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If there’s one thing the best food bloggers can tell you, it’s that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a quality meal – you just have to know where to look. We ask some of our favourite foodies about their go-to spots for great eats that cost less than twenty bucks. Who ever said being smart with your finances meant never treating yourself?

Australia and New Zealand

ADELAIDE – Lawash Bakery & Kebab Shop
“Slightly west of the CBD, Lawash is one of Adelaide’s best secrets. Serving some of the best chargrilled kebabs in the state, with fresh, on-site baked bread, it’s frequented both day and night. The best value meal here is their $7.50 wraps with chicken or lamb kebab. If you’re really hungry, grab the Alfam with rice – a chargrilled 1/2 chicken with rice, sauce and salad for $12. Add fresh naan bread for a measly 70c, and you’re set.”
– Nathan Morelli of onthechoppingboard.com

ADELAIDE – Chick Chick Boom
“Nestled in a quiet arcade in Adelaide city, CCB is all about super crispy and delicious Southern-style fried chicken. It’s a freshly fried, hands-on approach here, resulting in simple but amazing food. For $10, the Fried Chicken Burger should be everyone’s go-to, and paired with the decadently oozy mac’n’cheese croquettes for $6, this will seal the tasty deal!”
– Amanda Kozuch of onthechoppingboard.com

MELBOURNE – Shop Ramen
“Shop Ramen is a true gem for ramen enthusiasts. With a variety of dishes to suit all, I love the Vegetarian Tofu Ramen. The broth is heaped with all the best – beautiful miso broth, a generous serving of noodles and a mix of the ideal vegetables. It hits the spot every time! Be prepared to wait for a table. It’s a busy little shop, and for good reason.”
– Taline Gabrielian of hippielane.com.au 

MELBOURNE – Nhu Lan
“Vietnamese pork rolls, or banh mi, are arguably dime-a-dozen in Footscray, but the best place for banh mi is Nhu Lan. You can easily spot it on Barkly Street – it’s the place with the crowds and the illegally parked cars outside its shopfront. Grab their signature BBQ pork roll (or if you’re vegetarian, the tofu roll), make sure you add pâté and chilli inside, and you’ll still have change from $5. Note it’s cash only, and don’t be afraid to jostle for position and yell your order at one of the servers.”
– Joyce Watts of melhotornot.com

MELBOURNE – Pho Tam
“My Vietnamese friends recommend the beef pho from Pho Tam, with its aromatic and clean-tasting broth, wafer-thin meat and slippery noodles. Each bowl is accompanied by the classic bean sprouts, Thai basil, raw onion lemon and chilli, and it costs just $10. It’s calmer than a lot of the restaurants on the main strip on Barkly Street, so a good place for a quiet meal.”
– Joyce Watts of melhotornot.com

[Photos: Tiwari Tea House, courtesy Joyce Watts]

MELBOURNE – Tiwari Tea House
“There are so many Indian restaurants in West Footscray that it’s hard to choose. I like Tiwari Tea House, where the food is handmade with care and tea-brewing is raised to an art. I recommend the lunchtime thali – for only $14.95 you receive rice, paratha and a range of small curries and sauces (I don’t even bother to find out what they are, they’re all delicious). The pomegranate tea is delicious, too, and you’ll still have change from $20.”
– Joyce Watts of melhotornot.com

SYDNEY – Malay Chinese
“Rare is the day when there isn’t a queue at least thirty people deep extending out the door and onto the street at Malay Chinese. When people line up even in the sweltering summer heat for a bowl of fiery laksa, you know you’ve found the best of the best. A huge bowl of gleaming, flavoursome soup, oodles of perfectly cooked noodles and generous toppings, Malay Chinese is a guaranteed hunger buster – and you’ll still get change from a $20 with a drink!”
– Michael Shen of imstillhungry.net 

[Photos: Malay Chinese and Mister Gee Burger Truck, courtesy Michael Shen]

SYDNEY – Mister Gee Burger Truck
“People like to talk about cheap, hidden ‘hole-in the-wall’ gems, but Mister Gee Burger Truck doesn’t even have walls. Sit outside on crates amid the romantic setting of a car wash, with rock music blasting from woofers, and let the magicians at this food truck wow you with some of the best bang-for-your-buck burgers in town. Soft, pillowy brioche buns, perfectly charred beef patties and damn – some of the best secret sauce I’ve had. Pro tip: Get there early, or you’ll be in line for an hour with a grumbling stomach waiting for your guilty fix. But gee, it sure is worth it.”
– Michael Shen of imstillhungry.net 

