I have always been open to trying all sorts of food since I was young. My dad is the one that inspired me to try all types of food because he was always out adventuring in the food world. He always had restaurants that we should go to, and he has honestly been to almost every restaurant in the Chicagoland area. You can ask him about any restaurant, and he has been there. Since he is a major foodie, he always takes my family and I to different restaurants of any culture, and I get a taste of so many different cultures, no pun intended.
Food is the gateway to learning about a new culture. You get to learn about the cooking styles that are used, and the different influences of that culture. I am South Indian, so I get to eat many different tropical influenced items. We use coconut in most of our dishes and various different spices. When I go to Puerto Rican or Cuban restaurants, I can taste the similarities between my culture and the Puerto Rican and Cuban culture. We use similar ingredients such as Plantain and Yuca. Along with that, I can taste some Portuguese influences in South Indian food as well, because of the Portuguese men that came to India years ago.
In this article, I am going to leave a list of must try food/restaurants for everyone. I have places in Chicago and some other cities since I have traveled to a few places. Even if you can’t find the exact restaurants I am listing, you can always look up a place near you that has that certain style of food. I believe everyone needs to try a taste of many different cultures. Eating the same type of food every day will not enhance your taste buds. Trying new foods will accustom your taste buds to various different flavors. You can even increase your spice tolerance. If you ever meet someone from another culture, and you have tried food from that culture, you can instantly make a connection with that person over food. I’ve done this many times.
Here are some different restaurants and foods to try:
Try the dolsot bibimbap. This is one of my favorite dishes of all time. This dish comes in a hot pot, and it has many different ingredients in it. There is rice, kimchi, carrots, bean sprouts, mushrooms, meat, egg, and many other items. To add flavor to this, they give you a sauce that is honestly so amazing, it makes the dish. You mix all of these ingredients together and it is so tasty. Hands down this is my favorite Korean dish.
Ingredient: Bulgogi. This is a grilled marinated beef that you can add in your dolsot bibimbap, or have as a main dish with sides. This meat has so much flavor, and I recommend it to everyone.
Restaurant: Ttowa, located in downtown Arlington Heights, IL. This is located in the suburbs close to the Chicago. I love going here with my family, and we go often. The owner is very friendly and he will recognize you once you start going there often. He knows my whole family and I now since we have been going here for a few years. They have very good service and very good food.
Try the Jibarito. This is my favorite Puerto Rican dish. It is a plantain sandwich, and it is a delicious guilty pleasure. The plantains are deep fried and used in place of buns or bread. In the middle, you can choose a meat such as steak, chicken, or pork. They place a slice of American white cheese on this and put other ingredients such as tomatoes and lettuce. Usually, they put garlic oil on the plantain, or give you a side of it to put it on your sandwich. This is a greasy, yet very island/Caribbean deep fried pleasure. I have been to Puerto Rico, so ever since then my family was inspired to make and have more Puerto Rican food. My parents have made jibaritos at home too.
Another thing to try is Lechon. This is a slow roasted pork that is very juicy and flavorful. They usually give you a side of Puerto Rican rice with this. Puerto Rican rice is delicious, it is very flavorful and contains pigeon beans, which are little circular beans.
Restaurant: La Cocina Boricua de la Familia Galarza, located in Bucktown, Chicago. This is one of the best Puerto Rican spots I’ve tried in the city. It is family owned, and the food is on point. They have great service as well.
- Try the medianoche sandwich. This is a classic Cuban sandwich that is worth the try. It contains roasted pork, ham, swiss cheese, and other ingredients. The bread is sweet, and this is what makes the medianoche different from the regular Cuban sandwich.
Also, try the Yuca Frita. This is deep fried cassava served with some sort of dipping sauce. Similar to fries, but this is island style.
Restaurant: Taste of Cuba Cafe, located in Lincolnwood, IL. This is a small restaurant, that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is one of those places where you can become a regular, and everyone working there will know you. It has great food and service, and it has a very homey feeling. I highly recommend going here.
