The Ultimate Guide to Signature Ethnic Dishes

September 28, 2020

Taste the flavors in The Palm Beaches

Many cities throughout the USA have an exciting selection of ethnic restaurants, enough to keep adventurous eaters happily occupied for months, if not years. Although you wouldn't think it, the same is true of The Palm Beaches, which  in addition to a stellar dining scene  offers up a number of ethnic neighborhoods offering everything from Thai and Peruvian to Indian and Ethiopian.

Whether you're a local looking for something different or a tourist in search of creative culinary cooking, The Palm Beaches offer more than its homegrown brand of "Floribbean" fare. Here, we list a few signature ethnic dishes from Jupiter to Boca Raton:

Vietnamese

Pho from Pho & Hot Pot
826 Park Ave, Lake Park; 561-842-3443

Pho
Pho

Perhaps the most popular of the Asian noodle soups outside ramen, pho is Vietnamese comfort food fare at its finest. Today, there are only a handful of places where you can find it done well in South Florida, but this Lake Park restaurant has it down. When executed perfectly, pho celebrates a balance of clean flavors: aromatic herbs, crisp vegetables, hearty protein, and a vibrant, clear broth.. Everything on the menu here is traditional preparation, from the goi cuon summer rolls and bank xeo (Vietnamese pancakes) to the chicken wings and curry "puffs." Most menu items are priced under $15 and offer a variety of noodle soups and rice dishes. But the pho is where it's at.

Bahn Mi from Inch & Ounces
400 Clematis Street, West Palm Beach; 561-855-7028
Inches & Ounces is a delicious Vietnamese Street Food restaurant in downtown West Palm Beach. The shop is both trendy and tasty. While they have delicious customizable Pho, the Bahn Mi is a must try! This dish is also customizable with different proteins to choose from. The Sweet Chili Shrimp Bahn Mi has just the right amount of kick but is also very fresh with pickled carrots, daikon & cucumbers in the mix.

Ethiopian

Doro Wot from Queen of Sheeba
716 N Sapodilla Ave., West Palm Beach; 561-514-0615
At Queen of Sheeba chef-owner Lojo Washington will transport you to the streets of Jimma, the large city in Southwest Ethiopia from which she hails. Her eight-table dining room appears as a beacon of light on an otherwise dim-lit residential street located in the heart of one of West Palm Beach's historic neighborhoods. Here, you'll find dishes like misir wat (stewed red lentils), gomen (sautéed collard greens), and shiro (chickpea purée). Don't worry if these sound bizarrely foreign; most Ethiopian fare is approachable and tasty. The vegetable-heavy menu makes it a welcome addition for the area's vegans and vegetarians. The most popular dish on the menu is perhaps the doro wat, a single chicken drumstick cooked until the meat melts from the bone, immersed in a spice-filled brown gravy. It's accompanied by a hard-boiled egg and best when eaten with handfuls of injera, the country's spongy, sourdough flatbread.

Colombian

Coffee at Salento Coffee  
120 S. Dixie Highway, Suite 105, West Palm Beach; 561-841-6138
Colombia is one of the coffee capitals of the world and Salento Coffee brings you the exquisite essence of hand-picked “Colombiano” to savor. It doesn’t stop there. You can relish tropical fruit smoothies, natural fruit juices, sandwiches for breakfast or lunch, various other coffees and of course, one of the main attractions, out-of-this-world arepas. For an extra special dose of things Colombian, do a cup of tinto. 

Trinidad & Tobago

Curry Conch at Curry Tabanca
4657 Lake Worth Rd., Greenacres; 561-822-2622

Curry Conch
Curry Conch

Living in South Florida, plenty of us have had a taste of the best Island cuisine from Jamaican jerk chicken and Cuban ropa vieja to Puerto Rican mofongo or Bahamian-style conch salad. But you haven't really lived until you've sampled the Indian-influenced fare from the island of Trinidad and Tobago. Many dishes have "funny" names, use exotic ingredients, and offer plenty of curry and spice. Here in the Palm Beaches a family is serving up some of the best Trini fare around these parts, especially with their curry conch roti: Tender nubs of conch meat that practically melt in your mouth, smothered in a mild green, spice-flecked curry sauce that pairs well with when scooped up with a handful of fresh-made, steaming-hot dhal puri roti.

