Take a trip with us around the world in just 26 days—or less. From Asia to South America, Europe to the states, every region has its own menu of popular dishes it’s known for. And lucky for San Joaquinians, many of those international cuisines are available right here in the county. Choose from overflowing plates of donburi from the northern regions of Japan or load up on savory New Orleans-style crepes inspired by the traditional French treat. Regardless of where you go—from Tracy to Lodi—you’ll be able to experience 26 varied cuisines without leaving the confines of San Joaquin.
Chicken Fried Steak
What’s more American than country-fried steak? This breaded beefsteak—also often called country-fried steak—is pan-friend and smothered in a mix of seasonings and flour, traditionally served with a helping of gravy. The recipe originates from the southern states, but that doesn’t mean San Joaquin County isn’t serving up its own authentic rendition. Try it local: Midgley’s Public House gives its own spin to the southern staple, using breaded sirloin steak. Served with: mashed potatoes, asparagus, and gravy. Midgley’s Public House, 296 Lincoln Center, Stockton, (209) 474-7700, MidgleysPublicHouse.com
Crepes are a French dish best characterized as very thin pancakes. They come in both sweet and savory varieties and are typically stuffed with various ingredients and finished with an array of toppings. In Stockton, crepes are served NOLA (New Orleans Louisiana) style with festive names that nod to the Mardi Gras capitol. Try it local: At Midtown Creperie, guests can chow down on the Big Easy style crepe for lunch, stuffed with chicken breast and spinach in a chardonnay cream sauce. Midtown Creperie, 2319 Pacific Ave., Stockton, (209) 941-9070, MidtownCreperie.com
BBQ is cooked around the world, but the best dishes come from the south, hailing from states in the southern region of the U.S. Technically, barbacoa originated in the Caribbean (the word barbecue was what the Taino tribe called grilling on a raised wooden grate), but it has been a staple in America since colonial times. Try it local: Fat City Brew & BBQ is a hotspot for American-style barbecue dishes. For a real treat, order up the junk nachos over tater tots, a tray of tots covered in your choice of meat plus all the fixings. Other options: Try the junk nachos with chips, on fries, or over a baked potato.
According to record, ramen was first cooked in China, but it was brought to Japan in 1859 and Japanese-style ramen is the more popular variety found in the United States. In most cases ramen is made with wheat noodles, meat broth, soy sauce and/or miso, sliced pork, nori, menma, and scallions—although variations are common. Try it Local: Yujin Ramen & Noodle Bar in Stockton serves a delicious Tonkatsu Ramen consisting of pork, soft boiled egg, seaweed, green onion, red pepper, menma, and sesame seeds. Yujin Ramen & Noodle Bar, 3202 Pacific Ave., Stockton, (209) 395-0188, YujinRamen.com
This traditional rice bowl dish is built using layers of fish, meat, vegetables and other ingredients combined together and served over rice. The large, deep bowl this dish is served in is also called donburi. Try it local: Sushi Komachi has six different donburi dishes on the menu: beef, oyako (cooked chicken and egg), pork katsu, chicken katsu, vegetable (stir fry with teriyaki sauce), and unagi (BBQ eel).
Pork Belly Adobo
Pork belly adobo has roots in both Mexican cuisine and Filipino cuisine and it’s often called the state food of the Philippines. Traditionally made as a one-pot meal in the Philippines, pork belly adobo combines the robust flavors of vinegar, garlic, and pepper, seasoning the pork belly meat. Dishes also commonly incorporate a mix of sugar, coconut, and soy sauce. Try it local: Papa Urb’s uses a crispy, glazed slab of pork belly in its recipe, served with tomatoes, onions, and calamansi over white rice. Papa Urb’s Grill, 549 W. Clover Rd., Tracy, (209) 836-9444, PapaUrbsGrill.com
Kung Pao Chicken
Kung pao chicken comes from the Sichuan province of China fragrant with aromas of peppercorn and chili peppers and finished with crunchy peanuts. The classic Chinese dish is popular for its slightly spicy taste, but there is no standard recipe for the dish, which has variations from all over. Try it local: New Yen Ching Schezuan serves up both kung pao chicken and the westernized kung pao beef. New Yen Ching Schezuan, 6511 Pacific Ave., Stockton, (209) 957-0913
Sweet & Sour Fish
Every region of Asia has its own signature dishes, but what happens when you blend the tastes of different countries together into one meal? Several authentic Asian eateries combine flavors with their neighbor’s best dishes to create new favorites, creating a category best known as Asian Fusion. Try it local: Midori serves us a sweet and sour fish dish that combines the authentic Chinese sweet and sour sauce with a Hong Kong-style of deep-frying the sole filet. Complete with yellow onion, bell pepper, carrots, and sweet and sour tangerine sauce, the flavorful meal is a crowd favorite at Midori, expertly combining tastes and cooking techniques from China, Singapore, and Thailand.
