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Saturday, 26 September 2020

Aqui es Texcoco

MÉXICO 🇲🇽
(ESTADO DE MÉXICO)

[COVID-19 UPDATE: Aqui es Texcoco has opened up a lot of comfortable patio space for dining, and has plenty of delivery options. Hours have been reduced, so get in touch before stopping by.]

Despite its legendary status in town, and being on almost every essential essentials list, the story of Aqui es Texcoco did not even start here in Commerce. In the United States, its big brother came first in Chula Vista, a bit closer to the grand original location in Tijuana, which became famous for feeding the pit-roasted lamb that many residents of the northern city missed from back home in central México.

If you have ever traveled to Mexico City and made friends or happen to have family there, chances are you have also made it to Texcoco. This small town is a little more than 25 kilometers from the center of Distrito Federal, and a weekend destination for many families who pack everyone in their car before sunrise and try to make it to the most popular stands before they are sold out.

A plate of fixins for your eventual tacos.

Because it takes at least overnight in an underground pit to be cooked right, barbacoa is not something that many people cook at home. Certainly you will find competing origin stories, but many people agree that Texcoco is the birthplace of barbacoa in México, making weekend trips to the town essential for any food-centric travels.

Los Angeles has an embarrassment of available regional styles of Mexican food, so it is only natural that this tradition has also come here. Better yet, Aqui es Texcoco is cooking barbacoa every day of the week in its custom ovens built to replicate the process of underground cooking.
 
Consomé de borrego.

The process of barbacoa always starts the day before it is served. A lamb (or goat) must be killed and cleaned, butchered into manageable pieces and wrapped in the leaves of an agave plant. A circular oven is built deep into the ground with stone walls, where a wood fire burns for hours before any meat arrives. When the wood burns down to ash and an intense heat is radiating, the meat is lowered into the oven and sealed before cooking slow and steady overnight.

If you are coming to Aqui es Texcoco for the first time, let your eyes fall on the top of the menu where the barbacoa de borrego lives. Whether dining alone with a half order ($12.25, below, 1/3 pound) or with family and friends with many pounds laid before you on the table, the lamb is accompanied by a full array of plates to help you make a full meal.


A container full of hot tortillas is the place to start, adding various cuts of lamb (you can choose your favorites or a combination), onions and cilantro, and of course salsa on top. The bowl of consomé is fun to take sips from between bites. Squeeze some lime both into this bowl and on top of your tacos.

It is hard to describe it any other way than bliss.

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Thursday, 27 August 2020

Any's Tamales

GUATEMALA 🇬🇹

[COVID-19 UPDATE: Interactions for pickup could not feel safer and staff has asked their customers to wear masks also while picking up.]

This past weekend was the beginning of a new home business based in Hawthorne called Any's Tamales. Any is Ana Roman Morales and like her, her tamales are of Guatemalan descent. Orders can be placed through her Instagram account, and for now everything is pickup only in Hawthorne.

Two varieties are on offer as of now, chicken and a vegetarian version that uses the same ingredients minus the meat. In Guatemala, you will notice a red flag outside of a business or home to signify on Saturdays when the fresh tamales are ready to be purchased. Here at Any's they hung a red balloon, which was close enough to bring back good memories.


You may be familiar with chuchitos from Guatemalan restaurants or markets around Los Angeles, a type of tamal wrapped in corn husks like their Mexican cousins and a bit drier. These tamales that Any makes are tamales colorados, wrapped and steamed inside of banana leaves, chicken thigh, pumpkin seeds, and a complex red sauce that leads to the name.

The resulting product is full of moisture from all of its ingredients and sauces, and like chuchitos, deeply satisfying. Receiving a package is a pleasant experience, shown above with the care they give to their presentation.


Guatemalan tamales are a bit larger than those Mexican cousins, and one can go quite a ways to filling up a "normal" person. Two should satisfy anyone. Do to the fact that they are weekend or special occasion tradition, it is clear that Any's will be a welcome addition to customers seeking to bring many tamales back to their homes in Los Angeles with the familiar tastes of back home in Guatemala.

