How to find Authentic Ethnic food – the First Rule of Ethnic Cuisine

Crowded Restaurant in Madrid, Spain

My first rule of ethnic cuisine is simple.

An ethnic restaurant is much more likely to serve delicious, authentic food when people of that culture are enthusiastically cooking, serving, and eating the food. Bonus points if they are primarily speaking the language of that culture. Super bonus points if they have either a secret ethnic menu or non translated menu items.

If an ethnic restaurant meets none of these criteria, it’s likely to suck.  You wouldn’t want to eat at a Mexican restaurant in China where the waiter doesn’t even know what a taco is…. would you? (I think they called it a meat onion wrap)

I actually ate at exactly a place like this in 2000 and it was the worst Mexican culinary experience of my life. I don’t think the restaurant owners had ever eaten good Mexican food before, but then again none of their (very few) clients had either.

Ordering Mexican food in Chinese (no English or Spanish on the menu), eating cheese made by people who don’t eat cheese, and the ensuing stomach problems were all NO BUENO.


Read more about the First rule of ethnic cuisine by clicking here!

New Austin Restaurant Alert: Umami Mia Pizzeria on Barton Springs

Since it’s closing in 2012, Austinites have been curious about what restaurant would replace the long standing Romeo’s (which opened in 1993) on Barton Springs at Jessie Street (near Zilker Park). As of this weekend, the long wait is over!

The new restaurant at 1500 Barton Springs Rd, Umami Mia Pizzaria (also Italian), offers a much more modern and casual take on Italian food than Romeo’s did. Gone is the dark cave-like decor, piano, and mediocre food of the old restaurant. Instead Umami Mia offers a bright, hip, colorful decor inspired by the Rome subway line. The food has also improved remarkably and the extensive drink list offers creative cocktails that you wouldn’t expect to find in an Italian joint.

We were invited to preview the new menu this week, and we’re happy to share our favorites with you!

Click through to preview the dishes from Umami Mia in Austin, Texas

The State of Ramen Shops in Austin, Texas

What is Ramen anyways? It doesn’t always come in cheap packs from the grocery store?
Japanese Ramen has it’s origins in the Chinese noodles 拉面 “La-Mian” which literally means pulled noodles (see this picture of this guy the Chinese version). In fact, in Japan Ramen is still sometimes called Chinese style noodles. Somewhere along the way, The Japanese took the Chinese import and morphed it into something all their own.

How is authentic ramen different from instant ramen?
Real ramen broth has a depth of flavor not present in the instant form, which relies on salt and MSG to enhance taste. Good ramen derives it’s flavor from boiling a combination of animal bones and vegetables for a long time to give the broth a richness that that can’t be replicated otherwise. Much in the same way that Texas BBQ meat tastes magical when exposed to slow and low heat, the same is true of soup broth. Good ramen when done right, is a time intensive labor of love (just like great TX BBQ). Good ramen also comes garnished with all sorts of fresh, delicious things as well that complement the broth.

Simply put, great ramen can blow your mind.

For an in depth explanation about Japanese Ramen culture and the different styles of Ramen, David Chang and Anthony Bourdain dedicate 20 minutes to the subject in the awesome series “The Mind of A Chef” (bonus @ 8:45 for learning how the noodles are made in a factory from a man in a bright red wrestling style mask)

There’s also this great how to make ramen article on Serious Eats.

Read more about the state of Ramen Noodles in Austin after the jump

Photos from the Austin Food Wine Festival 2013 @ Butler Park

The 2013 Austin Food and Wine Festival just wrapped up, and it was full of memorable experiences and excellent tastings & cooking demonstrations from celebrity chefs.

For Austinites who are fans of the Food Network, the festival was the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with some of their favorite stars, such as Andrew Zimmern, Marcus Samuelsson, Christina Tosi, Tim Love, and Paul Qui.

Click through to view the photos from the 2013 Austin Food and Wine Fest!

Pinkberry Frozen Yogurt Coming to Austin in Spring 2013

Update: April 2013 – Pinkberry is now open in Austin

Pinkberry, the yogurt shop that pretty much started the froyo craze in America 6-7 years ago, is finally coming to Austin. The first location will open at the Westbank Market (3300 Bee Caves Road, Suite 640) in spring 2013.

Why should we care?

We’ve seen many different generic froyo shops come and go in the ATX and even though it feels like the craze has died down, I think there’s still a pent up demand for Pinkberry. Many people say that Pinkberry’s yogurt is the best (myself included), and that the current batch of Austin yogurt shops aren’t up to par.

In fact, in our 2009 Austin Froyo comparison test, we crowned Mambo Berry the best Froyo in Austin because it tasted the most like Pinkberry.

Learn More about Pinkberry coming to Austin after the jump

Best Asian Noodles in Austin

Where do you go for delicious Asian food in Austin? While the capitol of Texas hasn’t been known for top notch Asian food in the past, that reputation is changing. There are restaurants all over the city with one or two noodles dishes that can hang with the best of them.

So, where do you go for delicious, flavorful Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese noodle carby goodness?

Click through to learn where the best noodles in Austin are

Austin Foodies on Instagram

How do you discover new restaurants in Austin?

I’ve got a secret to share.

Apart from reading Austin food blogs and talking to friends, I find out about new places and dishes in Austin through the photo sharing service Instagram. While Instagram wasn’t specifically created for sharing what’s good to eat, many Austin foodies use Instagram as a photo diary, which of course includes what they are eating!

Also, because Instagram lets users geotag their photos, clicking on the Geotag of a restaurant allows you easily find the location on a map and browse through many of the dishes at the same place. Hastags allow us to share photos with other users using that hashtags – I’m trying to get more people to use the #austinfood hashtag to better share dishes around Austin.

The following list includes Instagrammers with good taste in food, who help me find new restaurants or help me discover new dishes at restaurants I already love. Many of these folks are first on the scene when a new restaurant opens in Austin and make great recommendations through their pics:

supertsai – shameless plug for my account

Finally, I’ve updated the Austin Chefs and Restaurants on Instagram post that I wrote a few months ago. On that list, you can now find:


If you have other Instagram accounts you want to share, let us know in the comments!

Happy Tasting,

Best Burgers in Austin (You’ve Never Heard Of)

Austin has no shortage of quality hamburger joints, and what Texan doesn’t like a big beefy burger?

While most everyone knows about great Austin hamburger spots like P Terry’s, Hopdoddy, Mighty Fine, Counter Cafe, Black Sheep Lodge, & Burger Tex (many of which made the Texas Monthly list of the top 50 burgers in Texas), there are other great spots that are off most people’s radar.

Click here to learn about two hidden gems in Austin

$20000 in Grants available to Austin Culinary Innovators

Do you have a great Austin food idea?  Today we’d like to share some great news for aspiring Austin food entrepreneurs:

In order to make Austin an even cooler place to live, the Austin Food & Wine Alliance will award $20,000 in grants (one for $10,000 and two for $5,000 each) to individuals and culinary nonprofits who have unique ideas that will bring something new to the Austin food scene or enrich the local community. These grants are intended to encourage great ideas and to support local chefs, farmers, wine/beer/spirit makers, bartenders, artisan producers, or food related nonprofits in the Austin area.

Grant applications are available online now at, and you can submit them until the October 19, 2012 deadline.  Winners will be picked by the end of November.

To apply, head over to the AFWA website for complete details or read the press release attached to the rest of this post:

Click here for the full AFWA press release…

Discovering food together with friends, one delicious bite at a time