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September 16, 2014

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Part 2: Sampling Las Vegas’ cultural diversity through music, art and food

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Leila Navidi

Violin player Sandor Beke entertains the crowds near the food booths during the San Gennaro Feast at the Rio on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011.

With more than 200 languages spoken and almost 100 countries represented, Southern Nevada has become a melting pot as diverse and colorful as the Strip skyline at night.

Twenty-two percent of our almost 2 million residents hail from a foreign country, and hundreds of cultures are represented here.

The cultural mosaic is celebrated with dozens of local festivals that showcase the traditions, customs and cuisine of diverse communities from Southern Nevada and around the world. Here’s a taste of what our community offers ...

FILIPINO

Nevada is home to the fastest-growing Filipino population in the country. The state’s Filipino population more than doubled from 2000 to 2010, in large part because of Clark County’s growing need for medical and hospitality workers.

In 2012, local leaders launched the first nonpartisan grassroots political group dedicated to educating and advocating for Nevada’s Filipino-Americans, the Filipino-American Political Organization With Equal Representation (POWER).

Filipinos now account for the largest Asian group in the state, constituting more than 4 percent of the population. Of the state’s 98,000 Filipinos, 86,000 live in Clark County. Local ballot materials recently were required to be translated into Tagalog, the dominant language in the Philippines.

Las Vegas also is home to dozens of Filipino service and culture organizations, including the Las Vegas Philippine American Lions Club and the Las Vegas Filipino Chamber of Commerce.

Fiesta Filipino

Celebrating both Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month in May and Philippine Independence Day on June 12, Fiesta Filipino aims to unify the thousands of Filipinos living in the valley. The weekend event, which marked its sixth year in May, features an array of Filipino art, music and entertainment, as well as shopping, raffles and food. All proceeds benefit the nonprofit Filipino American Associations.

Spring/Summer 2015

Sammy Davis Jr. Festival Plaza at Lorenzi Park, 3343 W. Washington Ave, Las Vegas

Also: The Pinoy Pride Festival.

Must-try meal: Adobo

Where to get it:

• Thelma’s Filipino Restaurant, 1205 Sunset Station, Henderson

• Salo-Salo Grill, 3650 S. Jones Blvd, Las Vegas

How to make it:

Adobo ingredients: 1/2 lb pork cubes; 1/2 lb chicken thigh; 3/4 cup soy sauce; 1 cup palm vinegar; 2 bay leaves; 1 tsp whole peppercorns; 1 medium red onion, sliced; 1/4 cup brown sugar; 2 tbsp liver spread

Preparation: Combine soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaves, peppercorns and brown sugar in a pot. Mix until brown sugar is fully dissolved. Add pork and chicken and marinate for at least an hour in the refrigerator.

Remove chicken from the pot and place it back in the refrigerator. Place pot with marinade and pork over medium high heat. Do not stir, let simmer for four minutes, uncovered. Lower heat to medium low and cover the pot. Cook until meat is almost done.

Add chicken thigh. Simmer until the pork and chicken are fully cooked. Remove chicken and pork from the pot and add the liver spread in the adobo sauce. Add some water if needed to neutralize the saltiness

Liver spread ingredients: 1/2 lb liver, cubed; 1/4 lb bacon, chopped; 1 cup + 3 tbsp milk, full fat; 2 oz butter; 1 small shallot, minced1 clove garlic, minced; 1 bird’s eye chilli; 1 tbsp freshly ground pepper; Salt; Oil

Preparation: Combine liver and milk. Cover and refrigerate for at least a day. When ready for cooking, drain liver and pat dry.

Add oil to a pan, fry bacon until crispy. Set aside. Using the same pan and oil, fry liver. Cook well and brown on all sides.

Remove liver from pan and cook garlic and shallots for 2 minutes over low heat. Turn heat off, add butter and liver and leave until cool.

Pour everything into a food processor with the bacon and the rendered oil, melted butter and pan scrapings. Add chili, salt and pepper. Process until pasty but gritty. If needed, add a tablespoon of milk until desired consistency is achieved.

Source: Seafood City supermarket

INDIAN

Like other South Asian groups, Clark County’s Indian population grew rapidly in the 1980s, when many moved to the area seeking hospitality jobs.

