosa World, Hicksville: Dosa World offers dosas, ravi dosas and vegetarian fare from North and South India. A first-order snack of bhel puri is a guilty pleasure, a layering of puffed rice and crispy sev, tamarind and chutney. The pondicherry masala dosa, a giant rice crepe, lends a spice blend with a moderate kick, while the rava dosa with gunpowder chilies -- dry spiced -- delivers steady heat. Rava dosas are made from unfermented batter that creates an especially crispy crepe. Like a regular dosa, it's awfully large, but heavier and square, folded like sheets. Still hungry? Get the South Indian thali with papadum; aviyal, a vegetable dish with coconut and curry leaves; a dish of sauteed vegetables called poriyal; tomato-based rasam soup; and poori, fried bread. (Pictured: Masala dosa).
Papri chaat, a snack of crisped rise topped with tamarind, sweet yogurt and date chutney, is served at Dosa World in Hicksville.
Frankly Thai, Franklin Square: The food at this modest spot can surprise a diner. Curry puffs, made with spiced potatoes, virtually dissolve on the tongue. "Drunken" noodles with chicken simultaneously ignite and soothe the palate. Then, there are cool summer rolls, rice paper encasing shredded vegetables, and noodles spiked with cilantro and drizzled with tamarind sauce. A riot of flavors, textures and temperatures plays into a duck salad with pineapple and peanuts in a subtly spicy lime sauce. A pineapple curry with chicken, ordered spicy hot, juxtaposes the fiery with the fruity. (Pictured: Mango Curry with Shrimp).
Clockwise, from the left, are shrimp pad Thai, Thai zeppoli, duck salad and mango curry with shrimp, made at Frankly Thai in Franklin Square.
House of Dosas
House of Dosas, Hicksville: This plain-looking vegetarian spot features the bright flavors of Southern India. Rice crepes or dosas are filled with an infinite number of vegetable variations that are slightly sweeter than one would expect. Try the mixed-vegetable uthappam, a thick rice-lentil pancake, and the bhel puri, a street snack of puffed rice with onion, tomato, chili and spices. (Pictured: Mixed vegetable uttapam).
Thali lunch is served at House of Dosas in Hicksville.
Masalah Grill, Huntington Station: The smell is seductive at this trim counter-serve spot that's big on takeout. But those who value flavor over frills owe it to themselves to grab a table. At the first bite of the delicate fried turnovers called samosas, you know you're in the hands of pros. Another appetizer, chicken tikka seekh, stars marinated tandoor-roasted chicken thighs -- smoky, crimson, glistening. Seeks kebab, spiced chicken sausages, are also a winning order. (Pictured: Chicken Tikka Masala with naan and basmati rice).
Chicken Biyriani garnished with fried onion and lime is served with a side of raita, or yogurt sauce, at Masalah Grill in Huntington Station.
New Chilli and Curry
New Chilli and Curry, Hicksville: Mostly featuring Indian cooking, this casual restaurant serves vegetarian plates, breads, tandoori (clay oven-cooked) entrees and meals prepared with goat, lamb and chicken. Asian-inspired dishes such as Thai chicken curry and Mandarin fish in oyster sauce also are available. Don't overlook the Hakka dishes labeled as such, a mashup cuisine with notes of Indian dishes and Chinese favorites, one of the few places to try them on Long Island. (Pictured: Malaysian coriander soup).
Pad Thai is served at New Chilli and Curry in Hicksville.
Rolling Spring Roll
Rolling Spring Roll, Syosset: A handsome dining room in a strip mall defines the second location of this restaurant; it has more seats and interesting beer and wine selections from the bar. Be sure to get the bánh xèo, pronounced boon say-OH, a stuffed crepe that's lacy and crisp, so named for the sizzling of rice batter as it hits the pan. The pho remains a star, the fragrant rice noodle soup introduced to Long Island at the original Farmingdale location. The bánh mi is also a winner, a lively sandwich layered with paté, pork, pickled veggies and herbs stuffed into a crusty baguette. (Pictured: Pho Bo).
The wings at Rolling Spring Roll in Syosset are marinated in a secret sauce that includes fish sauce and garlic, then battered in rice flour.
Slurp Ramen, Port Jefferson: Atsushi Nakagawa opened this modest corner spot with his wife, Francesca, whom he met while they were studying at the same university in Kyoto, Japan. Visitors are here for the destination-worthy ramen, such as the signature selection with a tonkotsu base, a milky-white pork broth that's an elixir of marrow, fat and proteins. It earns flavor with an extra long simmer. Layered with chashu pork -- thin-sliced, marinated pork belly -- atop noodles, the classic is garnished with a soft-boiled egg, fresh ginger and scallions. For a less rich broth, there's the Slurp Smooth, a shoyu-based soy sauce and chicken-based broth, with pork belly swapped for Japanese fried chicken. Among the four broths, there's a miso-based vegan option, too. (Pictured: Slurp Smooth ramen).
The Slurp Classic ramen with slow cooked chashu pork, marinated soft boiled egg, scallions and red ginger is served at Slurp Ramen in Port Jefferson.
Siam Lotus Thai Restaurant
Siam Lotus Thai Restaurant, Bay Shore: Escape to Thailand at this long-standing Long Island favorite, where homestyle dishes deliver a harmonious marriage of flavors and Thai comfort-food dishes. A layering of flavors characterizes the shrimp hot and sour soup. Duck salad is rife with nuances, as is the sauté of squid, shrimp and scallops with chili sauce, vegetables and basil. (Pictured: Tom Yum Goong).
Squid, shrimp and scallops are prepared with chili sauce and basil at Siam Lotus Thai Restaurant in Bay Shore.
Southern Spice, New Hyde Park: Chettinad is a region in the very south of India known for complex and pleasing cuisine, such as vegetable samosas, filled with spiced potatoes and peas, fried and garnished with seasoning salt. Try the Chettinadu chicken curry, chunks of dark meat in gravy with notes of cinnamon, cloves, cumin, fennel, mustard seed. Garlic naan can be perfect. (Pictured: Kerala crab cakes).
Egg biryani is served at Southern Spice in New Hyde Park.
Sripraphai Thai Restaurant
Sripraphai Thai Restaurant, Williston Park: A go-to for an authentic Thai restaurant, Sripraphai offers interesting, spicy dishes far from the realm of pad Thai and Massaman curry. Check out the catfish papaya salad that's savory, refreshing and spicy with a whisper of fish sauce. Variations on larb offer an enticing blend of ground pork, mint, chili and lime juice. And the sweet sausage salad from the Issan region, served with cucumber, onions, chili and lime, will be your takeaway favorite. (Pictured: Tofu kao soy).
Green curry with beef is served at Sripraphai Thai Restaurant in Williston Park.