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5 Foods Friday: 5 Best Things in LA to Eat with your Hands

5 Aug

On whole, I find utensils pretty overrated.  Since the foods I enjoy the most are the ones where I get to toss the spork aside and use my hands, I’ve decided to do my first 5  Foods Friday post – a weekly themed list of my top 5 fave foods/places to eat.  This week’s theme: Best things in LA to eat with your hands.  Before eating, please wash those hands first, your cell phone probably has more bacteria on it than a gas station toilet. Yummm.  So with that said…let’s eat!

1.  Umami Burger

This place is definitely an LA staple and on any given night you’ll find crowds of people waiting to get the infamous Truffle, So Cal, or Umami burgers into their hot little hands.  For blue cheese fanatics, the Port & Stilton burger is a must.  The juicy beef patty is loaded with Stilton blue cheese and caramelized onions – which serve as a perfectly sweet contrast to the sharp, full-bodied cheese. 

If the rich and amazingly flavorful burgers aren’t enough for you, Umami also has housemade, crispy cheesy tots, onion rings and they even make their own ketchup, roasted garlic aioli, jalapeno ranch and spicy diablo sauce.  Wash it all down with fresh watermelon juice or a deliciously sugary glass bottled Coke.

Umami Burger: Juicy Beef (ground in-house), Roasted Tomato, Parmasean Crisp

2.  Cielito Lindo: Taquitos

Located on the corner of Downtown’s Olvera Street Marketplace, this famous little stand sells the most incredible taquitos I’ve ever tasted.  They are freshly made to order, pan fried to a perfect crisp and topped with an amazingly flavorful  salsa verde and avocado sauce.  The true flavor of the taquitos and fresh tortillas aren’t drowning under heaps of shredded lettuce, they look simple but once you bite into one, the sauce perfectly enhances the taquito’s juicy meat and crispy yet soft texture.   At $6 for a tasty combo plate, Cielito Lindo really can’t do any wrong.

3.  Haru Sushi & Roll Cafe: Lava Stone & Albacore Onion Roll

I know you “technically” should be using chopsticks for anything sushi related, but sometimes the rolls get just a little too big and crazy, and I’m forced to view these delish pop-ems as more of a finger food.  Haru is undoubtedly one of my favorite spots in LA for a sushi feast.  The Lava Stone (crispy rice topped with spicy tuna, black caviar and avocado), Albacore Onion roll (spicy tuna roll covered with albacore, topped with lightly fried onion strips)
and the Yellowtail and Jalapeno Carpaccio are my consistent go-tos on the menu.

4.  Mendoncino Farms: Korbuta Pork Belly Banh Mi

This place has superb sandwiches and super fresh ingredients that never fail to impress.  Along with the DTLA masses, my favorite sandwich here is the Korbuta Pork Belly Banh Mi.  It’s not a completely traditional Vietnamese Banh Mi, but this version does great justice to the original.  The sandwich has tender braised and caramelized kurobuta pork belly, housemade pickled daikon and carrots (which balance the subtle sweetness of the pork), cilantro, cucumbers, jalapenos and chili aioli all on a grilled ciabatta.  The only drawback is that once you’ve experienced all these explosive flavors on your palate, you’ll crave this sandwich on the daily.

5. Fugetsu-Do Bakery: Mochi 

Even though I don’t have a huge sweet tooth, I have to give a shout out to Fugetsu-Do Bakery in Little Tokyo for their amazing Mochi (small gooey Japanese rice cake deliciousness).  This 100 yr-old Japanese bakery in Downtown LA remains family owned and makes the best Japanese desserts – no Mochi compares to the lightly sweetened treats made here.  Their specialty is the strawberry mochi with a crunchy peanut butter filling.  Even though this flavor combo may sound a little off, the amazingly chewy texture of the outside strawberry mochi perfectly compliments the soft peanut butter filling.  Plus, you get to hang out with possibly the sweetest woman in the world…

 

Now go roam the LA culinary streets and dig in!  It tastes better that way.  Stay posted for 5 Foods Friday next week!  Also feel free to leave theme suggestions if you so dare.

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France and Italy continued…

13 Jun

A few more photos of my marvelous meals in the South of France and Cinque Terre, Italy!  These are all typical regional dishes that are guaranteed to make your mouth water.

