Pithu at San Rasa
This pithu—rice mixed with shredded coconut and steamed in a log shape—is bouncy and a little sweet-tasting. Add some savory contrast with the accompanying coconut milk dipping sauce and spicy sambal. Do yourself a favor: eat this with your hands. It's more fun that way.
Hoppers at San Rasa
A fermented rice batter gets cooked in dome-shaped molds to make hoppers. Five come to an order, with a wobbly egg in one of them. The hoppers come with your choice of curry, but appreciate the first bite plain. The centers are cakey and a little like sourdough; the edges are lacy and crisp.
Vegetarian Curry at San Rasa
The vegetarian curry option at San Rasa, and one of the best accompaniments to your hoppers and pithu. It's less mild than advertised, full of split peas, aromatic herbs, and mustard seeds.
Watalappan at San Rasa
An eggy coconut milk custard run through with smoky palm sugar. Imagine a crème brûlée where the entire custard tastes like the caramelized topping. That's this dessert.
Lentil Cookies at New Asha
Lentils, split peas, and cumin seeds shaped into lens-like disks and deep fried. When fresh, they're shatter-crisp on the outside and moist within, with nubs of cumin seed and split pea for texture and bursts of flavor. A steal at $1 each.
Potato Curry at New Asha
The greens change: sometimes it's leek, sometimes it's string beans. But there's always creamy coconut milk and potatoes cooked so tender they drink up their weight in sauce. Mustard seed and curry leaf come through loud and clear in this dish; there's incredible flavor hidden in its humble ingredients.
Roti Kotthu at New Asha
New Asha's roti get chopped up into bits and stir fried with egg, ground chicken, and plenty of herbs. This is home cooking at its best: spicy and rich but less heavy than you'd suspect. The addictive heat will keep you filling up your plate. I've woken up from dreams about this dish.
Sunday Buffet at Lakruwana
In my experience, Lakruwana's $12 Sunday buffet is even better than its à la carte menu. About 20 items are kept warm in clay pots, including jammy eggplant, wilted kale with coconut, curried goat, and some excellent chewy coconut sambal.
Desserts at Lakruwana
The buffet comes with four dessert options: yogurt topped with palm sugar syrup; watalappan, an eggy coconut milk custard flavored with raw sugar; airy mango pudding; and coconut-tapioca pudding with fine pearls almost like caviar.
Lamprie at Lak Bojun
The best lamprie I've tasted on Staten Island. It's all about the eggplant and plantains, which are cooked down, and cooked some more, and then some more until they're ashy and black. They lend an incredible dark-savory contrast to the herbal perfume of the banana leaf.
String Hoppers at Dosa Garden
These delicate, slightly nutty noodles are shaped into small nests and then steamed. You eat them by hand: pick one up, fold it over, and get to dipping in the accompanying sauces.
Rava Dosa at Dosa Garden
Up there with the city's best—add this to your order of string hoppers.