Today, there are more than 8,500 Asian Indians living in Clark County. Sikh temple Gurdwara Baba Deep Singh Ji opened in 1998 and has served as a major social, religious and cultural resource for the community, organizing events and establishing educational programs, such as hymn recitals and Punjabi language classes, to promote and preserve cultural traditions.

Las Vegas Mela Indian Food and Cultural Festival

Hosted by local sikh temple Gurdwara Baba Deep Singh Ji for 11 years, Las Vegas Mela promotes Indian culture, tradition and folklore, in part to engage young Indians and South Asians through art and music. The festival draws on cultures from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, and features folk dance competitions, art, henna tattooing and live music.

• May 2, 2015

Must-try meal: Chicken tikka masala

Where to get it:

• Mint Indian Bistro, 730 E. Flamingo Road, Las Vegas

• India Palace, 505 E. Twain Ave., Las Vegas

• India Masala, 2901 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas

• Origin India, 4480 Paradise Road, Suite 1200, Las Vegas

How to make it:

Ingredients: 6 garlic cloves, finely grated; 4 tsp ginger, finely grated; 4 tsp ground turmeric; 2 tsp garam masala; 2 tsp ground coriander; 2 tsp ground cumin; 1 1/2 cups whole-milk yogurt (not Greek); 1 tbsp kosher salt; 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise; 3 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil; 1 small onion, sliced thinly; 1/4 cup tomato paste; 6 cardamom pods, crushed; 2 dried chiles or 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes; 1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes; 2 cups heavy cream; 3/4 cup cilantro, chopped; Steamed basmati rice

Preparation: Combine garlic, ginger, turmeric, garam masala, coriander and cumin in a small bowl. Whisk yogurt, salt and half of the spice mixture in a medium bowl. Add chicken and turn to coat. Cover and chill 4 or 6 hours. Cover and chill remaining spice mixture.

Heat ghee in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion, tomato paste, cardamom and chiles and cook about 5 minutes, stirring often, until tomato paste has darkened and onion is soft. Add remaining spice mixture and cook about 4 minutes, stirring often, until bottom of pot begins to brown.

Add tomatoes with juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often and scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot, until sauce thickens. Add cream and chopped cilantro. Simmer 30 to 40 minutes until sauce thickens.

Preheat broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack inside. Arrange the chicken on the rack in a single layer. Broil about 10 minutes until chicken starts to blacken in spots (it will not be cooked through).

Cut chicken into bite-size pieces, add to sauce and simmer 8 to 10 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Serve with rice.

ITALIAN

Long before casinos and the mob, Italians arrived in Nevada by the hundreds in the late 19th century to get in on the thriving Eureka Mining District. Many served as charcoal burners helping to power the mills, and their eventual clash with mill owners resulted in the labor conflict known as the Charcoal Burners War of 1879.

By 1900, the U.S. Census reported 1,301 Italians living in Nevada, or 3 percent of the state population. Nevada had a higher per capita presence of Italians than any other state in country and twice that of any state in the West.

Italian immigrants continued to be instrumental in the economic development of the state and of Las Vegas, putting roots down as ranchers, railroad workers, shop and restaurant owners, politicians and public works officials. The Italian American Club of Southern Nevada operates Las Vegas’ oldest Italian restaurant, the Italian American Club Restaurant, and claims some of the country’s best-known Italian-Americans, including Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, as former members.

San Gennaro Feast

Named for the former bishop of Benevento, Italy, and the patron saint of Naples, the San Gennaro Feast first was celebrated in the United States in 1926 in New York City by newly arrived Neapolitan immigrants. The event commemorates the day St. Januarius was martyred in 305 A.D.

The festival came to Las Vegas more than 30 years ago and has grown from a celebration of traditional Italian fare to a semiannual event that includes a carnival and live entertainment, and attracts visitors from around the world.

Sept. 9-14. 4245 S. Grand Canyon Drive, Las Vegas.

