It’s a Thursday evening, you’ve just finished work and don’t have dinner plans, and you’re hungry. You grab your phone and place your normal takeout order at the local Chinese restaurant. You enjoy the meal of beef with broccoli, fried rice, and top it off with a fortune cookie, which reads, “The world is a big place – enjoy it.” That gets you thinking about how huge and diverse of a continent Asia is, and that maybe next week’s takeout could switch things up a bit.
In this article we will talk about several great places to get takeout, but not from the Asian countries you might expect. Let’s take a little field trip to Asia, traveling from west to east, starting with:
Kavsar in Mt. Washington offers halal food from Uzbekistan. If you’re like me and you didn’t know, the word halal in Arabic means permissible, and halal food is food that adheres to Islamic law, as defined in the Koran. During my last visit, I tried several items, the first one being sweet pancakes, with the option of fillings being cottage cheese or cherries in jelly. I love beets and had to order the borscht, which is a traditional Russian soup made with beets, cabbage, beef, potato and carrots in a meat broth.
Oftentimes, I enjoy sampling the most traditional or quintessential dish when visiting a restaurant in which the cuisine is not familiar to me, so that’s why I chose the Uzbek plov as my entree, a rice dish with beef and carrots, garnished with green onion. It reminded me of Spanish paella. Since baklava was on the menu, I had to get it for dessert. I’m a sucker for the buttery, flaky dough and the sweet honey.
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Afghan Kabab House in Carnegie is New York-style Afghan cuisine, which started off as a mobile food cart in Oakland. All their meats are 100% certified halal. Recently a friend and I ordered from here and decided upon a dinner of all appetizers, which is truly a dream come true for me! Here’s what we had:
Mantu: steamed dumplings filled with ground beef, onions and herbs
Bolani: flatbread stuffed with potatoes and leeks
Burani badanjan: Afghan eggplants cooked with tomato (my personal favorite)
Chicken sambosa: fried pastry filled with chicken
Tandoori wings: One has the option of fried, clay oven-baked, or flame-grilled, and we chose baked. These were fall-off-the-bone tender.
Mast-e-khiar: A mixture of yogurt and cucumber that we used as a condiment.
Speaking of condiments, they are generous with those, providing the choice of cilantro sauce, house white sauce or hot sauce with virtually every dish.
If you’ve never had Pakistani food, Kabab & Curry on Banksville Road would be the perfect place for you to try it out. Samosa Chaat would be a great place to start for an appetizer. Samosas are similar to empanadas, and chaat is a samosa-based street snack. You will get a little bit of sweet, spicy, and savory in this dish. Biryani is another popular menu item, and actually a Persian dish of layered rice and meat slow-cooked with Indian herbs and spices.
Other entrees that might pique your interest include palak Paneer, which is spinach and Indian cheese, Chicken Jalfrezi, Indian stir fry, Dahl Lentils and Lamb Korma, which is a dish from the Mughal empire invented for the inauguration of the Taj Mahal. If you’re on the fence about Pakistani food and want to try something more familiar, opt for the Chicken Tikka Masala pizza. Finish the meal with Kheer, Indian rice pudding, or, my favorite, Gulab Jaman, rose-infused balls of milk solids fried and then soaked in simple syrup.
If you’re craving food from northern and southern India, head down the road to Mintt Indian Cuisine for some of the best chicken tikka masala you’ll ever have. Pair it with garlic naan and you’ve got a perfect match. Mintt’s menu is so expansive that you will always have something new to try. You can start off with some appetizers like samosa, baby corn or vegetable Manchurian, or paneer 65, which is crispy fried paneer chunks sauteed and seasoned in a special spiced masala. Try something from their tandoori offerings like a kabab platter. They have chicken, lamb, goat and seafood. End the meal with mango kulfi, an Indian ice cream.
Noodlehead in Shadyside features noodle dishes “inspired by the street markets of Thailand.” Order a snack first of crispy veggie spring rolls or pork belly steam buns, then try out Street Noodle 1 with rice noodles, Thai fried chicken, bok choy, bean sprouts and cilantro. With this unpredictable Pittsburgh weather, you never know when it might be a soup day, so warm up with Sukothai or Love Boat, thin rice noodles, thin-sliced beef, bean sprouts, cilantro, bok choy, basiland galangal. I’m a sucker for Pad See Ew, which has big flat rice noodles, egg, broccoli, napa cabbage and sweet black soy sauce. Important things to note: it is cash only, and takeout order can only be done online or in person. Noodlehead does not have a phone.
Golden Pig in Cecil embodies the term “hidden gem.” Driving down Millers Run Road in Cecil Township, it kind of sneaks up on you. A year and a half ago, friends and I ordered almost everything on the menu and enjoyed sampling noodle dishes, shrimp, kimchi and ramen. We ate outside at one of the few picnic tables and were very proud of our stack of takeout containers at the end of the meal. Some of the standouts included the Korean pancake, a steaming bowl of ramen noodles, bulgogi beef served with kimchi and rice, buldak, which is a chicken dish in a spicy sauce, and jap chae or sweet potato noodles.
Bonus Wildcard – East Asia
The suburbs get a bad rap for the predominance of chain restaurants, but head out to Thai Foon in Robinson to be pleasantly surprised. The website describes offerings as East Asian cuisine from Thailand, Vietman, China, Korea and Japan. There is guaranteed to be something to suit everyone’s palate, but allow me to make some suggestions. You must start with the crab rangoons – in my humble but valid opinion, they are some of the best in the city. I also have to mention that their General Tso chicken is fantastic. For something a bit different, try the honey coated walnut with your choice of protein – it’s a sweet, creamy sauce with glazed walnuts. I’m a big fan of sweet and savory flavor combinations, so this is always a go-to. They also offer pad Thai, curries, Indonesian fried rice, Pho and drunken noodles.
I hope you enjoyed our field trip to the diverse continent of Asia. Did you take notes? Where are you going for next week’s takeout?