It’s fitting that the Chinatown squat that once housed Hung Far Low, bastion of bad Asian food and hard drinking, is now home to Ping, bastion of very good Southeast Asian street and bar food, and its own fair share of hard-drinking Jinro and beer guzzlers. Pok Pok’s elegantly ramshackle sister operation branches out from Thai dishes to highlight vividly spiced and sauced plates from neighbors like Vietnam and Malaysia, with a big list of grilled skewers at its heart. Ping gets a lot of buzz, both good and meh, for its out-of-the-ordinary offerings, from liver and heart skewers to quail eggs wrapped in bacon. But don’t overlook the “normal” stuff. The lime-zingy baby octopus and grilled pork-collar skewers—peppery, juicy, char-crunchy bits of pig marinated in ginger, honey and soy—are both habit-forming. Despite the fact Ping’s street food costs sextuple what the original country would bill, this fun spot’s the cheapest trip to Southeast Asia you’ll ever take. All that’s missing (thankfully) is the humidity and uncomfortable, ankle-high plastic stools street vendors are so partial to.
Order this: Give the server $20 and ask ’em to choose a selection of skewers, from funky Thai fish balls to fish-saucy Viet short ribs. And order some sticky rice to dip in those amazing sauces.
Best deal: Chinese tea eggs. Kuaytiaw pet pha lo, a humongo bowl of aromatic comfort in the form of thick rice noodles, stewed duck leg and mustard greens, flecked with a dynamite sour yellow chile dip.
I’ll pass: The Malaysian-Indian lamb curry soup’s purported “lamb riblets” are actually “lamb bones bereft of meat and flavor.”