Global Dining: Our Ultimate Guide to Tasting the World in O.C.

To eat your way through O.C. is to take a culinary tour of the world. Ours is an almost unfathomable diversity: delicate Afghan dumplings, towering Cambodian sandwiches, obscure Japanese noodle soups, even hearty Kenyan stews. Here’s our delicious guide to the best of O.C.’s globe-trotting, genre-defying cuisines. No need to pack your bags.

Puerto Madero
All manner of South American goods shine at this neighborhood market, but the chivito sandwich is a thing of legend: a supple sesame seed roll overflowing with thinly sliced steak, ham, bacon, lettuce, tomato, briny green olives, roasted red peppers, and a mass of melted cheese. It’s an architectural marvel. 1225 W. 17th St., Santa Ana, 714‑547‑5900,

Jack’s Bakery
You could practically climb aboard the Black Sea turnover at Jack’s Bakery. It’s essentially a Georgian khachapuri, a huge canoe-shaped mass of dough filled with mild, creamy cheese, and spicy sujuk sausage. It’s an Armenian street food staple that here at Jack’s is a fine counterpoint to the bakery’s famous S-shaped cookies. 10515 McFadden Ave., Garden Grove, 714‑775‑6773

Brussels Bistro
You can build entire empires on the allure of a good Belgian waffle, but Brussels Bistro isn’t just for those with a sweet tooth. There are eight iterations of steamed mussels here, as well as ruddy imported sausages, classic trout almondine, and enough La Chouffe beer to send everyone happily into the night. 222 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach, 949‑376‑7955,

Beba’s Restaurant
The salteña is the Bolivian sibling of the empanada. Beba’s salteñas are packed with ground beef, hard-boiled egg, potatoes, peas, raisins, and all manner of surprises. Crack one open and a torrent of stew-like juices pours forth, a slightly sweet broth that tastes of cinnamon and spices. 1909 E. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, 714‑535‑0051

Agora Churrascaria
One visit to a Brazilian steakhouse and you might begin to believe that the country is the most carnivorous in the world. You wouldn’t be wrong: This is a buffet where a variety of expertly charred meats are impaled on giant skewers and carved tableside until you quite literally beg the staff to stop. Make sure to try the skirt steak. 1830 Main St., Irvine, 949‑222‑9910,

Chong Qing Mei Wei
There are chiles everywhere at Chong Qing Mei Wei, the county’s prime purveyor of the fiery cuisine from China’s Sichuan province. Stockpile a few glasses of water for the numbingly good pork spareribs, fried tofu, or one of the hot pots—roiling, chile-red stews that warm you faster than a sauna. 5406 Walnut Ave., Irvine, 949‑651‑8886

Din Tai Fung

Din Tai Fung
It can be difficult at first to understand the allure of xiao long bao, the Shanghai-style soup dumplings with their dedicated and ravenous fans. But one bite and you’ll get it: delicate purses of dough that  literally burst to reveal a flavorful porcine consomme and tender nubs of pork. There’s always a line here, so be prepared to get some shopping done while you wait. South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, 714‑549‑3388,

Trieu Chau
Trieu Chau is a conundrum: an ostensibly Vietnamese restaurant on the edges of Little Saigon that specializes in recipes from China’s Guangdong province. The dish to get is the chao chow noodle soup, a soul-satisfying broth filled with rice or egg noodles and your choice of everything from roasted duck and chicken to wontons and shumai dumplings. 4401 W. First St., Santa Ana, 714‑775‑1536

El Portón Colombiano
Colombia’s hearty, tropical cooking is conquering Orange County one order of bandeja paisa at a time: a massive combination plate of ground beef, fried pork belly, sausage, caramelized plantains, a fried egg, avocado, rice, beans, and a griddled arepa corn cake. Indulge in the aborrajado, too, a kind of fried sweet plantain dumpling stuffed with a mass of mild, molten cheese. 8863 Adams Ave., Huntington Beach, 714‑968‑6677,