Check out the photos below first of chicken and then vegetarian. Keep up with Any's Tamales through their Instagram to see when the next batch will be. As of this article, orders are going to be taken from 31 August to 03 September to be picked up on 05 Saturday and 06 Sunday of that weekend.


Chicken.


Vegetarian.

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HAWTHORNE South Bay
Online Orders Only

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Sunday, 23 August 2020

Honey Bakery 汉妮西点

TAIWAN 🇹🇼

[COVID-19 UPDATE: Business at Honey Bakery is pretty much unchanged as the vast majority of customers always took their purchases back home.]

If you ever spend any time in Honey Bakery, maybe kneeling over inspecting the many varieties of homemade sweet and savory pastries, or maybe enjoying one at the table that used to be available in better days, you will see many folks come in and out in under 30 seconds grabbing loaves of freshly baked bread.


In fact, the shelves of these beautiful loaves are the first thing you notice when you walk in. Sometimes these are emptier than others depending on which end of the cycle you walk in during, but it proves that freshness is never in doubt.

There are also cakes in the fridge and a wide variety of cookies that are always tempting. The little Artesia/Cerritos border strip mall it lives in also has a Taiwanese restaurant and cultural/language school, making it a small hub for folks from the island here in and around Southeast Los Angeles.


And what about all those packaged breads and snacks, which should be selected? So far the variety and fun of having new ones always leads to different purchases, and really you probably cannot go wrong with one that sounds tasty to you.

Honey Bakery has many of the items you may see on the shelves of modern Taiwanese bakery/bubble tea spots, but with far less flash while being more affordable. Everything about it feels more mom + pop, and that translates to each bite for those that enjoy that type of environment more. For the bubble tea though, you will have to stop somewhere else to pick that up.




I COULD USE YOUR HELP
Eat the World Los Angeles is and always has been free. No advertisements block the content or pop over what you read. If this website has helped you explore your city and its wonderful cultures a little better and you have the means to contribute, please consider doing so. Eat the World Los Angeles is a labor of love, but also takes a lot of money and time everyday to keep running.

You can Venmo me @JAREDCOHEE or click here to send PayPal donation, no account is necessary. Thank you!

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Los Alpes Neveria

MÉXICO 🇲🇽

[COVID-19 UPDATE: You cannot currently use the shop's interior tables, but you never did that anyways, so picking up ice cream and paletas here is not much different than usual.]

Whether enjoying the sweet and savory treats across the street at the best location of La Monarca, having carne en su jugo and jarritos locos at Tortas Ahogadas Guadalajara, enjoying birria estilo Michoacán in tacos and sopas down Gage at Birrieria El Guero, or any other reason that happens to land you in downtown Huntington Park, there is simply no good reason not to stop into Los Alpes Neveria.

The ice cream shop and paleteria has a seemingly endless selection of flavors for each, and it would take many dozens of visits to try them all.


The paletas are of course made here, and always fresh. You will never see freezer burn or find one that has been in the case far too long. No labels get in the way of seeing the contents of each, and its unique drips and dents that come from being made in house.

If you came for a hard to find scoop of ice cream, you will not be disappointed there either. All the favorites are available, as well as flavors more likely to be found in México, and some you may have never dreamed of to begin with. It is always enough to create a jealousy for someone who has been coming here since their childhood.


A fresh scoop of queso ice cream.



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Eat the World Los Angeles is and always has been free. No advertisements block the content or pop over what you read. If this website has helped you explore your city and its wonderful cultures a little better and you have the means to contribute, please consider doing so. Eat the World Los Angeles is a labor of love, but also takes a lot of money and time everyday to keep running.

You can Venmo me @JAREDCOHEE or click here to send PayPal donation, no account is necessary. Thank you!

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Royal King Elephant

LAOS 🇱🇦

[COVID-19 UPDATE: Open for pickup and takeout.]

As with most Lao restaurants in the country, the cuisine of Thailand is also offered on the sign outside and throughout the menu. Here they don't separate it into sections and dishes unique to each country intermingle on each page. You probably will not be disappointed by the Thai selections, but this will be about Lao food, somewhat harder to find and what makes Royal King Elephant a special place.

