>> Carrito Sanguchero | Eat the World Los Angeles

Thursday, 27 January 2022

Carrito Sanguchero

PERÚ 🇵🇪
Stand on Paramount Blvd.

COVID-19 UPDATE: This stall is outdoors on a sidewalk with plenty of space for customers to spread out.


In Los Angeles, Peruvian food usually has its home in mostly casual family-run restaurants scattered around the county. Normally it is not thought about as something to be picked up from street vendors, but this is in stark contrast to the reality in the country of Perú. If you have ever spent any time outside after dark in Lima, the city is alive with smoke in the air, the glare of bare bulbs hanging from food carts and stands, and smells that will draw you in from blocks away.

The name of this mobile vendor is the first step to getting its word out to Peruvians in Los Angeles, its namesake carritos sangucheros are moveable sandwich carts that are active throughout the day and night in cities and towns. The chef here has been catering for the better part of a decade but has had this business for about a year now, another pop-up born from the combination of personal passion and pandemic reality. Its subtitle "Que Pase El Desgraciado" could take up another full article, if you would like to explore that.

Chef prepares lomo saltado in a wok

You can sometimes find this exciting setup on a stretch of Paramount Blvd. that technically falls in a far southeastern peninsula of South Gate, sandwiched between Downey and Paramount (please check with vendor for hours/days). These blocks are home to tire shops, car alarm and stereo specialists, and smog check garages, but this sidewalk just south of Gardendale Street has ebbed and flowed with vendors depending on the heavy-handedness of the police at any given time.

The only other permanent vendor seems to be a busy Tijuana-style taco stand, and during visits to Carrito Sanguchero there were always some of their customers coming over confused not to find them or curious about something else.

A late night haul of anticuchos and lomo saltado

While waiting for food in cooler winter months, you might be offered a sample of their homemade emoliente, a drink made with toasted barley and plenty of herbs. This only seals the transportive qualities of the stand further, as hot emoliente is served on the street in the colder high altitudes towns. In summer you can hopefully come back for a chilled version, always refreshing on a hot day.

This and all the rest of the details are really appreciated by the mostly Peruvian crowds that double park on Paramount picking up their orders and chatting with the chef. Offerings rotate from week to week but you will always be able to find big chicken sandwiches, beef heart skewers called anticuchos, and lomo saltado made properly to order in a wok.

Sanguchón de pollo y chancho al cilindro

Big pieces of bread for sandwiches will be the first tip of the excellent sanguchón ($11, below) available nightly. These enormous classics focus mainly on the marinated chicken that is pressed between toasted buns but also have some lettuce and fries and your choice of sauce.

The condiment game here is one of the strongest in town, with many types of mayos available as well as their delicious salsa huancaina, a creamy cheese-based salsa that is spiced with ají amarillo. Another red salsa is usually included in orders and is not only blisteringly hot but absolutely delicious.

Sanguchón de pollo

One of the most recognizable items you will see in Lima at night are skewers of anticuchos ($12, below), beef hearts that are grilling over charcoal or on flat tops. Anticucherías sending smoke into the night are as Peruvian as llamas or Machu Picchu, but all three have origins in pre-Columbian times. The name even comes from the Quechua word meaning "cut stew meat."

Like the best anticucherías in Lima, the cuts of heart here are lean and could almost pass for filets. They are marinated and seasoned with a complex lacquer/dusting of garlic, vinegar, cumin, salt and pepper, and ají panca. The resulting smells when the meet hits the grill and starts sizzling are intense and will only make your hunger multiply. You would probably find a boiled potato served with these in Lima, but a bed of fries serves as an honorable substitute here.

Two anticuchos skewers with spicy dipping sauce

Often on the streets you will enjoy anticuchos with picarones, thin donut-shaped fried and sweetened dough that finish off a meal. A master of these treats sometimes sets up with them at night, but in the past few weeks she has been ill and could not make it. Hopefully her picarones can be tasted sometime soon.

Like anticuchos, another dish that belongs on the street and should be avoided if you find it on restaurant menus is chancho al cilindro ($20, below). This "cilindro" is usually a metal barrel drum that serves as a charcoal grill to lower pork ribs into. This setup allows the drippings of fat and blood and all the rest to be captured and the drum can be flipped so that all of this can marinate the meat. The resulting ribs, served four to an order with a bonus anticucho, grilled potatoes, and salad, have a nice crispy skin, are of a perfect tender texture, and focus completely on the pork flavor.

Chancho al cilindro with one skewer anticucho and salad

Lomo saltado

While it may seem like a more common order, do not turn down a plate of lomo saltado ($15, above), a stir-fried beef dish that has its roots in Lima's Barrio Chino. An influx of Cantonese-speaking immigrants from China coming to Perú in the latter half of the 1800's gave birth to the chifa, a Peruvian Chinese cuisine that remains enormously popular today both at home and with expat communities outside of Perú. These dishes are so common in Peruvian cuisine that they have basically been folded into what constitutes food from Perú.

The beef and rice are cooked in a gas-heated wok that never seems to get a break here at Carrito Sanguchero. The resulting product, filled with crisp red onions and fresh tomatoes, is one of the best on offer throughout Greater Los Angeles. Not one dish ever ordered at this stand has been a disappointment.

Selection of mayos and sauces
Strong mayo and sauce game.

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