Moro’s Cuban Restaurant
Every Cuban classic is here: the toasted ham-packed sandwich, the gently stewed beef known as ropa vieja, the twice-fried green plantains smashed into medallions called tostones. But it’s hard to ignore Moro’s legendary paella, bursting with a variety of seafood, chicken, chorizo, and a few hunks of sweet, caramelized plantain on the side. 380 N. Harbor Blvd., La Habra, 562‑694‑4169,

Czech Republic
Milan’s Grill
You easily could be fooled into believing that Milan’s Grill is an Italian restaurant. But look beyond the veal marsala to find Orange County’s only Czech eatery. Here it’s all about hearty classics (fatty roasted pork with dumplings and sauerkraut or smazeny syr, a gooey, fried Czech cheese) that could fuel you through a central European winter. 1721 W. Katella Ave., Anaheim, 714-254-1940,

Cairo Restaurant & Cafe
Sure, there are plenty of finely charred kebobs and bowls of creamy hummus here, but venture from the familiar and try one of Cairo’s daily Egyptian specials. Consider the molokhia (a chicken soup made viscous and hearty by jute leaves) before taking on the kabsa, a king-sized helping of fragrant, wonderfully spiced rice beneath a tender lamb shank. 10832 Katella Ave., Anaheim, 714‑999‑8861,

El Salvador
Pupuseria San Sivar
Pupusas are El Salvador’s chief culinary export, griddled discs of masa all but bursting with cheese, meat, or vegetables. At Pupuseria San Sivar, there are traditional masa-based pupusas but also those made with lighter, crisper rice flour. Try the excellent chicken and cheese variety with a touch of smoky salsa and the pickled Salvadoran slaw called curtido. 1940 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, 949‑650‑2952, san‑

Grab a piece of Tana’s tangy, pliable injera bread and get scooping: lentils stewed with garlic and ginger, sautéed cabbage, hunks of diced beef perfectly flavored with a whole pantry’s worth of spices. There are no utensils at the Ethiopian table—only a basket of extra injera to help sop it all up. 2622 W. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, 714‑229‑1719,

Bistro Papillote
A leisurely lunch under the arbor at Bistro Papillote calls for the salade Niçoise. Traditional tuna makes way for gently grilled salmon along with roasted peppers, green beans, tomatoes, olives, potato wedges, and hard-boiled egg. Put yourself in that Nice state of mind. OC Mix, 3313 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa, 714-697-1707,

Cafe Casse Croute
A homey diner with a Quebecois accent, Cafe Casse Croute is French cooking for the masses. There’s an ultra-cheesy French onion soup and old-school roasted chicken sluiced with lemon, but come for breakfast and try the croissant French toast—buttery, decadent, and perfect with a cup of coffee. 656 S. Brookhurst St., Anaheim, 714‑774‑8013

You could eat your way through an entire weekend at Jägerhaus. Start at breakfast with two massive potato pancakes and a slab of corned beef hash. For lunch, linger over a liverwurst sandwich. And then there’s dinner, perhaps the pork schnitzel dressed with a crimson paprika sauce, chewy spätzle, and braised red cabbage. 2525 E. Ball Road, Anaheim, 714‑520‑9500,

Great Britain
Pasty Kitchen
Power down a pasty—the massive British meat pie with a lineage that can be traced all the way to Cornwall, England—and you won’t need food for days. Pasty Kitchen’s versions truly stick to your ribs, either seasoned ground beef and diced vegetables or a creamy, chicken potpie-like filling encapsulated in a flaky, shortcrust pastry. 3641 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos, 562‑431‑9747

Kentro Greek Kitchen
This Greek restaurant is free of caricature—there’s no overzealous plate-smashing or frenzied table-dancing here. Instead, the focus is on the food: artfully charred pork souvlaki, pliant lamb flatbreads, and gloriously grilled octopus. It all pairs nicely with a bottle of Greek wine. 100 S. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton, 714‑278‑0944,