Ever since their soft opening at the end of April 2016 and a few smatterings throughout online media, the restaurant has lived a relatively quiet life. The tiny little space in a strip mall serves up big flavors and with items like sticky rice containers and homemade fried bananas for sale amongst many other items, also acts as a communal hub for the Lao community.


Many photos of elephants adorn the walls, as well as other remembrances of Laos. Just like when you are in the small landlocked country, Thai music is playing over the speakers while a basketball game is on TV. The condiment selection on each table is really good, although most of the dishes come prepared just right.

One mistake made during this meal was asking for the tam mak hoong ($11.99, above, Lao-style) to be prepared less spicy than the other dishes. Lao cooking depends on heat and papaya salad is not a dish to eat mild, no matter what your limits. The salty crab and other Lao additions were all ready to be ignited together, but the lesson is learned.


After everything that was ordered came to the table, a plate of sai oua (above, on the house) arrived as a sampler, crispy and perfect sour Lao sausages full of aromatics and ground pork, and served with a chili dipping sauce.

A bowl of khao poon nam jeow ($12.99, below) is an exercise in how uncompromising the kitchen here can be. This is said in a flattering way, as many kitchens are eventually forced to either tone down their heat or take out the offal when they serve different crowds. The bowl served here is exactly what some wide-eyed tourist might see a Lao person diving into at a night market, before searching for something else. Go for it.


The menu does not try to hide this and lists the ingredients clearly: "Pork liver, intestine, tongue, and pork blood" amongst the greens. For a slightly less offal-centric bowl, try the khao poon nam gai, which replaces everything but the pork blood (which is necessary in any khao poon) with chicken.

Knowing the larb was going to be the spiciest part of the meal led to the mistake described above, but thankfully this dish was thoroughly enjoyable and sweat-inducing. Despite its absence in some versions here and in San Diego, tripe is an essential part of larb seen ($12.99, below), a beef larb also full of Thai chilies, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, onions, mint, cilantro, lemon juice and fish sauce, and the crunchiness of toasted bits of sticky rice.


The larb is another dish that proves the kitchen's insistence on bringing the most real foods to Garden Grove that Lao people miss from back home. They also serve a few types of pho, which certain Orange County reporters have warned against ordering saying they are un-Lao, but anyone who has visited the small country knows that it is full of Vietnamese people and pho is what you eat almost every morning.

They also serve khao piak, a chicken soup that Lao people also eat for breakfast, fresh clams and blood clams, and favorites like tom zap and nam kao tod. While the kitchen may not soar to heights where people describe it as the greatest in the entire world, there is still so much going right here.


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Eat the World Los Angeles is and always has been free. No advertisements block the content or pop over what you read. If this website has helped you explore your city and its wonderful cultures a little better and you have the means to contribute, please consider doing so. Eat the World Los Angeles is a labor of love, but also takes a lot of money and time everyday to keep running.

You can Venmo me @JAREDCOHEE or click here to send PayPal donation, no account is necessary. Thank you!

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Dongdaemun Yupdduk Olympic

SOUTH KOREA 🇰🇷

[COVID-19 UPDATE: Open for takeout and delivery during their normal business hours. Stay up to date through their Instagram or Facebook pages.]

On streets of Seoul or other Korean cities, a popular snack food purchased from vendors is tteokbokki, a simple dish of rice and fish cakes in a sweet and spicy chili sauce. After (or during) a night of drinking, hungry youngsters will crowd under a pojangmacha tent selling these dishes and others. In Los Angeles, nothing like this exists yet, but a couple places carry the dish, including the specialty shop Yupdduk Olympic.

The popular Korean restaurant with full name Dongdaemun Yeopgi Tteokbokki can be found listed as one of the spiciest places to eat in Seoul, an honor that should not be taken lightly as Koreans enjoy their heat. Here in Koreatown, diners are given the option of three levels of spiciness.

Since this was the first time, the table opted for yupgi combo A ($26.99, below 4 photos), which allowed for a sample of the specialty but also includes three other dishes that pair well.


Sundae (above) might sound like dessert, but comes out first and is a sausage made from cellophane noodles, a much watered down version of what this usually consists of: blood and intestines.


Skewered oden (above) is fish cake in a an oden broth. This is commonly borrowed from Japan and usually served with spicy soups purchased on the street, working somewhat as a taste bud relaxer.


