"Thank you" - your wallet & taste buds after reading this article
When people think of New York City, the word "cheap" is unlikely to come to mind, especially when you're talking about dining out. Trust me, one $25 cocktail and I've still got the scars of pain.
But this doesn't mean that cheap eats in the Big Apple don't exist...you just need a friend to help you find them. Or rather, a "bao buddy."
From glistening roast pork to Asian-inspired banana pudding to bodega Indian food, read below for my recommendation of the best Asian cheap eats in NYC.
1. The $1.50 pandan coconut sponge cake from spongies
📍121 Baxter Street | Chinatown
It only feels right to kick off the list with the cheapest eat on the list -- spongy, fluffy, fresh baked goodness from Spongies. Run by Fernando (who has been baking sponge cakes for 30(!!!) years), Spongies serves Hong Kong-style sponge cakes that are perfect for a sweet breakfast bite or midday pick me up.
There are a number of flavors to choose from but my heart always sings for the pandan coconut...and you can't go wrong with the pastel green color.
2. The $6.50 kimchi mac & cheese from handsome rice
📍133 E 31st St | Murray Hill
Not only is their rice handsome, but their kimchi mac & cheese is delicious...and affordable. It earns the title as one of my favorite mac & cheeses in the entire city. Take your bow, lil kimchi mac and cheese.
And at $6.50 for this oozy goodness, you'll find yourself craving more after the final spoonful.
Oh, and while you're there, their signature burgers are also a cheap eat, at $7.50, with rave reviews.
Affordable burgers + mac? Count me in.
3. The $5 roast pork over rice from wah fung fast food no.1
📍79 Chrystie St | Chinatown
I know, I know -- you're probably thinking "Wah Fung? Really Lea?" but there's a reason the spot has gone viral and earned a place on every single "best cheap eats in NYC" list.
And my list wouldn't be right without it. $5 for this no frills, glistening roast pork (aka cha siu) over cabbage and rice leaves you with a happy stomach.
Heads up #1, you may have to wait in line but it's worth it. And heads up #2, bring cash.
4. The $8 banh mi from banh mi saigon
📍198 Grand St | Chinatown
Say hello to my favorite banh mi sandwich in the city. Mmmm, she's a beauty from the juicy pork to flavorful pate to crunchy veggies.
This spot ranks high on many folks' (Vietnamese people included) lists for favorite banh mi, and for good reason.
5. The $5 ube banana pudding from baonanas
📍93 E 7th St | East Village
We're thinking the same thing aren't we -- Asian flavors + banana pudding = genius.
What started off as a Jersey City hit (that apparently Bella Hadid approves of) has an East Village location for us to enjoy. Lucky us.
They have a range of flavors including lychee and cookies and cream but you'll always find me ordering the ube (with graham crackers on top, of course!).
6. The $5.99 Thai chicken over rice from Gai Kitchen
📍98 Mott St 11B | Chinatown
Ginger specks in the rice, glistening chicken skin, flavorful dipping sauce ...and starting at $5.99 for the Small portion and $8.99 for the Large portion.
And this spot is perfect for all of you indecisive chicken lovers because you can choose from roast, steamed, or fried chicken. Or mix it up!
7. The $2.80 cha siu pineapple bun from mei lah wah
📍64 Bayard St | Chinatown
I'm salivating just looking at this photo. If you've visited a classic Chinese bakery, you've probably eaten a pineapple bun (which fun fact, I had to learn as a child that there isn't actually pineapple in there). And you've probably eaten a roast pork, aka cha siu, bun.
But have you eaten them together?
This is my must-order from the iconic Chinatown staple, but you can't go wrong with the rest of the menu. Just be patient to wait a lil bit for some fresh baked goodness!
8. the $5.50 rice roll special from tonii's fresh rice noodles
📍83 Bayard St | Chinatown
After you check out Mei Lah Wah, a few doors down you'll find another Chinatown staple. Tonii's puts their mark on rice rolls, aka cheung fun (one of my dim sum favorites), and with their special you'll get shrimp and pork. Mmmm.
Promise me you won't be shy with the sauce toppings!
9. The $8 large plate from punjabi deli
📍114 E 1st St | Lower East Side
What started as a favorite spot for taxi drivers has now turned into a viral LES food destination. You may not visit buffet bars in tiny bodega-like shops often (I don't) but this is one to check out.
And you may need multiple trips to try everything behind the glass counter.
10. The $2.50 onigiri from yaya tea
📍Locations across NYC: 3 in Manhattan, 1 in Brooklyn, 1 in Queens
I like to think that these are the people's onigiri. When I posted about my go-to onigiri on Instagram a few months ago, I immediately received a flood of comments saying I was not doing it right and needed to visit Yaya Tea instead.
Luckily, we now have this shared knowledge from the community and our stomachs and wallets are ever the happier. The perfect portable snack in the form of the universe's strongest shape: le triangle.