Must-try meal: Italian sausage with peppers and onions

Where to get it:

• Cugino’s Italian Deli & Pizzeria, 4550 S. Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas

• Amore Taste of Chicago, 3945 S. Durango Drive, Las Vegas

• Roma Deli and Restaurant, 5755 W. Spring Mountain Road, Las Vegas

How to make it:

Ingredients: 1 lb. mild or hot Italian sausage; 4 bell peppers (red, green, orange and yellow), julienned; 1 large sweet onion, julienned; 1-2 cloves garlic; 1 tbsp. fresh parsley; Italian olive oil, to coat ingredients; Salt and pepper, to taste; Water

Preparation: Sauté sausage in a pan over medium heat with olive oil until cooked, about 30 minutes; remove from pan.

Place onion in pan with sausage drippings, add salt and pepper and cook until caramelized. Add about 1/8 cup of water or enough to loosen the pan contents. Add peppers and garlic and sauté over medium heat until cooked.

Add fresh parsley to mixture and serve with the sausage and a hunk of fresh Italian bread.

Source: San Gennaro Feast President Anthony Palmisano

GREEK

Like many of Las Vegas’ earliest immigrants, Greek migrants arrived in Southern Nevada at the turn of the 20th century seeking opportunity in the state’s booming mining and railroad industries. Many who settled in Las Vegas also came to work on the Hoover Dam. A large number moved from existing Greek communities in Ely, Salt Lake City and California.

John Pappas, who came here in 1904 to work as a waterboy for the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad Co., returned in 1929 to open the city’s first Greek restaurant, the White Spot Cafe. Other notable Greeks include William G. Flangas, director of operations at the Nevada Test Site during the facility’s peak operation, and Jerry’s Nugget founder Jerry Stamis, whose family continues to own and operate the casino today.

Las Vegas’ first Greek Orthodox Church was established in the early 1960s. It continues to serve as a community hub to more than 500 families of Greek descent in the valley. Community leaders estimate there are more than 10,000 Greek Americans in Southern Nevada.

42nd annual Greek Food Festival

The Greek word “kefi” means passion, enthusiasm and high spirits, and that’s what you’ll get at the Greek Food Festival. One of the valley’s longest-running cultural gatherings, it brings the sounds, sites and flavors of Greece to Las Vegas.

The festival includes folk dancing, traditional live music, shopping, raffles, church tours, a kids area and, of course, authentic Greek cuisine. You might even see some plates get smashed. Opa!

Sept. 25 -28. St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, 5300 El Camino Road, Las Vegas; 702-221-8245

Must-try meal: Spanakopita

Where to get it:

• Plaka Restaurant, 2550 S. Rainbow Blvd., Las Vegas

• Great Greek Mediterranean Grill, 1275 W. Warm Springs Road, Suite 160, Henderson

• Paymon’s Mediterranean Cafe & Lounge, 8380 W. Sahara Ave., Las Vegas, or 4147 S. Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas

How to make it:

Ingredients: 4 lbs of fresh spinach, washed, trimmed and chopped; 1 large onion, chopped; 2/3 cup + 2 tbsp olive oil; 3/4 cup butter; 5 eggs; 1 lb firm feta cheese; 2 tsp freshly ground pepper; 1 lb 14x18 inch phyllo sheets (Note: The phyllo can be defrosted three hours before use. To defrost, leave the package unopened on the counter); 1/3 cup water

Preparation: Over medium heat, sauté onion in 2/3 cup olive oil until soft. Add spinach and 1/3 cup water, bring to a boil and cover. Reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain. When cool, cover and continue to drain in refrigerator overnight.

Bring the spinach mixture from the previous day back to room temperature.

In a small skillet, heat butter and oil; keep warm. Brush butter mixture on the sides and bottom of a 13x9-inch pan. Cut eight phyllo sheets to 16x12 inches; line pan with sheets (they will overlap the pan), brushing each one with butter mixture.

Pour in prepared spinach mixture; spread evenly. Cut eight more phyllo sheets into 13x9 inch rectangles and lay over filling, brushing each sheet with butter mixture.

Using a sharp knife, score the top layers of spanakopita into serving-size pieces. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes with oven rack in center position. Lower rack, and bake an additional 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool slightly.

Cut on score marks.

Source: St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church

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