One word. Pho. You have most likely heard of this, and probably do not pronounce it right either. It is the famous Vietnamese soup, and even though it is a basic staple of Vietnamese cuisine, it is still a must have. This soup actually has a range of varieties that you can try. It just depends on what ingredients you prefer in it. The main ingredient that makes this soup is the broth which is very tasty and flavorful, with rice noodles, meat, and fresh vegetables. It might not sound exciting, but it is tasty.
Spring rolls are also a basic staple, but worth the try. It is easy to make at home as well and super healthy. It is delicious and it is basically all veggies. It is basically various veggies wrapped in rice paper, served with peanut sauce. I always feel super healthy eating these, and it is still delicious.
Restaurant: Dung Gia, located in downtown Des Plaines, IL. This restaurant has various types of Pho to try, the menu is never ending. The food is also authentic and delicious as well.
Mexican food is something I bet that most people have had. However, I prefer the authentic Mexican dishes over the basic things most people get like burritos, quesadillas, and tacos. I’d say to get a real taste of Mexico, try tamales. These are always delicious. Many places do not serve these every single day because it is a process to make them. However, that’s how you know it’s the real deal. They are usually only a dollar or two at most places, and I love buying them in bulk.
The best Mexican restaurant I have been to is located in Santa Barbara. I visited California a few years ago, but I still remember how amazing this food was to this day. It is a family owned place, and it is so good that there are people lined up out the door to get some. It is a fast food sort of feel. This place is called Los Agaves, on Milpas street in Santa Barbara, CA. If you are in California or ever go there, please try this place. I had the most amazing enchilada I’ve tried at this place. It was covered in this spicy mango sauce and It was honestly mouth watering. I beg everyone to go here at least once in your lifetime.
I have been to Costa Rica, and all the food there was amazing. The food was so fresh, and I felt healthy eating anything there. They have fresh fish dishes, amazing rice, and beans too. Unfortunately, I haven’t been to any Costa Rican restaurants since I visited Costa Rica, but if you have a chance, just Yelp some Costa Rican restaurants in the area, or go to Costa Rica if you are able to. I would say it is worth it. Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful places with beautiful food as well.
Gallo Pinto is Costa Rican rice, and this is a must have. It is traditional rice and beans with other ingredients, and it is addicting. I would have this every single day in Costa Rica.
Something else I’ve tried there was fish that was steamed in a banana leaf.This is a Costa Rican tamale. I was fortunate enough to try this dish at a Costa Rican home. My family and I took a bird watching tour, and the tour guide took us to a lady’s home to try some authentic homemade Costa Rican food.
One restaurant that you should try is Suinik, located in Glenview, IL. This is sort of a Chipotle of Armenian food. It is also a small family owned restaurant with great food.
Recently, I just tried Afghan cuisine at Kabul House, located in Skokie, IL. I personally loved all the dishes I have tried here. I recommend everyone to try Afghan food. Try the Mantoo. These are dumplings filled with beef, covered in yogurt sauce. These are addicting and delicious.
I am going to stop my list right here, however, these are not the only food I recommend you to try. I could keep going but this article will be way too long. These are just a few of my favorite cuisines, and I am yet to try even more. I want to try more European food and African food. I am on a food adventure almost every week, so I will be trying more cuisines. The best thing to do is watch Food Network or Cooking Channel shows that highlight must try cuisines and restaurants. Even Travel Channel is great to watch to discover new foods. I grew up watching Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern, and they inspired me to try new things also.
Overall, I personally love to try foods from different cultures. I am a very open minded person, so I am not really a picky eater. This comes in handy because I always find something I like on any menu. I believe everyone should open up their minds to trying new foods instead of refusing to try it because of how it sounds. Don’t refuse to try sushi because they use raw fish. You don’t know how amazing raw fish is until you try it. Don’t refuse to try a Jibarito because you do not want a banana sandwich. Plantain is different from banana, and when it is deep fried, it is a great substitute for bread. You never know how amazing something tastes until you try it. Trying new cuisines is like traveling to another country. Food unites people and opens up your mind to knowing more about another culture.