Friday, October 11, 2013

Exotic LA Eats (Part 3)

This final installment was the most fun to write. Food explorers eat many things with not everything panning out. It’s those moments which you eat something so different, so unique, it forever changes your palate knowing you can never go back. These rewards are the reason we are constantly seeking but never really finding.

Parts one and two 

Live Uni - Sea Urchin is a tasty treat, live sea urchin is heaven. Sea Urchin are bottom feeding echinoderms found on the bottom of every ocean around the world. California Sea Urchins are found off the coast about 50ft deep in kelp beds. They are blackish purple to red and covered in long spines weighing about a pound. At the Quality Seafood, you pick one from the tank to be masterfully cracked opened to provide access to that deliciously sweet roe. It tastes like essence of ocean distilled into one bite. I should mention the uni still move during the entire process. Bless their little hearts - if they had any…
Quality Seafood, 130 S International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach, CA 90277

Goat Birria - In most parts of the world, this meat isn’t exotic. While 70% of the world eats goat, it isn’t common in North America. Perhaps the lean qualities requiring additional care or maybe the sometimes strong flavour limit its popularity. Regardless, goat meat has quite unique flavours and El Parian exquisitely captures them with their stew. Rich, deep and succulent goat stew is accentuated with appropriate peppers and spices. One bite and you can taste the care going into this Mexican dish.
El Parian, 1528 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015

Live lobster tail sashimi - This momentous event was during the live octopus night. While live octopus proved more experience than flavour, that night's most memorable dish was lobster tail sashimi. Perhaps ignorance of its existence prevented me from trying lobster sashimi before that enlightening night, but this is absolutely worth trying. The upside down severed tail shell holds the tail meat and presented alongside the head. The taste is clean and velvety similar to raw crab but sweeter, more plentiful and a flavour that lingers just so.
Chung Hae Jin, 3470 W 6th St Ste 8A, Los Angeles, CA 90020

Immature Egg with Sac - This new discovery in Orange County is served with Chicken pho. As far as I know, Pho Dakao is the only place in SoCal serving this. Immature eggs have undeveloped shells with a bright yellow appearance. Harvested after the hen is slaughtered, these are sometimes still attached to the egg sac. The taste is like an exceptionally delicious egg yolk that is denser yet silky texture. If you like egg yolk, you will like this. Word of warning, if you cannot speak Vietnamese, expect an extremely difficult time to get these exquisite morsels of goodness and it isn't always available. The pho it comes with is also extremely tasty.
Pho Dakao, 15532 Ward St, Garden Grove, CA 92843

Foie Gras Cotton Candy - This was eaten before the unfortunate California ban on foie gras so there was a debate whether this entry should even be written. I justify this entry because the cotton candy was part of a much larger culinary experience involving some avant-garde molecular gastronomy techniques. Blending childhood memories with a very adult flavour made this dish the most memorable. Whether you choose the air bread philly cheesesteak or nitrogen margarita, it will be an experience like no other. The menu is split up by modern and traditional cooking techniques and I advise to order some heartier offerings from the traditional side. New age is cool, but it just didn't seem to provide that same level of satisfaction.
The Bazaar at SLS Hotel, 465 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048

Rattlesnake and rabbit sausage - While rattlesnake and rabbit are generally uncommon in North America, they are also pretty tasty. Wurstkuche fuses them together into tube format. It’s served in a hot dog bun with all the usual condiments available.The sausage is tasty, but tasted mixed with pork presumably to lower costs since it’s only an $8 sausage or perhaps pork was added to counterbalance the lean rabbit and rattlesnake. Regardless, I would rather eat the meats individually to provide the full effect, but the rabbit and rattlesnake definitely add different dimension to the sausage. They have other exotic meats (for sausages anyways) such as Buffalo, Duck, Crocodile, Lamb and Pheasant.
Wurstküche, 800 E 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA, 90013

Friday, October 4, 2013

Exotic LA Eats (Part 2)

As promised, the second installment of exotic eats in LA. This list are OK tasting things, but I wouldn't go out of my way to eat it. (Part one, Part Three)

Drunken shrimp - Live shrimp are doused in rice wine (presumably ShaoXing) and served alive. Shrimp ‘swim’ in the alcohol which act as sanitizer, marinade and a lethal sedative for the happy shrimp. They stop moving after a about minute which is then ready to eat. While live shrimp itself is generally pretty tasty, the rice wine is often harsh and overpowering. I've had this dish on different occasions and the wildcard is usually the wine. I often wonder if swapping a higher quality sake would elevate the tasty categorization, but this isn't exactly a dish you can try at home.
Seafood Village, 1463 S Nogales St Ste A, Rowland Heights, CA, 91748

Sannakji - A couple of variations of live octopus in Korea exists, the smaller octopi which comes whole or the larger ones which tend to be cut up. Whichever version you get, take care chewing since the moving tentacles can stick to your throat.  The restaurant was serving cut live octopus served with a salt sesame sauce. I’m not sure whether eating octopus live adds to the flavour, but it sure does add a memorable experience. For that reason alone, I would recommend trying once.
Chung Hae Jin, 3470 W 6th St Ste 8A, Los Angeles, CA 90020

Pigs head - Top chef winner Ilan Hall opened up his restaurant in the historic core in downtown Los Angeles. All his offerings are fairly unique, but perhaps the most memorable was the half roasted pig head served with tortillas. The best parts are the cheek and neck with the remaining mostly fat. I would highly recommend doing an entire pig, but just the head is somewhat lacking.
The Gorbals, 501 S Spring St, Los Angeles, CA, 90013

