Yes, that’s my mission, and so far, I’m 4 down, only 76 to go! It all started innocently in January when I learned that my friend, ST, shares a passion for ethnic food. Five minutes later, we were off to Ras Dashen (www.rasdashenchicago.com) on the far north side of Chicago for some spicy Ethiopian food! It had been years since I had the sour-y, spongy injera bread that you pinch off to pick up bites of chicken, vegetables, lentils, exotic Ethiopian cheese (that was yogurt-like and helped quell the flames that were building from all the spice.) Neither sniffling, nor sweating nor sneezing from all hot fiery spices could keep me from stopping. DEEE-lish!
Two weeks later, it was off to Masoulah (www.masoulah.biz) for Persian cuisine (aka known as Irani food). Armed with a bottle of hearty red, we enjoyed it with all manner of kebabs and amazing rice with a sort of crust from the cooking pot that is supposed to be a specialty – it was fantastic. If you go, order ANYTHING with walnut-pomegranate sauce – I’d put it on breakfast cereal if I had any – it’s that good.
Next: up to Devon Avenue for authentic Indian at Hema’s Kitchen (www.hemaskitchen.net), a Chicago stalwart of Indian cuisine. Spicy chicken tikka and lamb korma were accompanied by mild jasmine rice. And of course, we ate too much bread (it’s so damn good). You don’t want to know about the Weight Watchers points in an Indian restaurant (all the ghee – yipes!) – so just go with a group and share. And prepare to smell up your entire office with leftovers for lunch the next day. Bonus: there’s a giant Indian supermarket across the street with exotic, Indian produce, more spices that you’d know what to do with, all sorts of breads – a grocery paradise.
Our next adventure took us East – literally and figuratively – to Chinatown. Seven Treasures (www.seventreasures.com) for noodles. I’ve eaten Dim Sum in San Francisco, but can’t say I’d had real Chinese noodles. We had one in a chicken soup with shrimp dumpling and another dish with noodles and BBQ’ed pork, with bits of scrambled egg. And mini eggrolls. The homemade noodles were amazing and addictive. We ate and ate and our entire bill was $17. Bonus: gift shops galore, with a fantastic selection of Hello Kitty merchandise, not to mention kimonos, colorful rice paper umbrellas, all sorts of slippers and shoes, tea sets, 100 chopsticks for $1.25 – if you need it and it’s Chinese, you can probably find it in Chinatown.
So, for the next 76 ethnic eating adventures, we get to choose from Cuban, Polish, Mexican, Argentinean, Latvian, Turkish, Greek, Moroccan, Spanish, German – oh, the list goes on. Chicago itself is a great training ground for ethnic eating. And if you start practicing at home – which does not require a plane ticket – you might have a leg up when you actually get to a foreign land and its native restaurants. Bon appetit!