An assortment fried set (sic, above) comes with a handy pair of kitchen shears. You will find within one sweet potato, one seaweed roll, one vegetable to be named later, and one piece of squid.

And the real reason to come here if you have not tried the dish already is the yupgi topokki (another version of the word tteokbokki), the heaping casserole of rice and fish cakes. This is the assorted yupgi topokki (below), which adds a boiled egg and a mess of mozzarella cheese on top of everything. On their three level scale, this was made as "spicy" (rather than mild or extremely spicy), and definitely had everyone's head sweating. The red chili pepper sauce is not all punch though, it is moderately complex and has a sweetness to it that makes you want to dip the fried pieces and sundae into it all night.


To round out the meal, the table also shared a plate of squid over rice ($10.99, below) which was unanimously enjoyed. This spicy sauce was a bit different than with the yupgi topokki, but hard to tell apart once everything was tingling.


And furthering the amount of red things on offer, the last order was the spicy pork over rice ($9.99, below) which came with spicy red sauce served in a cast iron skillet. It was tasty in a way that marinated pork is always tasty, but lacked the depth of the other dishes.


On a sandwich board in front, the restaurant also advertises ramen, and this seems to be a popular option amongst diners as it was on quite a few other tables. At $7.99 for a big bowl, it also seemed like a steal.

Overall, the restaurant is a completely unpretentious and reasonably priced place. If not for the multiple rounds of beer, the bill would have been no more than $20 per head for the feast. The chain has one other location in Koreatown, as well as in Cerritos and Diamond Bar.

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KOREATOWN Midtown
3132 W. Olympic Blvd.

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Eat the World Los Angeles is and always has been free. No advertisements block the content or pop over what you read. If this website has helped you explore your city and its wonderful cultures a little better and you have the means to contribute, please consider doing so. Eat the World Los Angeles is a labor of love, but also takes a lot of money and time everyday to keep running.

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Monday, 27 July 2020

Copenhagen Pastry

DENMARK 🇩🇰

[COVID-19 UPDATE: Never really the dine-in sort of place to begin with, Copenhagen Pastry is operating pretty normally these days, albeit on slightly shortened hours. Closed Monday and Tuesday.]

Culver City residents have been enjoying the Nordic-leaning baked creations of Copenhagen Pastry since the summer of 2012. For a stint, a second location also graced Pasadena, but for now at least it is just in the Westside where you can find some of the fantastic treats and breads beloved in Denmark and its neighbors.

Denmark pride, unlike its US equivalent, relies less on the flag.

The shelves are also full of rye and other breads that Europeans crave. If you are friends with any, you most certainly know by now that the bread they find here in the states is simply inadequate. They never miss a chance to tell you this. Ok and they're probably right.

Los Angeles is probably home to more immigrants from Wisconsin than it is to those of Denmark, but both know all about kringle. The long lost relative of Danish kringle cake is of course the Wisconsin state pastry, although many Danish people might look at you funny if you show them this information.

Ok, so the flag is around.

The word "kringle" itself describes the shape and is an old sailing term. Except for small forays onto Lake Michigan, these traditions on the water were just not the same as they were back in the old country.

These pastries done in the traditional way take a lot of time, and you can watch videos of the owner waking up at 3am to begin this daily process. The end product ends up looking like the shape of a pretzel, or more accurately the shape of the knots used to tie up boats.


On any given day you can walk right in and see many products that do not exist on the shelves of a run-of-the-mill bakery in this country, each one a new and fascinating treat. As you can imagine since the word "Danish" describes a whole range of sweet pastries in this country, Denmark takes its baked sweets very seriously.

The cute boxes they pack your treasures in make good gifts when invited to the faraway Westside by friends.




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I COULD USE YOUR HELP
Eat the World Los Angeles is and always has been free. No advertisements block the content or pop over what you read. If this website has helped you explore your city and its wonderful cultures a little better and you have the means to contribute, please consider doing so. Eat the World Los Angeles is a labor of love, but also takes a lot of money and time everyday to keep running.

You can Venmo me @JAREDCOHEE or click here to send PayPal donation, no account is necessary. Thank you!