Food Issue - 10 ethnic dishes to eat before you die

Wednesday October 21, 2009 04:00 am EDT

Beef short ribs (Kalbi) at Chosun Ok: For Korean barbecue, there are three criteria that separate the men from the boys: The restaurant must use charcoal instead of gas or electric grills; the marinade has to be balanced; and the panchan (side items) should be plentiful and fresh. This quirky restaurant gets all three right every time. 5865 Buford Highway, Doraville. 770-452-1821.

Gordita at Gordita's La Rancherita: The restaurant's namesake dish rivals any version you'd get in Mexico. Instead of a full circle, the cook serves a big half-moon of fresh masa slit open like a loaf of pita and stuffed with creamy refried beans, shredded iceberg lettuce and gobs of salty queso fresco. The shell is crisp, but thick enough to retain a thin layer of soft masa for textural wow factor. 2055 Beaver Ruin Road, Norcross. 678-206-0107.

Baby pork belly at Honey Pig: The abundance of courses and dishes at this unique Korean spot will floor the most gluttonous stomachs. The signature "honey pig" or baby pork belly is cooked on a butter-soaked cast-iron dome, and is pure fatty and pork-y goodness. Wrap it up with a smear of bean paste on a crisp lettuce leaf and you're in pig heaven. 3473 Old Norcross Road, Duluth. 770-476-9292.

Sesame paste noodles at Chef Liu: While the soup dumplings – when good – are a cult favorite, the sesame paste noodles are a consistent guilty pleasure. Fat and chewy noodles coated with a thick layer of nutty sesame-based sauce masterfully intermingle sweet and salty with a bright burst of crunchy julienned cucumber. 5221 Buford Highway (Pine Tree Plaza). 770-936-0532.

Barbecued pork bahn mi from Quoc Huong Banh Mi Fast Food: Watching the staff move at the hummingbird speed is part of the fun as you wait for your bahn mi (a Vietnamese sandwich served on crusty French bread). The bread is stuffed with barbecue pork, pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro and a thin slice of pork pate. Get the version with egg for an absolute assault on your palate's pleasure zones. 5150 Buford Highway. 770-936-0605.

Salvadorian-style fried chicken at Rincon Latino: The pupusas get the press at this Central American restaurant, but the fried chicken is the real must-have. The kitchen marinates the chicken, and scores it like a Mexican pork rind before frying it to a golden crisp. Mounds of beans and rice and immense handmade tortillas accompany the dish. 5055 Buford Highway, Doraville. 770-936-8181.

Chef's Chirashi at Sushi House Hayakawa: Not all sushi rice is created equal. And it's chef/owner Atsushi "Art" Hayakawa's perfectly vinegary and slightly warm sushi rice that elevates this rice bowl topped with impeccable sashimi from good to legendary. 5979 Buford Highway. 770-986-0010. www.atlantasushibar.com.

Tlayuda at Taqueria La Oaxaqueña: At this recently relocated Mexican powerhouse, head straight for the seldom-found tlayuda, a pizza-sized tortilla that's crunchy and covered in shreds of chewy cheese, spiffy ground chorizo, fresh tomato, sliced jalapeños and more. The dish, a specialty from the state of Oaxaca in Mexico, is large enough for two or three people, so come hungry (or bring some friends). 605 Mt. Zion Road. 770-960-3010. www.taquerialaoaxaquena.com.

Fish in hot oil at Tasty China: Through all of its chefs, this unique Szechuan restaurant has maintained an impressive level of quality. The fish in hot oil is the most expressive of the cuisine's qualities. Silken tofu and confit-like white fish are submerged in red oil infused with the uniquely numbing heat of Sichuan peppercorns. It is served in a large, white bowl crowned with green onions and ground chilies. It is at once delicate, decadent and deliciously dangerous. 585 Franklin Road, Marietta. 770-419-9849.

Tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen at Yakitori Jinbei: Although the chef/owner recently passed away, his legacy as an exceptional ramen-ya lives on in the magical broth of his tonkotsu ramen. The creamy broth, thickened with pork and chicken bones, is filled with springy and chewy ramen egg noodles, slices of thin pork, dark green seaweed and finely minced green onions. It's pure love in a bowl. 2421 Cobb Parkway, Smyrna. 770-818-9215. www.yakitorirestaurant.com.


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