10 International Cuisines We Wish We Could Find in Dallas

A couple of weeks ago, we listed the top 10 international dishes in Dallas that you probably haven’t tried yet. Last week, Scott Reitz pointed out our city doesn’t have everything. Here are a few international cuisines, dishes and trends we’d like to see arrive in DFW soon.

1. Sub-Saharan African cuisine. Dallas does have a tiny handful of family-run African restaurants, but about half of them are Ethiopian or Moroccan, and Africa is a huge, diverse continent. DFW has only two or three restaurants covering a region as large as the continental United States, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean Sea combined. Madagascar's food is as far removed from American cuisine as you could possibly get. They have an herb that makes your tongue tingle and feel “fresh,” like mint does, but without any flavor at all. That doesn’t even sound like it should be possible, but it is. You just can’t find it in Texas.

2. Really fresh dim sum. Dim sum is the best brunch food on earth (sorry, eggs Benedict), but many places serve reheated dumplings that were made and frozen in advance. This is the prevailing trend in Dallas, where there is some decent dim sum, but not much in the way of greatness. We’d be willing to pay a few extra dollars for fresh, homemade rolls and dumplings that transport us to the streets of Hong Kong.

3. An Australian bar. Picture this. You walk into a bar, and they have a dozen Australian beers on tap, none of them Foster’s. You order a kangaroo burger with beer-battered fries, and your adventurous friend tries the camel steak, after the waitress explains that Australia actually has the world’s largest wild camel population. As you polish off your kangaroo burger and order another pint of Fat Man Red Suit Big Sack, the world’s most amazingly named Christmas beer, you decide that you’ll have to come back sometime to try the rack of lamb. Yeah, we need a good Australian place in Dallas.

4. Conch. It’s easy enough to find Caribbean food in Dallas, but conch seems to evade menus. This freaky-looking critter, which grows inside the decorative shells often seen in beach-themed living rooms, is a staple of Caribbean dining. It’s prepared in a multitude of ways, ranging from raw conch salad to fritters to chowder to jerk. When eaten raw, conch’s texture is much less chewy than calamari but not quite as tender as shrimp. When fried or grilled, it almost dissolves in your mouth, akin to oysters. Traditional conch dishes would be a welcome addition to the Dallas seafood scene, and it would be nice to have these sea snails as a new ingredient in a bored chef’s arsenal.

5. Georgian food. No, not that Georgia. We mean the country Georgia, wedged between Russia and the Middle East. The country where, when your flight lands, customs officials give you a free bottle of wine as a gift. The country that, with khachapuri (cheese-filled flatbread), basically invented stuffed crust. The country that decided ratatouille would taste better if you loaded it up with garlic and hot chili peppers. The country that invented the Fruit Roll-Up, hanging their homemade roll-ups on clotheslines. We definitely need to import Georgian food. Or maybe we’ll export ourselves to Georgia and enjoy that free wine.

6. Great bagels. OK, this might not count as an international food, depending on where you stand in the great New York vs. Montreal debate. But Dallas needs more, and better, bagels. Anything, really, that won’t make us mutter, “It’s not New York, but …” Knowing Dallas, the only way the Bagel Revolution will get started is if a restaurateur is inspired not by New York or Montreal, but London, where the bagel joints on Brick Lane sell their goods sliced and jammed with a great big pile of thick wedges of hot salted beef. Pile beef onto your bagel, drizzle with spicy mustard and you not only have a delicious drunk/hungover/anytime snack, you also have the most Texan bagel that’s ever been bageled.

7. More exotic game. Texas is the meat capital of America. So where in Dallas can we go to try ostrich, kangaroo reindeer or yak? Twisted Root Burger Co. and Waldron Lodge are fighting the good fight by providing exotic game in the ground-up form of burgers and sausages. But it would be even cooler to see Dallas embrace yak dumplings, rabbit legs, emu steaks and springbok loin. Even wild boar, an invasive species that Texas environmentalists encourage you to devour, is underrepresented on Dallas menus. Don’t believe us? Ask the folks at Eat the Invaders, an environment advocacy group whose slogan is, and we are not making this up, “Fighting Invasive Species, One Bite at a Time.” Activism never tasted this good.

8. Indonesian food. This Southeast Asian cuisine is severely underrepresented in Dallas, despite being so popular that Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei have appropriated many Indonesian dishes as their own. (Indonesia’s population is the size of 10 Texases.) While a large number of Thai restaurants serve satay and peanut sauce, they don’t invoke the umami flavor inherent to an Indonesian-spiced tray of char-grilled, skewered chicken or beef. They don’t serve it on a banana leaf with cucumber chunks, red onions and cubes of rice, either. Nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice), rendang (a spicy slow-cooked meat dish) and gado-gado (tempeh, vegetable and rice salad) are much harder to come by. Dallas probably won’t see tumpeng anytime soon either.
9. Koshary, Egypt’s carbonanza. What do you get when you mix macaroni noodles, spaghetti noodles, rice, lentils and chickpeas? A very full stomach, for one thing. Probably confused stares from your friends. But also you get koshary, Egypt’s national dish. According to tradition, at the end of the month, an Egyptian family would go through its pantry, saving money by throwing every leftover starch in one big pot. The dish is traditionally topped with tomato sauce, fried onions and a ton of garlic, with hot sauce on the side. It’s the ultimate energy food, and/or the ultimate food coma nap food. The Dallas Cowboys could probably eat a dumpster full of koshary after a game.

10. Sushi, but on conveyor belts. Sushi Envy, in Plano, is the DFW area’s one and only example of a very popular East Asian trend. What’s the appeal of sushi on conveyor belts? For one thing, you can pick out whatever looks tasty as it passes by. For another, it turns sushi into fast food, allowing you to get a bunch of items quickly and be done with your meal in 20 minutes. But also, food on conveyor belts is just really fun. Mom said to always play with your food, right?
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Brian Reinhart has been the Dallas Observer's food critic since spring 2016. In addition, he writes baseball analysis for the Hardball Times and covers classical music for the Observer and MusicWeb International.
Contact: Brian Reinhart