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Food and Drink Features

Foreign fare

Let your taste buds experience authentic international cuisine without ever leaving the 405.

Christina Nihira February 1st, 2012

International intrigue looms large at several Oklahoma City dining locales. Fortunately, there is no need for a passport to embark on this culinary adventure. Simply let your palate exhibit wanderlust for some remarkably unusual but tasty dishes.

Make the Far East your first stop at Fung’s Kitchen, 3231 N. Classen Blvd., which serves seven days a week everything Chinese. Named for the Chinese city of Fung, this is a chance to try authentic items cooked fresh to order (note: no buffet here). They offer two menus: One caters more to typical American tastes, while the other reflects traditional Chinese selections.

Duck lovers should indulge in the Peking duck, served with three courses. Don’t be alarmed when you see the ducks hanging in the glass case near the front entry. While it’s a sight that you won’t see in most other restaurants in town, this is the classic way the duck is displayed in China. A whole order accommodates 10 people for $35.95.

Another delicacy is duck tongue ($14.95). It is deep-fried or stir-fried in jalapeño oil. The tongue is crispy and well-seasoned, balanced perfectly with pepper and salt.

Seafood comes into the picture, too. Shark fin and crab meat soup is one of the house specialties. This soup combines the shark’s colorful flavor with the crab meat’s heartiness. Because of its rarity, the price is based on seasonal availability and starts at $43.95 for a portion that feeds about four people.

Moving south to Malaysian cuisine, Banana Island, 1117 N.W. 25th, offers a fresh dining approach. Manager Michael He believes this lighter fare is a nice alternative to heavier, greasier meals.

right, Lamb curry and pineapple shrimp at Banana Island.

“We make healthy food,” he said. “We use fresh mango with chicken, shrimp, beef [plus] pineapples and coconut milk (for our dishes).”

He explained that Malaysian cookery is based on a mixture of influences from nearby countries such as India, Thailand, Indonesia and China. Thai sauces tend to be bit spicier in contrast to some of the Malaysian ones, which have a little kick but also have hints of tartness.

There are more than a dozen entrée choices that include chicken, beef, lamb, seafood and vegetables.

The beef or lamb randang ($14) is a standout. The plate is simmered with tender pieces of meat, cinnamon, cloves and lemon grass in coconut milk. The food isn’t highly manipulated because there are no oils and MSG, but it’s thriving with zest.

Dessert is light and made with a cultural flare. Try the bubor cha cha ($1.50). Yams and sweet potatoes are steamed, then added to a coconut milk soup and sweetened with palm sugar.

Queen of Sheeba, 2308 N. MacArthur, virtually transports diners to the distant streets of Addis Ababa. Get ready to pass the injera (a moist bread) and inhale a powerful bouquet of spices at this most unassuming Ethiopian restaurant located in a strip mall.

Owners Begib and Mimi Younis are terrific about sharing the cultural customs of their homeland. When dining in the African nation, they explain, the ritual of breaking injera and sharing food from a common plate displays the ties of loyalty and friendship.

Various dishes are decoratively placed around injera. Subsequently, diners tear off pieces of the injera to scoop up mouthfuls of these family-style dishes.

right, Brunch at LaBaguette

Akin to a soft flatbread, injera substitutes for silverware and is the foundation of Ethiopian meals.

Hearty stews make up the majority of the meat dishes. The slow-cooked doro wat ($10.95), chicken stewed in red pepper sauce and clarified butter to achieve the powerful flavor, is a standard offering.

Plenty of vegetarian dishes are presented, too.

Try the salad. The komodor fetfet ($10.95) is a cold, tangy combination of vine-ripened tomatoes, garlic, onions and green pepper. On the fiery side, try the lentils in the spicy berbere sauce ($10.95).

“Everybody loves it,” said chef Mimi Younis. “People have gone around the world and tried the lentils (but it’s not the same). I cook it different and people come to eat it.”

Meat- and veggie-eaters will both be satisfied with the sampler meal.

Drinking can be a bit of an adventure, too. Sip on the honey wine. A variety is produced especially for the restaurant, made from raw honey before it’s cooked with hops and a white wine. This is not listed on the menu, so be sure to ask for it.

Mimi recommends taking time for the coffee ceremony. The cost is $3.50 per person and lasts 45 minutes.

“We brew for them Ethiopian coffee in a clay pot,” said Mimi. “We have small little cups for each person. The most important thing about it is family and friends gathering.”

Photos by Shannon Cornman

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