Pan American Donuts
There’s something of a secret menu at Pan American Donuts—few of the shop’s Guatemalan specialties are inscribed on a menu. But ask the friendly faces behind the counter, and you’ll find deeply flavored soups and stews as well as massive Guatemalan tamales: hulking bricks of masa overloaded with chicken, beef, or pork, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed until the masa all but melts. 25571 Jeronimo Road, Mission Viejo, 949‑587‑2829

Eva’s Caribbean Kitchen
It’s hard to pin down a single style of cooking at Eva’s Caribbean Kitchen—there are tropical tastes of Jamaica, Trinidad, and beyond. But every recipe here is filtered through the mind of Guyanese chef Eva Madray. Try the crispy conch fritters, jerk salmon, and potent curry chicken. 31732 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, 949‑499‑6311,

Dublin 4 Gastropub
This Irish cooking is a cut above. Take Dublin 4’s cottage pie, a crown of creamy mashed potatoes concealing tender stewed steak. Or opt for the expertly fried fish and chips—massive lengths of fish sheathed in a crispy batter and served with a side of transatlantic mushy peas. 26342 Oso Parkway, Mission Viejo, 949‑582‑0026

Rasoi Curry Point
A thali is the classic combination plate of Indian cooking, a collection of small, complementary dishes that together form a complete meal. Here, the lunch-only thali changes daily, perhaps one day featuring cups of chana masala and finely spiced lentils, another blackened tandoori chicken and potato korma. It’s an endless supply of surprises. 678 El Camino Real, Tustin, 714‑442‑1560,

Dosa Place
The dosa is almost like a South Indian crepe, a massive, paper-thin pancake made from lentils and riceflour and rolled around all types of fillings. Most are stuffed at minimum with spicy masala potatoes, but others burst with chicken curry or gooey paneer cheese. 13812 Red Hill Ave., Tustin, 714‑505‑7777,

Warung Pojok
Warung Pojok is built on combination plates, so consider the gado gado (a quintessentially Southeast Asian salad of lettuce, green beans, bean sprouts, potatoes, and puffed tapioca chips dressed with sweet peanut sauce) and the sate ayam and lontong, a combo of a few nicely charred chicken skewers and squishy rice cakes. 13113 Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove, 714‑638‑8716,

Naan & Kabob
These are some of the finest kebobs in the county: tender, juicy lengths of beef, lamb, chicken, or fish each deeply branded by the grill. Rice is one of the cornerstones of Iranian cooking, so upgrade your side of rice to a heap of zereshk polo (a pinkish pilaf stained by tart barberries) or adas polo (rice studded with lentils and dates). 416 E. First St., Tustin, 714‑665‑2262

Mangia Mangia
You could easily drown yourself in marinara at Mangia Mangia, but keep an eye on the beloved restaurant’s daily specials and you’ll find all manner of Sicilian favorites. Look for the bucatini with roasted cauliflower, pine nuts, and raisins that hews as closely to North Africa as it does to the Italian coast. Or opt for the swordfish with grilled eggplant that’s dressed with bright, acidic citrus. 16079 Goldenwest St., Huntington Beach, 714-841-8887,

Okinawa is a prefecture apart, a chain of subtropical islands that retains an identity distinct from the rest of Japan. That identity is clearly reflected in its unique cuisine. Consider the goya chanpuru, a bitter melon stir-fried with eggs and Spam. And make sure to try the soki soba, a uniquely Okinawan noodle soup crowned with massive, tender pork ribs. 14215 Red Hill Ave., Tustin, 714‑832‑3323

Kappo Honda
Kappo Honda is the Japanese equivalent of a comfy neighborhood pub. Stick with yakitori and kushiyaki and soon plump chicken breast slicked with yuzu kosho and chile-soaked chicken wings arrive fresh from the fire. Next come skewers of gently charred shishito peppers and sweetly sauced eggplant so good they disappear in an instant. 18450 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, 714‑964‑4629,

Olive Tree
The cooking at Olive Tree isn’t of just one country—there are regional recipes from Syria, Palestine, and all over the Levant. But the Jordanian mansaf is truly special: blissfully tender lamb shanks and ribs cooked low and slow in jameed (a sun-dried yogurt rehydrated with a few splashes of water) and served over rice. 512 S. Brookhurst St., Anaheim, 714‑535‑2878

