Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Sampling Ethnic DC, One Cuisine at a Time

I often go back and forth between Dan Rodricks on our own WYPR (88.1 FM) and his noon-to-two counterpart Kojo Nnamdi on WAMU (88.5 FM), partly due to subject matter, partly due to reception. Today was a Kojo day, and I was lucky to hear Corinna Shen, owner of Rockville's Seven Seas Restaurant, and Todd Kliman, food critic for Washingtonian Magazine. Shen is a big proponent of mixing the Americanized "Chinese" menu with the "real" menu, so that non-Chinese patrons will be more willing to see what Chinese patrons are actually eating - dishes made with loofah and duck blood and frog, that non-Chinese patrons might be reluctant to order, and Chinese restaurant owners may be even more reluctant to give to non-Chinese diners. Kliman gives some tips on how to get those "real" Chinese menu items - show that you respect the cuisine, that you have heard of some of these not-so-Western ingredients, and that you really are willing to eat anything. It still will not always work, but when it does, be prepared for dishes that look nothing like General Tso's chicken.

This is just the latest in a string of shows that Nnamdi has done about the varied ethnic food landscape of Washington, DC and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. This Local Restaurant World Tour, as he dubs it, is by all means a go-to source for ethnic eating in Montgomery & PG Counties, Northern Virginia and the District. Just one look at the map on the Kojo Nnamdi Show website shows a map of the DC metro area splattered with maps of China, Greece, Thailand, Korea, Trinidad, Italy, Ethiopia and several other countries, some as far away from DC as Frederick and - yes - Baltimore (Da Mimmo's is currently the only Baltimore restaurant on the map). If you are in or around the DC region, and you know you will be eating, you must check out this map.