Without needing a passport or having to deal with airport security lines, it’s possible to eat your way around the planet. All that’s needed is a drive along Redwood Road in Salt Lake County.
This north-south thoroughfare at 1700 West has a high concentration of ethnic restaurants and markets that not only satisfy big hunger and a curious palate, but continue cultural traditions, some that are thousands of years old.
Start your journey at Shahrazad Middle Eastern Market and Restaurant, which is slightly east of Redwood Road at 1615 W. 2100 South. Historians say ancient armies skewered meat with a sword and cooked it on open fires. In the restaurant, located at the back of this market, this time-tested method takes center stage. There are chicken and beef options with exotic names such as Sultani and Koobideh. However, this is the perfect place to try the goat and lamb. All the meats are Halal, which means they meet strict health and religious standards. Plates also include roasted tomato, salad and a mountain of aromatic basmati rice for around $10. The food is served with warm khoubz (Arab flat bread) accompanied by hummus and a yogurt and cucumber sauce, reminiscent of Greek tzatziki but with a mint and garlic twist. There is a shaker of Sumac Powder on every table, apply this tart, lemon-flavored seasoning liberally to everything on your plate and relish the freshness. There are great vegetarian options, including enormous falafel sandwiches
Your trip continues when you travel to the African Restaurant and Market, 1864 S. Redwood Rd. Here, it’s perfectly acceptable to eat your plate! No utensils required! Spicy stews are served on top of Injera, a spongy sourdough flatbread made from barley, rice and when available, imported Tafii flour. Rip off a piece of bread, pinch a portion of the meats or vegetables and pop it into your mouth. This is the pinnacle of finger food. Individual plates are available, but it’s more traditional to eat communal style, with three or four people sharing one big platter of food. Coffee originally came from Ethiopia and then spread around the world. For a group of 3 to 4, the restaurant offers a traditional coffee service where they will toast, grind and brew coffee in the traditional manner in front of you. The bean to cup experience is worth the wait.
A few blocks away, the Rancho Market inside the Latino Mall at 2470 S. Redwood Road serves a Molcajete meal. A lava stone mortar (without pestle) is heated over a gas flame then filled with a green chile and tomatillo fondue and a variety of meats and shrimp. All this is served with sides of rice, beans and tortillas, providing ample food for two to three people at $21.99. And the bubbling presentation gets the conversation going.
The next stop should be Pho Hoa Noodle Soup at 3460 S. Redwood Road. This restaurant specializes is the sumptuous Vietnamese soup called pho (pronounced: fuh), a sublime dish that was ranked number 28 on the “World’s 50 most Delicious Foods” by CNN Go. A steaming bowl of rice noodles in an elaborately prepared broth (choose either beef, pork or chicken) arrives at the table along with a plate of fresh, garnishes: limes, bean sprouts, purple Asian basil, mint leaves, Hoisin sauce and thin slices of jalapeño. A bottle of Sriracha chili sauce is conveniently found in the condiment caddy, for those who like more heat. The complex broth and the fresh, crisp garnishes are an appealing contrast. Many pho fans swear that this nutritious soup bolsters the immune system in the winter.
The culinary tour ends next door at the Kim Long Supermarket, 3450 S. Redwood Road, where Peking duckling is available every day and barbecue pork is available Wednesday through Sunday. Both of these cooked meats can be bought by the pound and used at home in stir-fry dishes, served with noodles or stuffed into a small crepe and topped with plum sauce, spring onion and thinly-sliced cucumber. But the classic — yet messy — hands-on method is preferred by many. Be sure to have a plenty of paper napkins within arm’s reach.
Mick Huerta, a Utah food and travel enthusiast, is the author of All Accordin’, a blog on life and cooking.
Global dining on Redwood Road
Enjoy the foods of another country without needed a passport.
African Restaurant and Market • 1864 S. Redwood Road, Salt Lake City; 801-978-9673. Open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Kim Long Supermarket • 3450 S. Redwood Road, West Valley City; 801-972-8440.
Pho Hoa Noodle Soup • 3460 S. Redwood Road; West Valley City; 801-972-9000. Open Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Rancho Market • 2470 S. Redwood Road (inside the Latino Mall), West Valley City; 801-972-8800. Monday-Sunday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Shahrazad Middle Eastern Market and Restaurant • 1615 W. 2100 South, West Valley City; 801-972-3468. Open Sunday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.