XO Steamed Rice Noodles at XO Restaurant ($3.50)
The large vats of boiling water and steamers filled with fresh rice noodles are a good indication: this is a noodle shop. Here, a fat pile of slippery, tender, steamed rice noodles that comes coated in a rich, spicy sauce of minced pork flavored with plenty of whole braised garlic cloves, chilis, and shiitake mushrooms.
Peking Duck Sesame Pancakes at Vanessa's Dumpling House ($2.25)
It may not be the best duck lunch you've ever eaten, but it's almost certainly the best duck lunch you've ever eaten for nine shiny quarters. The sandwich's main attraction, however, is the pancake itself. The dough is plopped into an oiled pan and fried, pancake-style, giving the spongy bread a crisp-bottomed crust not unlike that of a deep dish pizza.
Roast Pork and Duck on Rice at Great New York Noodletown ($5.50)
We're partial to Great New York Noodletown's roast baby pig, but the "Roast Pork and Duck on Rice" is a more affordable plate. The duck is salty and a little gamey, a little bony, and more than a little greasy. The roast pork is moist and lightly sweet, without the addictive crisp skin of the baby pig. Still, served over rice with a bit of cabbage, it's quite a filling meal (or two lighter lunches) for $5.50.
Noodles at Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles ($4 and up)
Both the signature hand-pulled noodles and knife-cut noodles are our favorite versions in Chinatown. Toppings. too, are nicely prepared: tender meats and tendons, runny fried eggs, and fresh-tasting seafood.
Buns at Golden Steamer ($0.60 and up)
Moist and tender, softly steamed buns around all sorts of fillings: sweet pumpkin and pork-mushroom and salty egg yolk are just a few of our favorites. We can't think of a tastier, more substantial way to fill your stomach for under a buck.
Vietnamese Bun from Deluxe Food Market ($1.00)
Yes, we love our buns. Here, it's a Vietnamese (Yuenan) bun from the deli station in Deluxe Food Market. You find inside the bun everything you need for a substantial lunch: a chunk of juicy ground pork, half a hard-boiled egg, a piece of Chinese sausage, and mushroom slices. Though the combination might sound strange, the flavors work well together; and for one dollar, you've got a whole lunch covered—protein and carbs, meat and veggies.
Chicken Leg Over Rice at May Wah Pork Chop Fast Food ($4.50)
Although their pork chop over rice seems to be the most popular dish, we found it a bit dry; go for the chicken leg over rice, which is juicy with a thin, crisp skin. These dishes aren't just plain meat-on-rice; it's meat on a massive pile of meat-sauce-and-pickled-vegetable-topped rice.
House Special at Saigon Vietnamese Sandwiches ($4.25)
At our third-favorite banh mi place in Manhattan, and our favorite in Chinatown, get the house special barbecued pork version, with crisp, tender bread and bright, fresh vegetables.
Fried Dumplings at Tasty Dumpling (5 for $1.25)
They've got a nicely gingery filling with well balanced sweetness, and a supreme savoriness from plenty of pork fat and juices. Our favorite dumplings in Chinatown.
Liang Pi Noodles (and lots more) at Xi'an Famous Foods ($4.50)
There are now two Chinatown outposts of this Flushing favorite, serving the food of Xi'an, the capital of China's Shaanxi province. We're partial to the Liang Pi cold skin noodles, wheat noodles that have an incredible mouthfeel—a gentle resistance to the bite, slick enough to slide over the palate, porous enough to soak up the sauces. But we wouldn't say no to a $2.50 pork burger, or hand-pulled noodles ($5.50 and up), or...