Pan-fried soup dumplings at Shanghai Taste
It's a soup dumpling. It’s a Chinese pork bun. It’s both at this Rockville dining destination, where the messy specialty comes drizzled with a ginger-black vinegar condiment. At once crusty, meaty and soupy, the appetizer is available only Saturday and Sunday, so save your pennies during the week and prepare to slurp your way to happiness.
$7.25 for six. 1121 Nelson St., Rockville. 301-279-0806.
Pao Bhaji at Bindaas
Don’t fooled by this dish’s sloppy appearance: Although it looks thrown together, it’s well thought out. Chef Vikram Sunderam combines a rotating mix of vegetables that may include cauliflower, carrots, peas and potatoes with onions, tomatoes and cumin, black pepper, red chile and black salt. The mixture is mashed into a pulpy stew and served with buttered Parker House rolls that you’re meant to treat as a utensil.
$10. 3309 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202- 244-6550; 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-516-4326. bindaasdc.com.
Chahan at Izakaya Seki
This Chinese-inspired dish is made with short-grain fried rice flavored with shiso leaves, sake, sesame oil and crushed garlic chips. Although the ingredients are straightforward, the combination is fragrant, loaded with flavor and sticks to your ribs. It's the ideal sidekick for just about any dish at this Japanese den, or great on its own.
$9.50. 1117 V St. NW. 202-588-5841. sekidc.com.
Gordita carnitas at El Sol Restaurante & Tequileria
The gordita at El Sol stars a chewy masa with a crackly exterior, which is necessary to contain the soggy tangle of meaty filling. Made with slow-cooked pork, lard, garlic, bay leave, oranges, evaporated milk and cactus paddles, the contents are garnished with cilantro and fresh cheese. You’ll be thinking of it long after your last bite.
$5. 1227 11th St. NW. 202-815-4789. elsol-dc.com.
Carolina on my Mind at Federalist Pig
Part sandwich, part marvel, this gravity-defying dish keeps its shape despite being loaded with hunks of pork and fried skin. The teetering combination arrives dripping with juice and is topped with slaw. Held together only by a pillowy sesame bun, the Carolina on my Mind is packed with flavor and a variety of textures that make every bite a surprise.
$9.50. 1654 Columbia Rd. NW. 202-827-4400. federalistpig.com.
Frito Pie from Meats and Foods
Does it require heaps of culinary prowess? Not exactly. But because it’s made with from-scratch chili, this pile of corn chips, cheddar, green onions and beef deserves your attention. It’s a gourmet take on the nostalgic junk food dish and will satisfy anyone who grew up on the treat in the South.
$6. 247 Florida Ave. NW. meatsandfoods.com.
Bun Bo Hue at Mi La Cay
This soup brings the meat. The rich broth is made with pork and beef and infused with lemon grass and a funky fermented shrimp paste. It’s loaded with thick rice noodles, slices of brisket, Vietnamese ham, meaty ham hock and congealed pig’s blood — which can be compared to a savory, firm tofu. It’s garnished with sprouts, lime, coriander, jalapeño, onion, scallion, shredded lettuce and red cabbage.
$8.95. 2409 University Blvd. W., Wheaton. 301-929-2822.
Shouk Burger at Shouk
Unlike your garden variety veggie burger, Shouk's does not fall apart or lack flavor. The savory patty is made with healthful chickpeas, black beans, lentils, mushrooms, cauliflower and beets. Condiments including tahini, pickled turnips, arugula and charred onions make it even more substantial. Served on a thick pita, the dish won’t leave you hungry.
$9.75. 655 K St. NW. 202-652-1464. shouk.com.