Ramen Ban Nai
The city of Kitakata is home to one of Japan’s signature ramen styles, one noted for its wide, curly noodles and clean, crisp pork broth. Ban Nai tops its ramen with ridiculously tender pork belly and, if you prefer some balance, a scattering of leafy greens, too. 891 Baker St., Costa Mesa, 714‑557‑2947,

Kenyan Cafe and Cuisine
Perhaps the only Kenyan restaurant in Southern California, this cafe keeps it simple and soulful: char-kissed chicken and hearty goat stews, long-simmered collards cooked until the point of collapse, and a whole world of curry-scented vegetables. It all goes down with a handful of ugali, a dense, polenta-like cornmeal loaf that’s both utensil and vessel. 2626 W. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, 714‑229‑0409

Kang Ho Dong BeakjeongKorea
Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong
Owned by an enigmatic Korean wrestler, Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong is part of an increasingly specialized wave of Korean barbecue restaurants. But beyond its marbled meat, Baekjeong has become known for its dosirak: a kind of bento box lunch of rice, a fried egg, meat, and kimchi served in a metal tin and vigorously shaken tableside to mix it all together. 5171 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, 714‑739‑9678

Myung Dong kyoja
Bowls of handmade noodles and plates of fresh dumplings seemingly fly out of Myung Dong’s kitchen every other minute. The restaurant’s jjolmyeon is perhaps the best around, a nest of thick, chewy noodles and julienned vegetables slicked with addictive, gochujang-based chile paste. Served chilled, it’s the best possible way to beat the heat on a summer day. 1000 N. Euclid St., Anaheim, 714‑533‑7789

Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong
Owned by an enigmatic Korean wrestler, Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong is part of an increasingly specialized wave of Korean barbecue restaurants. But beyond its marbled meat, Baekjeong has become known for its dosirak: a kind of bento box lunch of rice, a fried egg, meat, and kimchi served in a metal tin and vigorously shaken tableside to mix it all together. 5171 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, 714‑739‑9678

Soy Tofu
Soy Tofu’s specialty is all but self-explanatory: the famous tofu soup called sundubu. The restaurant has a dozen different variations of the dish, each beginning with a spicy, roiling broth filled with silken tofu. Into the superheated soup goes thin slices of beef, mushrooms, dumplings, clams, or kimchi. Slurp it carefully—sundubu will warm you to the core. 4961 La Palma Ave., La Palma, 562‑924‑8289,

Vientiane Thai Laos
The boundary between Laotian cooking and that of northern Thailand can be blurry. The dishes here are familiar to Thai food fans, but they’re all a little funkier, a little more flavorful, a little more potent. Try the lemongrass-scented sausage with sticky rice, the papaya salad with fermented crab, or the khao poon, a curry noodle soup tamed with a touch of coconut milk. 10262 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove, 714‑530‑7523

Zait & Zaatar
The generous chicken shawarma plate at Zait & Zaatar is a Mediterranean masterpiece: a heavy earthenware plate barely contains the charred hunks of chicken, basmati rice, creamy hummus, a sprightly green salad, and an assortment of pickles. Wrap a few bites in the restaurant’s freshly baked flatbread for maximum pleasure. 510 N. Brookhurst St., Anaheim, 714‑991‑9996,

Belacan Grill
Malaysia’s multilayered cuisine is one of the more culturally complex in Asia, an amalgam of Malay, Chinese, and Indian traditions. Belacan Grill has long been one of the few local purveyors of Malaysian classics such as roti canai (a thin flatbread that you tear and dunk into a bowl of curry) and beef rendang (gobbets of beef simmered in a finely spiced coconut-milk gravy). 17460 17th St., Tustin, 714-505-9908,

