Little Arabia's Restaurant Murals Offer an Awesome Art History of the Middle East

Gabriel San Roman / OC Weekly
Citadel of Aleppo at Aleppo's Kitchen
Anaheim's Little Arabia District doesn't just offer immigrants, tourists and locals the best Middle Eastern cuisine in Southern California. Inside many of its restaurants are majestic murals rich with history and personal meaning. The portraits are part of the ambiance giving patrons from the Levant and beyond more than just dishes serving up a taste of home. From Arab Bedouin tents to the Old City of Jerusalem markets to Islamic holy sites, the restaurant murals of Little Arabia are a captivating tour of Arab and Islamic art history for all. They span modern-day Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and beyond.

Rida Hamida, an Anaheim Cultural and Heritage Commissioner, guided the Weekly through some of the various spots as we spoke to owners, waiters and bakers about the stories behind their murals. "Little Arabia is a journey in time, through the Roman Empire to the present day," she says. "We want people to celebrate our contribution to the art and culture of Anaheim."

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Eqeko Proves Peruvian Food Has Always Been the 'Next Big Thing'

Jennifer Fedrizzi/OC Weekly

Doesn't it seem as if food pundits have touted Peruvian food as "The Next Big Thing" for more than a decade? Back in 2011, The Wall Street Journal cited as proof the Zagat Survey listing four times more Peruvian joints than it did 10 years prior. And then there's ceviche, it says, which is showing up everywhere, even at Le Bernardin. For more evidence, it mentioned that LA went nuts over Ricardo Zarate's excellent Mo-Chica in 2009, which is true.

But ask anyone who has been eating the pollo a la brasa at the original El Pollo Inka in Lawndale or gorging on tallarín at Inka Grill or Inka Mama locally, and they'll tell you that Peruvian food's been here long before Zarate made it trendy. Still, decreeing it "The Next Big Thing" seems a bit ethnocentric, if not a little flippant about a cuisine millennia in the making. Peruvian food is a complex, multifaceted mélange of flavors, ingredients and traditions cultivated by its indigenous Quechua culture and influenced by the influx of Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and African immigrants over the past 500 years.

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Seafood City Now Open In Irvine

Anne Marie Panoringan
Hunger waiting game

We'd never seen such a sight. So many Filipinos descending upon one area in Irvine. We thought we were in Daly City Cerritos. It took three cycles to turn around the corner of Armstrong and Barranca on opening day. It made The District look like Cars Land.

Seafood City adds to the list of ethnic supermarket brands (Wholesome Choice, Farm Direct, Mitsuwa, H-Mart, Zion, Super Irvine and both 99 Ranch Markets) to call this seemingly vanilla landscape home. We shook our head in disbelief just writing that. The next time someone gripes about a lack of good eats that aren't a chain around there, just rattle this list off and see if they can comprehend.

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Bizarre Foods America Features Long Beach's Cambodia Town In Season Premiere On July 1

Bizarre Foods America
The season 7 premiere of Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods America is titled Hidden Los Angeles. Andrew Zimmern, the country's culinary navigator of esoteric delicacies, takes a look at great food "hiding in neighborhoods where outsiders rarely go."

Fittingly, he visits Cambodia Town in Long Beach.

In the episode, airing at 9 p.m. on July 1, Zimmern is guided through neighborhood gems by praCh Ly, a rapper/community ambassador who OC Weekly profiled in a cover story last year. Ly drops knowledge about the ethnic district and surrounding city, where thousands of Cambodian refugees fled after living under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979.

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Geeta Bansal of Clay Oven Doing Indo-Peruvian Pop-Up Tomorrow

Photo by Kenneth M. Ruggiano
Geeta Bansal, who is the chef and owner of Clay Oven in Irvine as well as a contributor to this blog, will be hosting another one of her pop-up dinners at her restaurant tomorrow.

The dinner was originally planned to be held like her last, at the Whole Foods in Newport Beach, but it has just now been changed to be at her own restaurant instead.

This time the chef will be mixing her Indian cuisine with Peruvian flavors.

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Ice Cream + Fried Bread Cone = Ice Cornet, a Sweet Treat Coming to Mitsuwa in Costa Mesa This Week

Mitsuwa is continually bringing us tastes of Japan in the form of limited-time special items, and this one caught my eye. It's the Ice Cornet, a swirl of soft-serve ice cream inside warm bread shaped like a cone. The picture above doesn't do the concoction justice--it's huge!

The treat is popular at Japanese shopping malls, where they offer flavors such as mango yogurt, vanilla, chocolate, green apple, blueberry and raspberry.

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Ryan Carson's Wanderlust at Playground 2.0: Filipino Edition

Anne Marie Panoringan
Lumpia #useyourhands

When Manila Groove shut down last year, it was one less Filipino option in a sea of ethnic cuisines. Growing up in Daly City (where the fog is so thick from all the rice cookers hard at work), the only times my family went out for Filipino food were after church and en route to a party to pick-up a catering order. Otherwise, Mom and Grandma Lola made most of my meals. And if you loved your Mom's cooking, you also know matching it would be next to impossible.

Learning about Playground 2.0's Wanderlust pop-up intrigued me. I interviewed Ryan Carson for On the Line when he worked for AnQi, and that's when I learned about his hapa heritage. After he left House of An, Ryan showcased his talent with Pri-ve dinners, conducting a weekly tour of tastes, creativity and molecular gastronomy. It was a matter of time before he visited his multi-cultural background, and I intended to taste his interpretation of my childhood.

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Mexicans Did It First: Lefse, the Norwegian Tortilla

Dave Lieberman
"¿Una tortilla de papa?" asked my neighbor, confused. "Like the Spanish pancake?"

"No, a thin tortilla, like for enchiladas."

"No, Dave, no se hacen tortillas de papa. Nomás maíz y harina."

Wrong, Lidia. Wrong. There are absolutely potato tortillas, and the Norwegians--who else?--have been making potato-based flatbreads for hundreds of years. It's become something of a holiday treat here in the United States, the winter holidays being the time of year when otherwise-assimilated Scandinavian Americans trot out the old traditions. (I'm Danish, but we only ate Danish food at Christmas and New Year's.)

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Who Invented The California Roll?

For sushi novices, it's the gateway dish. 

The California roll can be found everywhere from grocery-store fresh-food aisles to cafeteria menus in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Typically packed with crab or imitation crab, avocado and cucumber, then rolled "inside out," the nonthreatening staple helped introduce America to more exotic--and much more exciting--sushi options. 

But who invented the now-ubiquitous roll? 
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Spice Up Your Thanksgiving With A Tandoori Turkey From Clay Oven Cuisine of India, Now Available For Pre-Order!

Clay Oven
If you've got a foodie family that won't scoff at anything other than white-meat roast turkey, gravy and mashed potaters, let us suggest this exotic Thanksgiving option. For the 16th year, Irvine's Clay Oven Cuisine of India is selling its famed tandoori turkey. It's available now for pre-order and will be ready to pick up on T-Day.  

For $69.95, you get a whole bird that's marinated in herbs and spices, cooked in a traditional Indian barrel-shaped oven (the high heat keeps it super juicy) and stuffed with spice-infused basmati race. Cranberry chutney is served on the side. 

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