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Chubbypanda's 10 Best Ethnic Meals in The OC of 2006

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Earlier this month saw the launch of Orange County Food Blogs, and in charge of all the online show and tell about OC eats is Chubbypanda. We asked this "Epicurious Wanderer" for his own end-of-the-year list representing the best eats in the County, and for this list, we're going ethnic.

1. Japanese - Frenzy Sushi (my review)

The freshness and quality of the fish served at Frenzy Sushi is amazing. The Hamachi no Hara (yellowtail belly), Saba (marinated mackerel), and Maguro (Bluefin tuna) are must-haves here. If you like rolls, order the Firecracker or Caterpillar.

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Frenzy Sushi 369 E 17th St, #17, Costa Mesa 92627 1-949-646-1333

2. Chinese (Shanghai) - New Shanghai(my review)

Delightfully cheap and delicious, the fiery flavors of the Shanghai, Sichuan, and Hunan cuisine dishes served at New Shanghai are perfect for a cold winter's night. I highly recommend the Niu Rou Mian (Beef Noodle Soup), Gong Bao Ji Ding (Kung Pao Chicken), and Zhao Liu Yu Pian (Fish Filets in Wine Sauce).

New Shanghai 5408 Walnut Ave # B, Irvine 92604 (Open until midnight every night)

3. Vietnamese - Pagolac (my review)

I first tried Bo Bay Mon (Seven Courses of Beef) at Pagolac and it was a dining revelation. Even better were the Bo Nuong Vi (Grilled Beef) and Tom Nuong Vi (Grilled Shrimp). Although you may be a little leery of sampling Mam Nem (fermented shrimp sauce), take the plunge and you'll experience a true flavor sensation.

Pagolac 14580 Brookhurst St., Westminster 92683 1-714-531-4740

4. Peruvian - Peruvian Kitchen (my review)

Peruvian food is one of the world's ultimate fusion cuisines, and Peruvian Kitchen delivers the complex blend of flavors and influences for a very reasonable price. Try the Tiradito al Aji (a carpaccio of fish marinated in a spicy sauce), the Anticuchos de Corazon (grilled pieces of seasoned beef heart), and the Yucca a la Huancaina (cassava cheese puffs covered in a spicy cream sauce.

Peruvian Kitchen 8610 Warner Ave., Fountain Valley 92708-3132 1-714-847-7555

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5. Fusion - Elephant Bar

A chain restaurant with both style and substance, the Elephant Bar in Irvine offers a number of Asian-fusion dishes as well as Western classics. Try the Coconut Shrimp or the Miso Grilled Salmon. Additional locations are available throughout Southern California.

Elephant Bar 14346 Culver Dr., Irvine 1-949-651-6087

6. Mexican - Lucia's Tacos and Mulitas

Do not be dissuaded by this hole-in-the-wall's less than classy atmosphere. Lucia's Tacos and Mulitas is packed to the gills with authentic Mexican flavors. You haven't lived until you've tried their Tacos de Cabeza (beef cheek), Tacos de Lengua (beef tongue), or Tacos al Pastor (rotisserie grilled pork). For an early morning pick-me-up, grab a steaming bowl of their spicy Menudo (beef tripe soup) and get some Pan Dulse (sweet buns) to go.

Lucia's Tacos and Mulitas (Corner of Beach and Warner, next to the Valero)
16952 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach 92647 1-714-842-2404

7. Korean - Korea House BBQ

Nothing warms both body and soul like the rich flavors of the Korean food at Korea House BBQ. With fresh, high quality meat, an excellent selection of complimentary Panchan (cold side dishes), a number of fiery stews, and other classic offerings, Korea House BBQ is the place to go when you want to add some spice to your life. Order up some Ross Gui (prime cut beef) or Bulgogi (marinated beef) to grill and kick back with a beer. Definitely best enjoyed with a group.

Korea House BBQ 5305 University Dr., Irvine 92612 1-949-552-9998

8. Chinese (Dim Sum) - Seafood World

Seafood World is a Little Saigon institution, and one of the best places in Orange County to get delectable dim sum. Bring all of your friends so you can sample lots and lots of the bite-sized delights.

Seafood World 15351 Brookhurst St # 101-106, Westminster 92683 1-714-531-5330

9. Vegan (Thai) - Wheel of Life

If you've never had vegan Thai cuisine before, stop by Wheel of Life and get your healthy groove on. With a culinary history spanning thousands of years of Buddhist dietary observances, vegan Thai food is good for both the body and soul.

Wheel Of Life 14370 Culver Dr # 2, Irvine 92604 1-949-551-8222

10. Chinese (Islamic) - Lotus Chinese Eatery

One of two locations in all of Orange County serving Islamic Chinese fare, Lotus brings the flavors of Northern China to Southern California. All of their delicious food is prepared according Halal guidelines. Order the Zhi Ma Da Bing Jia Cong (sesame pan bread with green onions) or any of their Chao Dao Xiao Mian (stir-fried knife-cut noodles). I'm also very fond of their Hong Shao Dou Fu (tofu in brown sauce).

Lotus Chinese Eatery 16883 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach 92647 1-714-848-4940