Hailing from Latin America, yuca rellenas are made from yuca, a root vegetable, stuffed and fried with breadcrumbs. They can also be referred to as stuffed, fried yuca balls. Try it local: The Puerto Rican dish is served at The Mamas & the Tapas food truck using mashed, boiled yuca and stuffed with ground beef, chorizo, cheese, and a selection of seasonings. The eatery calls their version “cannonballs,” referring to the rolled ball shapes they are finished in. Served with: Puerto Rican rice and beans.
Green Papaya Salad
Green papaya salad is a favorite in many regions including Vietnam and Cambodia, but the dish originated in Laos, dubbed tam maak hoong or tam som in the native language. Made with green papayas, chilies, tomatoes, lime juice, and fish sauce, the secret to making a green papaya salad is using unripe papayas. Get it local: The Green Papaya food truck serves up a its own version, served in vegan, Thai, or Laos style. Pair it with: The Green Papaya also serves traditional Lao sausage, ground pork flavored with lime leaf, galangal (Siamese ginger), lemongrass, and shallots.
In Mexico, chili Colorado is a variety of spicy chili often used in cooking. It falls into the green, or verde, chili category but tends to be spicier than chili verde. Every good chili Colorado sauce begins with dried chili peppers to give the dish a kick and is cooked with beef. Try it local: At Habanero Hots, the robust, red chili sauce is cooked with garlic and dried chili pods. Instead of ground beef, the restaurant uses tri tip. Served with: The plate comes with tortillas (perfect for dipping), rice, and beans. Fun Fact: This particular chili Colorado recipe won the California State Chili Cookoff.
Peking duck is a Beijing specialty, dating back to the Ming dynasty. The recipe differs from roast duck, which is native to the Southern regions of China. In many cases, a Peking duck is sewn closed and puffed up with air. Try it local: The Peking duck at Peking Restaurant is no simple dish—in fact you’ll have to give 72-hours notice if you want to order it. The young duckling is served boneless with Pekin pao-ping (a thin Chinese pancake) and scallions and topped with plum sauce. Peking Restaurant, 7555 Pacific Ave. #115, Stockton, (209) 957-0617, PekingStockton.com
One of the most popular dishes in Afghanistan, mantoo is a traditional meat filled dumpling that is steamed and served as either an appetizer or a main course. Mantoo is often dished up during large social gatherings and it’s easy to see why. The delicate dumplings are fresh and packed with spices for a robust flavor. When in Afghanistan, you can find cooked mantoo at markets and on the bustling city streets where locals devour the delicacy daily. Try it local: Kabobi Go has a tasty mantoo on their menu for those adventurous foodies on a mission. Serve it with: chaka, a yoghurt sauce with garlic, lemon, and salt. Kabobi Go, 14814 Thornton Rd., Lodi. (209) 853-6161, kabobigo.com
Bun Bo Hue
This umami loaded broth feels like a warm hug. A savory, herbaceous soup loaded with beef and traditionally topped with fried shallots, fried garlic, bean sprouts, green onion, and aromatic herbs, the piping hot bowl has the perfect balance of heat and spice to tickle your taste buds and keep a cold or flu at bay. Try it local: at Bayon where you can get the house special spicy beef with pork and vermicelli noodles to boot. Serve with: chili paste, a lime and hoisin sauce. Bayon, 2233 Grand Canal Blvd. Ste. 119, Stockton, (209) 956-5686
Talk about a dish that’s been around for centuries! This unique form of culinary art is pleasing to both the palate and the eyes. An integral part of the Cantonese culture, dim sum is often referred to as “going to tea,” as tea is traditionally served alongside the meal. But what exactly is dim sum? Think bite sized portions of food served in a small steamer meant for a crowd. With a variety of savory or sweet dim sum, as well as steamed buns, fried buns, delicate dumplings, and rolls, there is a flavor for everyone at the table. Try it local: Dynasty Seafood Restaurant in Stockton serves up dozens of dim sum that will satisfy your cravings! Serve it with: all the dipping sauces one could ever need and a cup of hot tea! Dynasty Seafood Restaurant, 848 Benjamin Holt Dr., Stockton, (209) 478-1818, DynastyFamilyCA.com
