By Naomi Tomky | This article originally appeared in the 2015 Bellevue Visitor’s Guide
An influx of new immigrants, toting pepper-spiked recipes and Old World techniques, is changing the culinary landscape of Bellevue. Since the ’90s the percentage of Bellevue’s foreign-born citizens has more than doubled and now exceeds 35 percent. The result? A spate of restaurants serving up authentic cuisine to immigrants missing their hometown fare and to eaters in search of authentic dining experiences alike.
Diners expecting deep-fried eggrolls risk a bit of shock at the Sichuan restaurant Spiced, where they are greeted by a case of cold appetizers near the front door. The dozen-plus options ($6 gets you three) include chicken feet with pickled chile and hot-and-sour seaweed. For those in search of tamer textures, chunks of delicate anchovy swim in “three spicy chilies,” while the deep-fry on the Chong Qing chicken will keep you crunching through the heat.
For a milder taste of China look to Shanghai or at least its food: Dough Zone kneads flour and water into beef-wrapped pancakes, noodles, and xiao long bao—dumplings with soup inside. (Nibble with caution: these babies steam.) Sit at the bar to watch dumpling pleaters expertly seal their plump packages and the cook who gently folds an egg into the street-food breakfast specialty jian bing.
With its dim lighting and upholstered banquettes, Anjappar sets a fancy table for Chettinad cuisine. Here is where Bellevue’s second-largest foreign-born immigrant population—Asian Indian—crowds in for paper-thin dosas, refreshing lassi drinks, and a rainbow of chutneys served alongside regional specialties such as chile prawns, kothu parotta (a popular minced-meat street food), or nattu koli (a masala game hen meal).
The heat merely simmers at Taqueria el Rinconsito, where the adoboada (spicy pork) holds the most spice, but a trip to the salsa bar allows everyone to customize their dish. Those who overdo it with the dark-red salsa counteract the pain with the balm of a freshly made tortilla. Tortas, burritos, and enchiladas are all on the menu, too, but for the true taste of Mexico, stop in on weekends for hearty sips of the traditional pork-filled hominy soup, posole.
Images courtesy of Visit Bellevue Washington and Taqueria el Rinconsito.
For even more ethnic foodie finds and cultural experiences around Bellevue, check out the Cultural Foodie Itinerary!