Casa Oaxaca
Feed a whole family with the pizza-sized tlayuda: a cracker-thin tortilla smeared with beans, showered with stringy quesillo cheese, scattered with sliced tomato and avocado, and topped with a combination of tasajo (dried skirt steak), cecina (a similar, jerky-like dried beef), and crumbly chorizo. Order the horchata enlivened with cactus fruit, too. 3317 W. FIRst St., Santa Ana, 714‑554‑0905,

Tio Flaco’s Tacos
This is carne asada as it should be: charred over a wood fire until its fatty edges curl to a crisp and then stuffed into a tortilla still sizzling. Tio Flaco’s specializes in this Tijuana-style carne asada, which is best consumed in a couple of tacos or maybe a mulita, two handmade corn tortillas sandwiched around a mess of meat and cheese that’s a cross between a taco and a quesadilla. 18959 Magnolia Ave., Fountain Valley, 714‑593‑9000,

Usmania Halal
It’s all about biryani here: a mountain of fragrant basmati rice steeped in all kinds of spices and cooked with either chicken, lamb, goat, vegetables, fish, or shrimp. The nehari is special, too, a thick, spicy curry stewed with a massive beef shank until the curry all but frees the beef from its bone. 7362 Westminster Blvd., Westminster, 714‑889‑1517,

Tart, bracing ceviche is one of the hallmarks of Peruvian cooking. And Eqeko has one of the best: cubes of fish sluiced with lime juice and accompanied by massive kernels of Peruvian corn (both boiled and fried to a corn nut-like crunch) as well as a spear of tender sweet potato. The ceviche mixto adds to the sure fit of seafood with shrimp and calamari, too. 309 W. Third St., Santa Ana, 714‑547‑7868, | full Orange Coast review here

Ellen’s Pinoy Grille
Pork is king at Ellen’s Pinoy Grille. You want the sisig: chunks of fried fatty pork showered with citrus, ginger, onions, and peppers. The whole plate will be gone before you know it, inhaled in a porcine haze. All the other Filipino favorites are here, too: eggroll-like lumpia, pork adobo, and pancit, a noodle stir-fry. 7921 Valley View St., La Palma, 714‑522‑8866

Puerto Rico
Señor Big Ed
Don’t mistake Señor Big Ed for just another Mexican restaurant—the place is also a paean to Puerto Rican cooking. Sail to the Caribbean with the canoa de plátano maduro, a yellow plantain split down the middle, stuffed with ground beef, and sealed with a layer of melted cheese. Or tackle the mofongo, green plantains mashed together with crunchy pork rinds and loads of garlic. 5490 Lincoln Ave., Cypress, 714‑821‑1290

Moscow Deli
Russian cuisine exists in the collective American consciousness about as accurately as the motherland itself. Moscow Deli, then, is an education: hearty borscht stained a dark, vivid burgundy, sausage sandwiches piled high on tart rye bread, sweet blintzes loaded with creamy farmhouse cheese. Grab a bag of frozen vareniki (petite Russian dumplings) to go. 3015 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, 714‑546‑3354

Matiki Island Barbeque
You’ll come to crave Matiki’s brilliant beef ribs. Flinstonian in magnitude, they’re some of the best ribs around: slicked with a touch of sweetness, charred until their fatty edges blacken and caramelize, and tender enough not to put up a fight. You could build a Hawaiian-style plate lunch here, but all you really want are those ribs. 3070 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, 714‑821‑5228

Saudi Arabia
Midan Al Tahrir
A resoundingly regional restaurant, Midan Al Tahrir cooks not just the common cuisines of the Arab world, but also prepares odes to Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well. The highlight of Midan’s khaleeji (the Arab states ofthe Persian Gulf) cooking is the mandi: a heap of basmati rice seasoned with the likes of clove, cardamom, and saffron and topped with roasted lamb. 1324 S. Magnolia Ave., Anaheim, 714‑844‑2515

South Africa
Mozambique Peri‑Peri
Mozambique Peri‑Peri is indebted to its namesake, the piquant peri‑peri chile. It’s ubiquitous in South African sauces and stews and here it graces grilled chicken and taut shrimp. The restaurant is a luxe take on South African fast-casual, but there’s still room for a boerewors sausage, a link spiced with clove and allspice and derived from the Dutch. 1332 Bison Ave., Newport Beach, 949‑718‑0956