Lemon chicken is a satiating dish of juicy chicken breasts dressed in a crispy breading and smothered in a sweet and tart sauce. Lemon chicken’s roots can be found in the Hunan province of China, but truth be told, we understand the dishes popularity is more of a westernized cuisine. As a hearty main course there are plenty of places to try out the sweet and savory entrée in the region. Try it local: Dave Wong’s Restaurant makes one of the crispiest, moistest, lemon chicken plates around. Served with: fried rice or vegetable chow mein. Dave Wong’s Restaurant, 2828 W. March Ln., Stockton, (209) 951-4152, DaveWongsRestaurant.com
Although Schnitzel may have deep roots in Austria, the dish really found popularity in Germany. Basically, schnitzel is a tasty way of preparing thin cutlets of meat. In Germany, schnitzel refers specifically to meat cutlets, typically pork, both breaded and fried. The crispy coating is the perfect complement to the juicy meat, typically pork. Lucky for us, we don’t have to book a flight to Germany because a downtown Lodi favorite has it on the menu. Try it Local: West Oak Nosh plates up a perfect Schnitzel sandwich on the daily Serve it with: another German dish, Spaetzle, which is like a pasta dumpling. West Oak Nosh, 10 W. Oak Street, Lodi, (209) 224-8157
Gyros, pronounced “YEE-rohs,” are seasoned, marinated chunks of meat cooked on a vertical spit, and sliced off to form long, tender chunks. A popular street food in Greece, gyros can be traced back centuries, and are rumored to come from the days of Alexander the Great. Legend has it his soldiers used their long knives to skewer meat over a hot, open fire after battle. Try it local: Head to Papapavlos Bistro and Bar for a generous plating of the herb and spiced gyro meat. Serve it with: rice pilaf, grilled veggies, pita bread, and tzatziki sauce. Papapavlos Bistro and Bar, 501 Lincoln Center, Stockton, (209) 477-6133, Papapavlos.com
Butter chicken is easily one of the Indian culture’s most loved dishes. Also known as murgh makhana, this dish is both bold and beautiful flavors. The savory garlic and ginger marry harmoniously with tomatoes and tender chunks of chicken. But it’s the aromatic Garam masala, turmeric, cumin, and chili powder that are the star spices that sing in your mouth with every bite. Butter chicken is essentially one of the most tender, melt in your mouth entrees you’ll ever sample. And you can see for yourself at Stockton’s premier Indian restaurant, where it’s one of the most popular items on the menu. Try it local: Tandoori Nights, where you can order a heaping plate of tender butter chicken family style. Served with: pour it over a plate of steamed rice. Tandoori Nights, 8102 Kelley Dr., Stockton, (209) 952-2220, TheTandooriNites.com
Fish and Chips
It doesn’t matter where you travel, you will often find a version of fish and chips on the menu. But did you know the dish originated in England where it has even been credited with helping to win the first World War? Traditionally plated with French fries, some folks like their fish and chips with malted vinegar, while purists prefer it with extra salt. But the real question is, who can resist the mouth-watering combination of moist white fish in a crisp, golden batter? A truly indulgent meal worth splurging on, you can find a fabulous version at Lodi’s most popular pub. Try it local: Porter’s Pub crafts their fish and chips from cod in a Guinness beer batter. Served with: garlic fries, sidewinder fries, or sweet potato fries. 121 S. School St., (209) 400-7147, PortersPubLodi.com
Linguine and Clams
