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Best Asian food in NYC 2013: Top Thai, Korean and Chinese dishes

Bacon-and-egg fried rice, seafood laksa and grilled galbi top our list of best Asian food of the year.

 (Photograph: Jessica Lin)
Photograph: Jessica Lin

Crunchy coconut rice at Khe-Yo

Fresh hand-grated coconut stars in chef Soulayphet Schwader’s upmarket take on traditional rice balls. Thai jasmine rice—a Lao staple—gets touches of funk and spice from fish sauce and red curry before it’s fried in balls for a crisp exterior. Break apart the orbs—with your hands, in Lao fashion—and mix with slices of homemade kafir-lime sausage and honey-sweetened sambal chili sauce. 157 Duane St between Hudson St and West Broadway (212-587-1089, kheyo.com). $10.—Suzanne Lehrer

 (Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz)
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Khao soi at Pig and Khao

Top Chef-er Leah Cohen uses homemade red curry paste and turmeric-heavy curry powder as the building blocks of this soulful Northern Thai dish. First fried in coconut cream, the curry is then simmered with fish sauce, chicken stock and coconut milk for a deeply flavorful broth base. It’s finished with tender poached chicken thighs, both boiled and fried egg noodles, and a squeeze of lime. House-fermented mustard greens arrive alongside for a pungent kick. 68 Clinton St between Rivington and Stanton Sts (212-920-4485, pigandkhao.com). $16.—Suzanne Lehrer

 (Photograph: Krista Schlueter)
Photograph: Krista Schlueter

Seafood laksa at Aux Epices

The word soup doesn’t do this noodle bowl–curry crossbreed justice. The polished take on the Malaysian street food is equal parts Penang and Provençal, with a fragrant, coconut-rich gravy that’s as hearty as a bouillabaisse and splotched with Far East flavors (ginger, cardamom, chilies). Fat udon (egg, rice and ramen noodles are also available) is netted around tender mussels, shrimp, calamari and whitefish, with a crisp tofu shard piercing through like a shark’s fin. 121 Baxter St between Canal and Hester Sts (212-274-8585, auxepices.com). $12.95.—Christina Izzo

 (Photograph: Todd Coleman)
Photograph: Todd Coleman

Cumin lamb ribs at Lao Dong Bei

These gamey, cumin-crusted slabs are dubbed “Lamb Chop in Xinjiang Style,” but their fat-slicked, fall-apart flesh outs them as ribs. The monster rack is braised until the meat wobbles; coated with thin batter and a barrage of cumin seeds, sesame seeds and ground chili; and then plunged into hot oil. The fried exterior is an earthy, smoky, spicy shroud, its crackly crust a toothsome gateway to the luscious lamb beneath. 44-09 Kissena Blvd at Cherry Ave, Flushing, Queens (718-539-4100). $21.50.—Daniel S. Meyer

 (Photograph: Liz Clayman)
Photograph: Liz Clayman

Benton’s bacon-and-egg fried rice at RedFarm

Dumpling maestro Joe Ng has a bit of a reputation for East-West riffs (pastrami egg rolls, foie gras tarts), and this bright bowl is a worthy addition to the portfolio. He tosses short-grain white rice in a wok with shallots, corn kernels and fat slabs of hickory-smoked bacon from legendary smokehouse Benton’s in Tennessee. Cotton-soft scrambled eggs are woven into the fried rice just before serving. 529 Hudson St between Charles and W 10th Sts (212-792-9700, redfarmnyc.com). $16.—Molly Aronica

 (Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz)
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Laab neuh gae at Uncle Boons

Instead of the traditional chicken or pork, chefs Matt Danzer and Ann Redding go rogue with lamb for this outré larb. The sultry kick of ground Colorado lamb shoulder and chili hits first (and hard), cooled fleetingly by cucumber and mint. Then the familiar Southeast Asian duo of fish sauce and lime begins pulsing back and forth with the heat, brightening the salad with the unmistakable flavors of Thailand. 7 Spring St between Bowery and Elizabeth St (646-370-6650, uncleboons.com). $14.—Daniel S. Meyer

 (Photograph: Loren Wohl)
Photograph: Loren Wohl

Scallion pancake with squid at Hanjan

Most seafood pajeon—a crispy Korean scallion pancake—is filled with more rice-flour batter than vegetables or seafood. But chef Hooni Kim improves the dish with this fork-bait version. Interlaced with batons of whole scallions and fresh local squid rings, and barely held together by the lightly seasoned batter, it’s more a giant, crisp veggie tempura than a floury cake. The squid is meaty and tender, and the green onions are mellow and juicy. The soy dipping sauce spiked with gochugaru (Korean red pepper powder) delivers spicy kick to the fried round. 36 W 26th St between Broadway and Sixth Ave (212-206-7226, hanjan26.com). $16.—Soomin Shon

 (Photograph: Loren Wohl)
Photograph: Loren Wohl

Galbi at Gaonnuri

Top-shelf ingredients—and a stunning 39th-floor perch—puts this sky-high restaurant miles above the rest of its Koreatown counterparts. For his barbecued short ribs, chef Sang Been Woo marinates slices of Black Angus in a garlic-and-soy mixture sweetened by Asian pear. When tossed on the tabletop grill, the fruit’s natural sugars form an exquisite crust around the slips of beautiful, tender beef. 1250 Broadway at 32nd St, 39th floor (212-971-9045, gaonnurinyc.com). $35.—Patty Lee

 (Photograph: Michael Rudin)
Photograph: Michael Rudin

Ca ri ga at Bunker

Jimmy Tu’s Vietnamese chicken curry is milder than its Indian counterpart, but don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security—it’s a no-holds-barred flavor bomb. Marinated in house-made curry paste (turmeric, cloves, cinnamon and more), a superbly succulent bird is braised in kafir-lime-infused coconut cream. Aromatic lemongrass, red chilies and snappy fish sauce add depth; bright cilantro and fried shallots amp things up. 46-63 Metropolitan Ave between Onderdonk and Woodward Aves, Ridgewood, Queens (718-386-4282, bunkervietnamese.com). $15.—Christina Izzo

 (Photograph: Michael Rudin)
Photograph: Michael Rudin

Murgh makhani and garlic naan at Moti Mahal Delux

In its gorgeously rich signature tandoori, chicken breast is stewed in fresh tomatoes and nearly a dozen spices (turmeric, coriander, freshly ground cardamom and bay leaves) for three hours. Amul butter—a salted variety imported from India—imparts a creamy richness to the bowl. Sop up every last drop with pillowy, garlic-studded naan. 1149 First Ave at 63rd St (212-371-3535, motimahaldelux.us). $15.95 and $3.45.—Patty Lee

 (Photograph: Alex Strada)
Photograph: Alex Strada

Khao soi at Pok Pok Ny

Andy Ricker’s stellar curry chicken noodle soup is a fine reprieve from the Food & Drink Award winner’s spicy numbers. Use the plate of accompanying condiments—raw shallots, pickled mustard greens and fragrant cilantro—to enliven the delicate broth, made from gingery curry paste and freshly squeezed coconut milk. Wavy yellow noodles (both boiled and fried) and tender chicken legs fill out the one-pot meal. 127 Columbia St between DeGraw and Kane Sts, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn (718-923-9322, pokpokny.com). $16.—Patty Lee

There’s never been a better time to eat Asian food in NYC. With top-notch Indian, Malaysian and even Laotian joints springing up all over Gotham, you don’t need to set foot outside the five boroughs to take a tour of the continent. Get ready to dig into rice balls, squid pancakes and more in this year’s roundup of standout Asian fare.

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