Indian & Pakistan

Eggs Nissa at The Pelican Restaurant
610 Lake Ave., Lake Worth; 561-582-4992
The Pelican Restaurant owners Tahira and Mohammad Sami are originally from Pakistan, and although they've been living in Lake Worth the past 30 years, that doesn't mean they've forgotten the food of their homeland. Their tiny eatery, located in the heart of charming downtown Lake Worth off Lake Avenue, may seem the last place you'd expect to find some homestyle Indian and Pakistani food, but don't let the restaurant's diner-like appearances steer you away. Today, the 15-year-old restaurant is best-known for its unique breakfast menu that combines the best of each culture (with just a touch of American comfort). The menu offers everything from a Pakistani-style keema omelet (minced, spiced beef folded into whipped eggs) to curry chicken served with naan and home fries. A favorite has become the eggs nissa: scrambled eggs served with a green, curry-like stew of tomatoes, cilantro, green chilis, garlic, ginger, and onion.

Mexican

Raspas from Chulas
4391 Tenth Ave., Lake Worth; 561-729-0494

Raspas
Raspas

There's plenty of restaurants serving Tex-Mex across the Palm Beaches, but very few actually give you a taste of the real Mexico. Not so at Chulas in Lake Worth, where owner Melissa Gonzales and her daughter, Alexia, offer an array of colorful desserts and snack creations -- many of which use ingredients purchased directly from Mexico. In addition to the colorful paletas (popsicles) and bolis (flavored ice sticks) they also have traditional raspas, a sort of Latin-style snow cone made of crushed ice and flavored with syrups, condensed milk, and fresh fruit. Here, Gonzales will grind block ice and drench it in one of more than 25 fruit-flavored syrups ranging from banana and cherry to the more exotic, like horchata or tamarind. Try the Diablito, a raspa prepared with a chamoy, a spicy-savory sauce made from pickled apricot seasoned with lime, spices, and chilies.

El Salvadorean

Papusas from Las Flores Restaurant & Pupuseria
913 Lake Ave., Lake Worth; 561-585-0530
The Mexicans have tortillas. The Cubans have that bread. The Venezuelans have their arepas. And the people of El Salvador have the papusa. If you haven't yet been introduced to this Latin American specialty, you're certainly missing out. These thick, handmade corn tortillas are a meal in themselves, most often the size of a small dish. Soft and moist, each are packed into hefty pancakes with fillings like seasoned pork, cheese, beans, or loroco (a flower bud from Central America) before they're fried up on a hot griddle. At Las Flores, located just west of Dixie Highway on Lake Avenue, the laminated menu offers a number of takes, including the popular mixture of cheese, beans, and chicharrón. Before eating, top your papusa with a few spoonfuls of the house-made curtido, a fermented cabbage slaw made with pickled vegetables like cabbage and carrots drenched in a tangy vinegar. 

Peruvian

Ceviche from Victoria's Peruvian Cuisine
111 S. Third Street, Lantana; 561-588-9606

Ceviche
Ceviche

A traditional South American dish is one that's been around for centuries, a method of preserving (and cooking) fish by covering it with a bath of salt and acidic fruit juice. Over the years, the basic ingredients haven't: white-fleshed fish, fresh-squeezed lime juice, and a few spices, herbs, and raw vegetables. In Lantana, longtime Peruvian restaurant Victoria's offers one of Palm Beach County's best ceviches, a heaping platter served with cuts of boiled yucca, slices of tender sweet potato, giant choclo corn kernels, sliced raw red onion, and cilantro. Choose from several varieties, prepared according to your personal heat preference, including a mix of seafood like clams, calamari, and mussels or shrimp and plump cuts of sea bass or corvina.

Thai

Mango Sticky Rice from New Thai Cuisine
9152 Forest Hill Blvd., Wellington; 561-469-6221

Mango Sticky Rice
Mango Sticky Rice

Here in the U.S., dessert comes in all shapes and sizes, from cakes and pies to ice cream and bread puddings. In Thailand, things are a bit more simple. While the ubiquitous Thai fried doughnuts seem very close to our American counterpart, they aren't the country's most popular dessert. Instead, the most traditional is mango sticky rice, Thailand's ode to mango season. At New Thai Cuisine in Wellington this simple dish is offered year round, however, a glutinous, short-grained rice cooked until it attains a gooey, nearly opaque consistency. Still steaming hot, it's packed into a dense globe and drenched in a thick layer of coconut milk, then decorated with a flurry of toasted sesame seeds. It pairs perfectly with the bite-sized cubes of ripe, sweet mango, arranged into a sort of pretty golden halo around the large ball of rice at the center of your plate.

Jamaican 

Blue Mountain Coffee House
540 Clematis Street (facing Rosemary Avenue), West Palm Beach; 561-318-7296

The mountains of Jamaica have a reputation for delivering flavorsome coffee. You can skip a trip down to Montego Bay, because Blue Mountain Coffee House delivers the island’s taste right here. Yes, the coffee is the star here, but Blue Mountain’s menu is surprisingly varied: New York style bagels, homemade croissants, pancakes, and real deal Jamaican dishes like ackee & saltfish or curry chicken. A must-do is leaving room for their desserts, they’re decadent and worth the splurge.
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