Dinner at Pueblo can be a blur, a half-dozen or so tapas that tend to disappear as quickly as they arrive. Lunch is a more leisurely experience. Pueblo’s lunchtime bocadillos are terrific, hefty sandwiches that are just the right amount of rustic. Try the crispy calamari bocadillo with kale, lemon, and cornichon aioli or the jamón with lamb belly, manchego cheese, and piquillo pepper vinaigrette. 3321 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa, 714‑340‑5775, | Orange Coast’s Best New Restaurant of the Year 2015

Aleppo’s Kitchen
Nowhere in Anaheim’s Little Arabia will you find such a devotion to kibbeh, fried croquettes of bulgur and meat. At Aleppo’s Kitchen, one of Southern California’s few restaurants devoted to Syrian cooking, there’s baked kibbeh dusted with ground pistachios, chargrilled kibbeh packed with ground meat, and kibbeh cooked in a tart yogurt sauce. 513 S. Brookhurst St., Anaheim, 714‑991‑5000

Bangkok Taste
There are regional dishes here like nam tok (a crispy rice salad tossed with grilled beef, mint, red onion, lime juice, and chiles) and khao soi (a Burmese-influenced curried noodle soup), but the restaurant excels at the classics, too. Try the crispy mussel omelet or the excellent pad thai. 2737 N. Grand Ave., Santa Ana, 714‑532‑2216

Thai Nakorn
If you were to judge Thai Nakorn by a single dish, let it be the pad see ew: broad, perfectly cooked noodles imbued with the toasty flavor of caramelized soy sauce. It’s the measure by which all pad see ew should be appraised. But just as good is the complex panang curry, the crispy fish and mango salad, even the juicy barbecued chicken. 12532 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, 714‑583‑8938; 11951 Beach Blvd., Stanton, 714‑799‑2031,

Istanbul Grill
The culinary bridge between Europe and the Middle East, Turkish cuisine can seem at once completely familiar and wholly new. Such is the case with the iskender kebob: freshly carved doner kebob meat (think Turkish-style gyro) arranged over pieces of pita bread soaked in tomato sauce and accompanied by cool yogurt. Wash it down with a cup of potent, gritty Turkish coffee. 18010 Newhope St., Fountain Valley, 714‑430‑1434,

Mil Jugos
Try anything at Mil Jugos and you’ll be instantly transported to the
tropics. Take the arepas, griddled corn cakes split open like some sort of Latin American pita and loaded with slow-cooked beef, pork belly, milky cheese, or any number of other fillings. Order a cup of fresh-pressed juice to wash it all down. 320 W. Fifth St., Santa Ana, 714‑836‑4601,

Garlic & Chives
This place culls its culinary inspiration from all over Asia: there’s Chinese-style cumin lamb and elaborate Thai seafood salads. The restaurant’s approach to Vietnamese cuisine, too, is all but encyclopedic, including restorative porridges, regional noodle soups, and more. Whatever you choose, don’t miss the fantastic fried salmon belly. 9892 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove, 714‑591‑5196

Vien Dong
One of the oldest restaurants in Little Saigon, Vien Dong specializes in the cuisine of Northern Vietnam. Its bun cha ha noi is essential, a deconstructed noodle bowl that features an expertly grilled pork patty among a whole garden of herbs. Also try the cha ca thang long, turmeric-tinted fish showered with fresh dill and caramelized onions and served sizzling on a cast-iron plate.14271 Brookhurst St., Garden Grove, 714‑531‑8253

Ngu Binh
Central Vietnamese cuisine is the country’s most distinct—a number of its dishes are directly descended from the old royal city of Hue. Ngu Binh carries on that tradition. Try the bun bo hue (a chile-spiked noodle soup scattered with shredded banana blossoms and scented with lemongrass) and the combination plate of various rice-flour dumplings. 14092 Magnolia St., Westminster, 714‑903‑6000

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