Ethnic foods provide tasty new directions

by Kelly Lapham
Every mall food court in America claims to offer cuisine from around the world.  Lost in the mass-market design of chains such as Chipotle and China Moon are the flavors and atmosphere of the countries they supposedly represent.  The Fanscotian scouted out tasty and authentic local eateries that bring students closer to the origins of international foods.

Beana’s in Rahway features ornate sombreros, license plates, flags, Christmas lights and other vibrant, cantina-style decorations that create a truly Mexican atmosphere.  The menu is packed with a variety of traditional Mexican-American dishes, such as burritos, fajitas and tacos.  But true south-of-the-border flavor is captured in the fresh, homemade salsa verde and the palate-burning Yucatan sauce.
Red Pepper in Scotch Plains draws a primarily Indian clientele, and allows the diner to sample a number of conventional Indian foods at its daily buffet. Many of the customers are dressed in brightly colored saris and speak to the staff in their native language.
The Indian music, the aroma of warm spices and the delicious assortment of desserts may fool customers into thinking they could walk outside the restaurant and see the Taj Mahal.
Avenue East in downtown Cranford serves a fusion of Asian cuisines. The menu uses beef, chicken, pork, vegetables, noodles, rice and seafood  in traditional recipes from Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan and China.  The restaurant also offers a separate sushi and sashimi menu for appetizers and entrees. Exotic ingredients such as red, yellow and green curry, as well as jicama and udon noodles are used in almost every dish.  The restaurant also offers options for vegetarians, such as the specialty dish Buddha’s Feast, featuring sautéed broccoli, asparagus, snow peas, mushrooms and carrots.
These three restaurants offer high-quality food as well as expressions of customs and cooking techniques from countries around the world. The menus even offer an explanation of the ingredients used, which is more enlightening than ordering a hodgepodge of take-out Chinese food.
Avenue East 16 North Union Ave., Cranford
Beana’s 988 St. Georges Ave., Rahway
Red Pepper 2520 Route 22 East, Scotch Plains