Los Angles is the microcosm of the world in terms of food from far-flung and exotic places. This may catch some people by surprise, but it is true.
I love to eat exotic foods. Andrew Zimmern’s show is one of my favorite food shows.
Food is a fellowship food across the cultures. People gather together over different religious celebrations to break bread. Hence we can know the culture partly by what foods they eat, how they eat, and what rituals they employ.
Now LA has food water holes by small sets of people from around the world. they are small enough to escape (out of fear or mistrust) the regular run-of-the-mill tourist. Uzbek, Islamic Chinese, Issan thai to name a few.
For example – Pico Boulevard, close to downtown – has food from Oaxaca area of Mexico (most southern part of mexico). Mind you it is not the mexican restaurant that one can find anywhere – it has the unique flavors of the Oaxaca region – with its own style of food preparation. Or what about jalisco cuisine from Mexico, its right there, or Birria (a goat stew) from Distrito Federal of Mexico, right there. Mama’s Hot tamales at Mac Arthur park, and one of the best pastrami can be had at Langer’s deli.
Rowland Heights driving east on 605 has had a long history of fantastic Chinese foods – the number 1 noodle house (you have to know Chinese to find it in the first place) has Saliva chicken noodle soup (it tastes really good when tears are dropping into your soup because of the heat, and you need a bib for panting like a dog). What about szechuan food – spicy and mouth watering? Its right there.
Now the Chinese restaurants are San-Gabriel Valley are unlike the Chinese restaurants of other cities. Other cities reflects a collective notion of a generalized term ‘Chinese food’, but here we have pockets of places to eat reflecting pockets of places from other countries. Insular and tight – good when it comes to authentic food.
Muslim style Korean restaurant anyone? – one can find it in downtown LA serving among other things – Bull testicles barbeque!!, Korean beef liver shashimi right there in Korea town. Sea squirts with pickled mackerel egg. Yummy!
In Hollywood one can get menus with hard-to-find Southern Thai specialties – sour oxtail soup, dried mudfish curry, fish and kidney curry pickled crab salad at Jitlada restaurant.
Happy Journey eating!
PS: The material for this post is taken from Nov 9th 2009 edition of the New Yorker online archives (paid subscription, unfortunately). Its on Jonathan Gold who won the first Pulitzer prize for a food critique ever. The title of the article is – The Scavenger —-Pig’s ear, octopus, and fish-kidney curry with L.A.’s most adventurous eater, by Dana Goodyear