I never thought I'd see the day when Tulsa would be graced by Asian restaurants so authentic that you'd be hard pressed to find dishes like those outside Asia. But now this day has come. Recent immigrants from various countries in East Asia have come to Tulsa to settle, and so it's possible for a restaurant here to survive and even thrive without relying on finicky picky Oklahoman clientele. Just within the past few months, new restaurants have taken our Asian food scene to levels I never believed possible. So let's take a tour of Asia while staying in Tulsa.
Cumin Restaurant near Woodland Mall has food better than any I ever got in India. It's the sort of chow you'd get if someone invited you to their home in a tiny Indian village. That's because the chef is a woman who grew up in a tiny village on the fringes of the Punjab, where she learned to cook from her mother, who learned from the generations before her. "People told me about curry powder but I'd never heard of it," she says. She grinds her spices by hand and blends them to order as she cooks each simmering dish on a tiny stovetop. Your eyes will pop when you see the feast that's served to your table. (See photo.)
Quite a few tiny places, most specializing in pho but also offering bun cha gio, banh mi, and other simple dishes, have sprung up, mostly in Broken Arrow, in the past 6 months. They include Omai, Trang Le Family Restaurant, and Pho 71 in Broken Arrow and the amusingly named Pho Ni in east Tulsa.
Two stellar restaurants, both founded last year, continue to astound with authentic Sichuan and north Chinese dishes. China Garden on East 31 offers Dry Pot, a variation on a hot pot that's the latest craze in Beijing but is almost unknown in the U.S. and Canada. Mandarin Taste on Sheridan now has Sichuan hot pot, as well as fiery flavorful Sichuan soups such as water-cooked fish and, in addition to a comprehensive menu in English, a long Chinese menu with a whole section devoted to pig innards. Their spicy pig brain with tofu is especially recommended. Meanwhile, at Ming's on Peoria, a very talented chef offers gourmet versions of traditional Chinese-American fare. His egg foo young, for example, has a gravy enlivened with drippings from smoked brisket. He also does a ramen dish that rivals Tokyo's finest.
Gogi Gui Korean Grill has a modern take on Korean dishes, but if you want truly authentic dishes, the sort you'd find only in private homes in Korea, try Sobahn-Haruna on south Memorial near 71st Street.