Tomato Farci Provencale – stuffed tomato w/beef, parmesan, garlic, onions, sauteed veggies and provencal spices

Salade Chevre Chaud – Arugula, heirloom tomatoes, parmesan shavings, with warm goat cheese wrapped in puff pastry.

Socca –  Similar to a crepe.  Socca is made of chickpea flour, water, olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper.  It’s perfect for a warm, savory breakfast.

Socca man hard at work!

Fresh from the woodfire oven…almost ready!

Oh wait, there’s more…socca man sells fresh pizza too.

Pissaladiere: Very popular in the south.  Pissaladiere is a light and flaky pastry type pizza that’s generally made with grilled onions (onions confit), anchovies, olives and fresh thyme.  Unfortunately, anchovies are one of the few things I don’t enjoy, so I had to remove it, but luckily my dad was there to pick up the anchovy slack.

Can’t go wrong with some serious charcuterie at the morning market in the old village of La Turbie.

Sanglier meat: Wild boar meat that tastes like a less pungent version of prosciutto.  Tasty over a bed of arugula.

Gambas w/pesto – Big ol shrimps from the Mediterranean Sea.

Panna cotta

Nutella Creme Brulee – seriously as amazing as it sounds.  Surprisingly light and not overly sweet.

Sandwiches!

Pan Bagnat: Raw veggies, green onions, hard boiled eggs, tuna and olive oil on a fresh baguette.  This sandwich is a very typical lunchtime meal in Nice.

Grilled Merguez (Spicy Lamb) Sandwich

Merguez sandwich: Served with dijon mustard and Harissa (spicy paste from North Africa)

Cinque Terre, Italy

I love Italy. I love pasta.

Penne alla arrabiata

Caprese Salad: Burrata (creamy mozzarella), tomato, basil and pesto

Ravioli with zucchini and sun-dried tomatoes 

Testaroli with pesto genovese

 

Please adopt me Tony Bourdain!

3 Apr

Bourdain’s No Reservations trip to Vietnam where he discovers some Cao Lao to die for and feasts on an amazing Banh Mi

For those of you that don’t already know of my minor obsession…for me, Anthony Bourdain is the ultimate bad ass chef and food connoisseur.  He is an author and world-traveler with an honest, unbridled passion for food and cooking.  Bourdain went from working in seafood restaurants in college, to running some of the greatest restaurant kitchens in New York City. Nowadays, Bourdain mainly focuses on his show, No Reservations, where he travels to far off lands and immerses himself in the history, customs and cuisines of the locals.  Whether he is writing, cooking, traveling or chowing down on some good eats, Bourdain always stays true to his dynamic convictions regarding life and cooking, and above all, the man can spot quality cuisine anywhere in the world.

Tuna Crostini w/Harissa and Shaved Parmesan

28 Mar

This crostini is one of my favorite things to eat because it’s so simple to make and always hits the spot. Growing up with a Tunisian father and a Chinese-Indonesian mother, I was no stranger to smothering my meals in hot sauce from some corner of the world.  For those of you who haven’t heard of Harissa, it’s an amazing chili paste with garlic and cumin that was made famous by my fellow North Africans.  Besides a plate of homemade couscous, Harissa compliments just about anything; but my personal favorite is spreading it on a slice of perfectly toasted bread with a little tuna, capers and shaved parmesan.  This dish is perfect for a light lunch or a late afternoon snack.

To make it you need…

– A few slices of good artisan bread (either Kalamata or a baguette)

– 1 can of tuna in olive oil (preferably Genova)

Harissa

– A few lemon wedges

Capers

2 tsps of salt and pepper

– Shaved parmesan

– Pinch of dried herbs (such as basil or oregano) to top

While the bread is toasting, take a small bowl and mix the tuna, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Remove the toasted bread and spread a light layer of Harissa onto it.  Then top the bread with the tuna mixture, a few parmesan shavings, capers and sprinkle on the herbs.  There you go… a 5-minute meal with a spicy kick and endless amounts of flavor.

You can either make a full sandwich size version of this crostini for lunch (feel free to add arugula and tomato slices), or make a platter of bite sized versions to serve as hors d’oeuvres.

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