SYDNEY – Marrickville Pork Roll
“Few dishes will still leave you with change from a fiver, but that’s exactly what the pork rolls from Marrickville Pork Roll promise. A perfectly baked baguette with a crunchy exterior yielding to a wholesome, bready centre is just the start. Add in a ton of pork, pâté, vegetables and a bit of chilli for a fiery kick, this Vietnamese-French creation never fails to disappoint, just as it always succeeds in leaving your wallet unscathed.”
– Michael Shen of imstillhungry.net 

WELLINGTON – The Greek Food Truck
“Want the freshest and most authentic Greek street tood in the antipodes? Look no further than The Greek Food Truck. Run from a converted truck by two partners in food and life, Sophie and George, locals salivate over their fresh halloumi burgers, souvlaki (served with chips inside the wrap like they do in Greece) and silky baklava. With everything under $20, this is healthy, authentic food that will satisfy you every time.”
– Lucy Revill of theresidents.co.nz

[Photos: The Greek Food Truck and Fix And Fogg Toast, courtesy Lucy Revill]

WELLINGTON – Fix And Fogg Toast
“The simplest things in life can be the most magical, like two slices of perfectly prepared toast and peanut butter. Fix and Fogg are a little Wellington hole-in-the-wall peanut butter producer who have got people talking (they even made it to be stocked in the prestigious food hall at Australian department store David Jones – not bad for a company of 3 years!). Fix and Fogg open their little doors to the public between 8am and 2pm each day, serving up smokey chilli peanut butter with pickles, fruit toast peppered with raisins, and good old plain crunchy peanut butter. Starting from $8, you’d be nuts not to try it!”
– Lucy Revill of theresidents.co.nz

WELLINGTON – Burger Liquor
“You simply cannot beat a great burger. Wellington is home to one of the country’s best burger joints, Burger Liquor, serving up great brioche-bun burgers. While there’s plenty to choose from, one mustn’t overlook the classic original standard. At just $11, this burger is an experience in the pleasures of simplicity. Ground Angus beef, pickles, mustard, cheddar and ketchup all marry together in harmony, melting in your mouth. It will leave you drooling, and lusting to experience a repeat offence for months after.”
– Lucy Revill of theresidents.co.nz

Asia

CHENNAI – Anise
“Biriyani, a one-pot dish that has various versions based on where you are in India, has one unique variant served at Anise, the restaurant at the Taj Coromandel Hotel. Priced at about $12 a plate, the Gilli Biriyani (translating to ‘wet’ biriyani) is a much-loved post-party, post-dinner snack among Chennai’s elite. Composed of overcooked rice mixed with rich, spicy gravy and filled with chunks of well-cooked lamb, this a steal considering that it’s served in a 5-star hotel restaurant.”
– Dr. Wasim Mohideen of chennaifoody.com

CHENNAI – Prems Graama Bhojanam
“Prems Graama Bhojanam literally translates to ‘Prem’s Village Food’. With a chatty owner who also doubles as your waiter and your chief knowledge officer, this tiny place in Adyar, Chennai serves millet-based foods of outstanding quality and recreates the village eating atmosphere, right down to no air-conditioning. Every dish – including ‘rice’ varieties – are millet-based, debunking the myth that healthy Indian food is either not possible or not flavourful. The black rice puttu served as dessert is a must-try. For $10, you can almost try one of everything on the small menu.”
– Dr. Wasim Mohideen of chennaifoody.com

CHENNAI – Atho Stalls in North Chennai
“The atho stalls in the streets of North Chennai are any foodie’s delight. At $1, you get a heap of fried, crispy noodles served dunked in a mild soup. You can pour as much soup as you want into the noodles, but to have it in another bowl will cost you …another 50 cents. Throw in another dollar for two pieces of masala muttai – boiled eggs sliced in two and topped with spicy fried onions.”
– Dr. Wasim Mohideen of chennaifoody.com

GOA, Miramar – Carasid
“One of my favourite places in the capital of Goa. Perfect café to stop in for a quick coffee, cupcake and sandwich. Carasid serves all-day breakfast and some lip smacking parathas. My recommendation would be their Pesto Cheese Paratha with a cup of hot ginger tea.”
– Viresh Vazirani of Food of Goa 

GOA, Porvorim – The Yellow Chilli
“A recent addition to Goa’s fine dining restaurants, The Yellow Chilli serves some amazing North Indian food cooked to perfection. I strongly recommend their Lalla Mussa Dal, which is one of the best dals I’ve had. I also love their Chicken Ghee Roast, which is very delicious. A nice ambience to try out Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s signature dishes.”
– Viresh Vazirani of Food of Goa

