BLUE MANGO, WILLIAMSTOWN
When I moved back to the United States in 2019 after living in Asia for 12 years, I was on a mission to find some authentic Asian food. I heard about Blue Mango from some friends and family and decided to check it out.
While Thai, Chinese, and Japanese cuisine are rarely combined at restaurants in Asia, they are commonly seen cohabiting on menus here. Blue Mango is no exception. This Thai restaurant offers a variety of sushi as well as some Chinese specialty dishes.
Located in Williamstown, this gem is usually filled to the brim with college students and families (pre-pandemic of course).
When getting takeout from Blue Mango, ordering a Thai iced tea is a non-negotiable way to start out your meal. This drink, which is made from condensed milk added to freshly brewed black tea, is indulgently sweet and the perfect beverage to balance out any spicy meal.
Growing up, my mom and I would frequently visit Thailand, where we would eat our way through Bangkok’s floating markets. While no Pad Thai could measure up to that level of authenticity and freshness, Blue Mango comes pretty close. This noodle dish is a fan favorite that will leave you coming back for more. (Pro tip: sprinkle some sugar on top to bring out the flavors as they do in Thailand).
If you’re looking for a hearty and slightly spicy entrée, I would recommend the Massaman Curry. This curry is made from a coconut milk base, which gives it a creamy and silky texture. The roasted peanuts on top give the dish an added layer of richness.
As if all that wasn’t enough food, I also opted for some avocado salmon rolls and a bowl of Tom Yum soup, a Thai hot and sour soup usually cooked with shrimp and hints of lemongrass. If you’re brave enough to handle the heat, you can personalize your dish to a level 4 or 5 spiciness.
Blue Mango, 27 Spring St., Williamstown, 413-458-0004, bluemangothai.com. Appetizers $7-$10, entrees $13-$23.
MARIA ELENA LITTLE ENDARA
KOSHARI MAMA, SOMERVILLE
Midway between Porter Square, in Cambridge, and Union Square, in Somerville, this Egyptian vegan restaurant takes half of its name from a favorite Egyptian dish. Koshari consists of rice and lentils, topped with chickpeas, elbow noodles, and fried onions (tomato sauce, too, if you prefer). The combination may sound like too much. In fact, it’s just right. Substantial as it is (“infantry food,” one member of our party approvingly called it), it also offers varied textures and delicate flavors. A key is the fried onions. “Think caramelized onions to the fourth power,” said another, even more approving member of our group.
The other half of the name? The restaurant is a mother-daughter operation, run by Sahar Ahmed and Dina Fahim.
Other entrees we ordered included torli, a gently flavored vegetable stew featuring chunks of potato, carrots, and zucchini. It comes with white rice and a small salad. So does the moussaka — with plant-based protein substituted for meat. Very hearty. Even better than the moussaka, if you’re an eggplant lover, is the marinated eggplant. Listed as an appetizer, this half stuffed eggplant, wonderfully tender, could be a main dish.
Creamy lentil soup really was creamy, with a smooth, rich texture and excellent flavor. It’s hard to imagine the falafel being improved upon. The pita bread is splendidly thick and chewy. It’s so tasty it could be eaten plain. But it’s that much better with the house muhammara spread over it.
Koshari Mama offers three desserts: rice pudding; om ali, a kind of bread pudding; and konafa, a baked dessert made with shredded phyllo dough. We ordered the last two. Don’t be fooled by the om ali’s unprepossessing appearance. It has a wonderful taste, pleasingly sweet, thanks to plumped raisins, and a luscious texture. The konafa was even better. The combination of phyllo with orange-blossom syrup drizzled on the outside and a sweet custard interior was perfectly balanced.
It’s a mark of both the generous portions here and thoughtfulness of the service that our takeout order of koshari came with an unasked-for but most welcome container of extra fried onions. Also, even on a very cold night, our food was still warm when we opened it at home, a tribute to the care devoted to packaging. Koshari Mama is big on care.
Koshari Mama, 585 Somerville Ave., Somerville. 617-229-9230, www.kosharimama.com. Appetizers $4.50--$8, entrees $10-$18.
PINTXO PINCHO TAPAS BAR, WOBURN
In the Before Times of early 2020, I had just finalized plans for a family trip to Spain that would, in the ensuing months, amuse me for its preposterousness. The most longed-for stops on my itinerary were a passionate flamenco performance — in a cave — and a cozy tapas bar, where we could spend hours drinking shoulder-to-shoulder with locals. Later, this dream vacation montage would look like a highlight reel of recklessness, a postcard from an innocent time when no one thought about indoor air flow or calculated six-foot circumferences or considered the perils of people who project too loudly. I had to let it go.
Now that COVID is threatening my getaway for a third summer in a row — an inconsequential loss in a monumental crisis, I realize — I’m traveling to Spain by palate, if not yet by plane. I have landed in the heart of Woburn, at a restaurant that bills itself the most authentic tapas bar in New England.
Pintxo Pincho is named for the complimentary snacks that are offered with each glass of wine at tapas bars in Spain. I adore this idea, but since I was ordering with the intent of supporting a local restaurant, I did not want to be cheesy and ask for free stuff. I did not order drinks — Dry January — and instead ordered a selection of tapas anchored around a chicken and seafood paella, something I knew my teenagers would eat.
The paella was scrumptious, the chicken succulent and the flavors perfectly balanced. But it was not enormous, making me wish I’d ordered many more tapas. In particular, I should have ordered about five more chorizo croquettes — crispy fried balls with melt-in-your-mouth creamy centers. I honestly could not identify the ingredients that weren’t named — cheese? cream? — and I did not care.
The meat lovers in my house dove into the Chuletitas de Cordero — lamb chops that arrived perfectly medium rare, to my husband’s delight. They were topped with a spicy chimichurri, and though they definitely would have looked better sizzling in the restaurant, they were reportedly delicious. My daughter and I favored the crisp chicken empanadas. A simple but authentic treat was Pan con Tomate, a toasted bread rubbed with garlic and tomato that my son has endeavored to make at home. I ordered asparagus because it seemed essential to get a vegetable on the table (kids). It was delicious, accompanied by a silken, sherry-scented romesco sauce.
It seemed silly to order olives, which were sitting in my fridge, but if it weren’t Dry January and I’d been barside, I would have hunkered down with olives and the cheese plate. Instead, I ordered a chocolate tart that my teenagers devoured before I ever got to taste it. (Sorry, readers. I assume it was good.) And so I will return for date night, in the After Times, and after Dry January. I have already staked out my spot at the bar — the one facing the glass case with the octopus in it, in tempting proximity to a porron, the dangerous-looking wine pourer inviting me to take a long, arcing, sloppy sip.
Pintxo Pincho Tapas Bar, 385 Main St., Woburn, 781-932-1379, https://www.pintxopincho.com. Pintxos, $4-8, Tapas, $5-$19, Paella, $36-$38
Explore the rest of Project Takeout:
- Support your local restaurants | Devra First
- Tell us: What’s your favorite spot to order from?
- A list of readers’ favorite takeout spots
Maria Elena Little Endara can be reached at email@example.com. Mark Feeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert.