The Real Thing
Look a little harder to find authentic ethnic cuisine “I don’t know if people know we’re here or other restaurants like Rasa Ria and Thai Cuisine,” Kane says. “We’re not as busy as the chain restaurant across the street at dinnertime, and our food is really unique and delicious. It’s frustrating to see.” What to try There are many authentic ethnic food options in the greater Kalamazoo area (see below). We’ve asked a few of these eateries to suggest one of their most authentic dishes.
The Ceviche de Pescado, Peruvian, El Inka
Local authentic ethnic food choices include Beef Rendang, above, a Malaysian dish; a Peruvian presentation of ceviche, right; and Larb, opposite page, a Thai dish served cold.
ilvia Kane and her family wanted authentic Peruvian food. The problem: They live in Kalamazoo. “We used to have to drive three hours to eat Peruvian food, ” Kane says. So she and her husband, Erin, opened El Inka, an authentic Peruvian restaurant at 563 N. Drake Road, and now people drive long distances to eat at El Inka, Kane says. The Kanes are hardly alone in their desire for authentic ethnic cuisine. It’s loved by foodies across the country. Every major food publication and network, from Bon Appétit to the Food Network, compiles “best” lists of authentic ethnic restaurants for cities from San Francisco to Brooklyn. “Authentic,” “traditional” and “ethnic” are all terms used to refer to foods prepared in the style or tradition of a specific culture or country. There’s a lot of debate about what authenticity or ethnicity means, but, for the most part, authentic food is usually un-Americanized food cooked by someone who has intimate knowledge of the region from which the dishes originate. While a restaurant may says it’s authentic, most restaurants aren’t fully devoted to the taste of one country — they often combine tastes and ingredients from different countries or regions. Finding that truly authentic ethnic restaurant can be a bit tricky because many, like El Inka or El Gallo Blanco, at 2838 Portage St., tend not to be as visible or well promoted as their national chain counterparts. 16 | Encore NOVEMBER 2014
Many countries and cultures claim ceviche, a fresh seafood dish made with citrus and chili, but the Peruvians not only claim they originated it 2,000 years ago, but have a national holiday devoted to it. Not every ceviche is like another, and Kane says a Peruvian ceviche is especially distinct. “Whereas in other countries, a ceviche might marinate for as long as five days, our ceviche only marinates for five minutes,” she
Local Guide to Authentic Ethnic Food Here is a sampling of local restaurants serving food that truly represents the place from where it originates: CHINESE Hunan Gardens 5059 W. Main St. (269) 373-1188 7157 W. Q Ave. (269) 353-5900 BRITISH London Grill 214 E. Michigan Ave. (269) 381-9212
Saffron Indian Cuisine 1710 W. Main St. (269) 381-9898 LEBANESE Shawarma King 1441 S. Drake Road (269) 375-3900 MALAYSIAN Rasa Ria 1921 W. Main St. (269) 381-0788
INDIAN Cumin Indian Cuisine MEXICAN 3321 Stadium Drive El Gallo Blanco (269) 372-6900 2838 Portage St. (269) 382-7020 Indian Cuisine 600 Romence Road (269) 324-4886
MIDDLE EASTERN Zooroona 1710 W. Main St. (269) 382-4444 THAI Bangkok Flavor 5455 Gull Road (269) 226-9341 Thai Cuisine 310 N. Drake Road (269) 344-1451 A Thai Café 7089 S. Westnedge Ave. (269) 323-3099