GOA, Anjuna – Guru Bar & Restaurant 
“A very popular restaurant located at Anjuna Beach in North Goa. I’ve tried their seafood, pizzas and cocktails, and have loved everything they offer. Guru Bar offers a very cosy and relaxed ambience. On the weekends you can catch some live music along with a great view and amazing food.”
– Viresh Vazirani of Food of Goa 

HO CHI MINH CITY – Com Ga Xoi Mo Su Su
“This restaurant offers just one dish: chicken and rice. What makes it so special and unique is how the chicken is cooked. The owner engineered a machine that bathes pieces of chicken under a waterfall of hot oil to crisp up the skin. The result is the most supremely crispy fried chicken we have ever tasted in our lives.”
– JB & Renée Macatulad willflyforfood.net

HONG KONG – Tim Ho Wan
“Tim Ho Wan is arguably the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, serving traditional Hong Kong dim sum that is literally a traffic stopper! You need to plan well to visit the ‘no reservation’ restaurant; make sure you arrive early or face a wait of up to 2 hours! Their specialty is baked bun with BBQ pork, and it’s sensational, but you can get a heap of different options for the family for under USD 20!”
– Anthony Clark of FoodMeUpScotty.com

HONG KONG – Pici
“You’d not normally associate fresh pasta with Hong Kong, but the best orecchiette I’ve had anywhere in the world is in a little ‘no reservations’ restaurant in Wanchai: Pici. Serving a rich and spicy tomato sauce with Italian sausage, I just can’t get enough of the tasty pasta! When I’m feeling indulgent, I also pick up their veal meatballs with tomato sauce. #Heaven.”
– Anthony Clark of FoodMeUpScotty.com

[Photos: Pici, courtesy of Anthony Clark]

HONG KONG – Sun Kwai Heung 
“Tucked into the eastern district of Chai Wan on Hong Kong island, Sun Kwai Heung is by far my favourite char siu (barbeque pork) place in Hong Kong. It takes a while to get there, and the seating is far from comfy, but once you get your generous serving of juicy and sweet char siu and rice for around USD 5, you’ll quickly forget about your surroundings. You can even request which part of the char siu you prefer, and I personally have it with their ginger sauce. It’ll beat any well-known places in town!”
– Gregoire Michaud of gregoiremichaud.com

HONG KONG – Lin Heung Tea House
“One of Hong Kong’s oldest tea houses, it’s my must-go dim sum place for a very authentic Hong Kong experience with a free serving of attitude; if you’re less than 4 people, you’ll find yourself sitting with strangers. The dim sum are served off the trolley, and it turns into a race to get the best ones! If you succeed, try the Siu Mai with Quail Egg along with all the other classic dim sums. You’ll get easily sorted for a nice lunch below USD 15 at Lin Heung. You can also go there in the evening for a nice dinner featuring pork ribs, steamed meat cake or garlic razor clam.”
– Gregoire Michaud of gregoiremichaud.com

[Photos: Left, Sun Kwai Heung courtesy of Miles Heywood. Right, Lin Heung Tea House courtesy Gregoire Michaud]

HONG KONG – BBQ
“BBQ is a small, unpretentious local place, open until very late, where you will find a variety of food, but their main specialty is skewers. USD 15 will get you all sorts of skewers grilled to order, such as the eggplant and bonito flakes, ‘chicken soft bones’, lamb chops and fried squid – all easily washed down with their very affordable draught beer. Be sure to bring good friends, and go early or very late unless you don’t mind waiting for a seat.”
– Gregoire Michaud of gregoiremichaud.com

HONG KONG – Din Tai Fung
“Located on the third floor of a shopping centre in Hong Kong’s neighbourhood of Kowloon, Din Tai Fung is the dim sum restaurant of your dreams. There’s always a crowd outside waiting to be seated, and the food is definitely worth the wait. Dumplings, soups, noodle dishes and more are on the menu, and they’re all excellent – but I have vivid memories of the steamed black truffle and pork Xiao Long Bao, which was luscious, rich and oh-so-flavourful.”
– Mayssam Samaha of Will Travel for Food

[Photo: Sister Curry Bee, courtesy JB & Renée Macatulad]

PENANG – Sister Curry Mee
“If longevity is any indicator of quality, then this humble stall must be one of the best places to eat in Penang.  It’s owned and operated by two sisters who have been serving delicious bowls of curry mee at the same roadside stall since 1946. All smiles as they dole out bowl after bowl, it doesn’t look like they’ll be slowing down anytime soon.”
– JB & Renée Macatulad willflyforfood.net

Looking for more affordable eats around the world? Check out our tips for the Americas, as well as Europe and the Middle East.

What is your experience of local restaurants where you live? Do you find exciting meals for less than the equivalent of US$20?


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