Hailing from the Campania region of Italy, linguine and clams is a staple in Southern Italian cuisine. Also formally referred to as spaghetti all vongole, linguine and clams is a savory example of how fresh ingredients can make for a winning dish. The clams are simmered in a garlic white wine sauce that is aromatic and delicious before being served over a hearty bowl of linguine. It’s one of those dinners that satisfies the most seasoned seafood lover and the good news is, you can find it on the menu in Stonecreek Village. Try it local: DeVega Brothers has a decadent version. Their version features the addition of butter and a splash of cream for added richness. Served with: add a little red pepper flake and parmesan to elevate the taste. DeVega Brothers, 5757 Pacific Ave. Unit A140, Stockton, (209) -323-4339, DeVegaBrothers.com
This Korean rice dish is one for the senses. The dish gets its name from the word “bimib” meaning mixed, and “bop,” meaning rice. Traditionally served as a comforting bowl of warm, steamed rice, sautéed veggies, and a fried egg, Bimibop is a staple meal in Korea on the eve of the Lunar New Year. Any authentic bimibop should always include a healthy dose of gochujang (a sweet and a spicy fermented condiment of chili powder, glutinous rice, fermented soybean, barley malt powder, and salt) for the best flavor combination. The dish has gained popularity with the masses, helping to make it available in Stockton. Try it local: Bonchon dishes up a delightfully sweet and savory bimibop. Served with: steamed rice and gochujang. Bonchon, 7840 West Lane, Stockton, (209) 473-3888, Bonchon.com
If you haven’t had the pleasure of trying Pakistani cuisine, we’ve got the best introductory dish to delight your senses. Chapli kebab is a minced style kebab made from ground beef, mutton, or chicken with various spices in the shape of a hamburger patty. Its origins can be traced to Peshawar, now known as northwest Pakistan. Chapli kebabs are an institutional street food throughout the country and the flavors have made their way to America for our sampling. Try it local: Kabob and Gyro Grill Served with: naan, basmati rice, and creamy yoghurt dip. Kabob and Gyro Grill, 920 S. Cherokee Ln., Lodi, (209) 400-7153
Paella may just be the ultimate party food for entertaining. Hailing from Valencia, Spain, Paella gets its name from the wide, shallow pan used to cook the dish over an open fire. In its simplest form, a Spanish paella consists of rice, saffron, chicken, and seafood. But that isn’t all. Some folks load the pan up with fresh veggies and mussels, while traditionalists may stick to shrimp and chorizo. Either way, it’s a feast for kings. Skip the airfare to Spain and sample this cuisine local. Try it local: Addy’s Paella offers a variety of accompaniments to their pans. Our favorite is the shrimp, chicken, and sausage. Served with: a tantalizing garlic sauce. Addy’s Paella, (209) 365-1840, AddysPaella.com
Did you know pad Thai is the national dish of Thailand? It’s a huge part of the Thai street food culture and can be found on just about every corner there. The plate is loaded with stir fried rice, noodles, firm tofu, eggs, tamarind paste, fish sauce, dried shrimp, garlic, chiles, and palm sugar. And it wouldn’t be pad Thai without the crunchy garnish of crushed peanuts adorning each plate. The winning combination of sweet and sour has made the dish a favorite even far away here in America. Try it local: Tracy Thai Restaurant serves up a delicious dish of pad Thai to peanut lovers in the 209. Serve it with: extra peanut sauce, if you love it as much as we do. Tracy Thai Restaurant, 1035 N. Central Ave., Tracy, (209) 833-9703, TracyThaiRestaurant209.com
If you’ve never tastes Pho (pronounced fuh), you are missing out. The popular Vietnamese street food starts off with an umami rich beef broth and rice noodles. But the flavor gets kicked up a notch from the fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and thinly shaved meat traditionally added to the top. It is usually made using thinly sliced beef, but there are chicken versions of the comfort food as well. Try it local: Saigon Grill makes a rich broth we love. Served with: lime wedges to bring out the acidity of the savory soup. Saigon Grill, 5 W. Elm St., Lodi, (209) 368-5152