Crawfish - These freshwater crustaceans resembling little lobsters are naturally found in streams and rivers. The fairly tasty little creatures contain little meat found mostly in the tail and claws. These are typically steamed or boiled with seasoning and served with butter. I noticed crawfish I had at Long Beach Crawfish festival contained more grime in its intestines. Apparently crawfish should be purged for 24hours in an aerated water bath. Skipping this step definitely diminishes the experience. It could be fun getting a huge bag of crawfish poured onto your table with your buddies and beer. Personally however, I would prefer something with a lower effort/meat ratio.
Boiling Crab, 3377 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, 90017

Squid ink pasta -  Ink is extracted from ink sacs of dead squid and is a black colour. To be honest, I don’t really know what squid ink is supposed to taste like. The squid itself overpowers the ink flavour and I have never just eaten the ink by itself. This ingredient isn't very common but I feel it doesn't contribute much in terms of flavour once cooked in pasta. For those reasons, its hard to be excited about squid ink anything.
Ración, 119 W Green St, Pasadena, CA, 91105

Boudin Noir - These are french versions of blood sausages made blood or dried blood along with some filler. They are black in appearance and look like a normal sausage. The taste is earthy, dense and uninspired. It’s always difficult for me to get excited about blood sausages for some reason - especially when compared to rib eye, liver or just about anything on the menu.
AOC, 8700 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Exotic LA Eats

Last weekend, somebody asked about the strangest things I’ve eaten. At the time, I couldn't answer because that list is long and stretches far back. Being a problem solver, I broke the problem down with list of weirdest things eaten in SoCal, but even this list is long, so its broken into three parts:

  1. Things that I would probably never eat again
  2. Things that are OK but I won’t actively seek to eat
  3. Things that are super tasty but uncommon in SoCal
Part 1: Not tasty List

Stinky tofu - The Chinese name literally means Stinky Tofu and the product is exactly as advertised.  It is tofu and it stinks. Traditionally, it is fermented with brining liquid comprised of milk, vegetables and meat for up to several months. Needless to say, the smell is quite pungent for the uninitiated.While many Chinese find this to be a tasty delicacy, I apparently lack the gene to process the smell. You can go head first and try this at Tofu King or ease in at boiling point where the odoriferous tofu is diluted in hot pot.
Tofu King, 713 W Duarte Rd, Arcadia, CA, 91007
Boiling Point, 153 W Garvey Ave, Monterey Park, CA 91755

Natto - This traditional Japanese food is made from soybeans fermented with a specific strain of bacteria. It is apparently a breakfast food which, conceivably could be more effective than coffee. This has a strong smell, intensely unusual flavour and a slimy texture. This is the few foods breaking my three strike rule. I tried once in Los Angeles and once in Tokyo after which felt it was no longer necessary to try again to make sure I don’t like it. You can pick this up at any Japanese grocery store.
Nijiya Market Little Tokyo, 124 Japanese Village Plaza Mall, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Balut - Many have seen this southeast Asian delicacy on Fear Factor. It is a developing duck embryo boiled alive and eaten in shell with a spoon. This is often served with beer, which I apparently haven’t had enough. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not ethics or the visual of a veiny developing embryo, it was the inconsistent flavours coupled with undeveloped feathers and some crunchy bits. While I didn't hate it, the taste wasn't enough to overcome the oddity of this dish for me.
Hot Vit Lon Long An, 8942 Bolsa Ave, Westminster, CA 92683

Durian - Regarded in many Asian countries as the King of fruits, to which I humbly disagree. While its size and spiky appearance has some royal traits, its smell, taste and texture brings its status closer to court jester. In Asia, many high end hotels actually ban this fruit for fear the smell will prompt refund requests from foreigners. Most in my family actually enjoy durian which encouraged me to try multiple times. I could not get past the smell. It is indescribable, but let’s just say most analogies describing the nefarious odour would be dangerous to consume. The texture and taste is not worth mentioning because that odour depraves all other senses.
Ranch 99 Market, 140 W. Valley Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

Chapulines - Eaten in Mexico, these whole grasshoppers are toasted with garlic, lime juice and salt containing extract of agave worms. It was served as a side dish in a Mexican restaurant. It’s texture is different than insects I’ve eaten in Asia because of the toasted cooking process with inside still containing liquid of a salty and sour nature which sometimes popped like a water balloon. That popping sensation was quite not enjoyable.
Casa Oaxaca, 3317 W 1st St, Santa Ana, CA 92704

Sweetbread - This tasty sounding culinary term is actually an animal gland which can sometimes add to the ambiguity. Sweetbread can actually refer to several different animal glands. I had calf pancreas at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago which was flavoured and cooked well. The gland is similar to brain in taste and texture which is mushy and doesn't have much inherent flavour. It was ok, but not something I would crave.
Spago, 176 N Canon Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Friday, November 21, 2008

Does bacon make everything better?

During my time on this Earth, I have yet to find any food not enhanced by bacon. From spicing up to sweet desserts, adding bacon escalates anything. With bacon, bodies are nourished and souls are nurtured.

Today however, somebody could have possibly brought the concept of bacon too far. Introducing the bacon suit. Where, not only the wearer resembles bacon, it is a "chemically treated latex fabric smells exactly like bacon cooking in a skillet". For a mere $99, it is impossible to make a more impacting statement for your dollar.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Need a reason? Drink and Prosper.

Everybody hunts for it - the reason to drink. From the nutritional benefits of beer, to the cardiovascular benefits of red wine, a legitimate reason is constantly sought to justify the drinking. The problem however, is all these reasons limit consumption to moderate quantities. Those weak benefits do not justify those days of slurred speech, but not anymore my friends.

Drink and make more money.

A recent study has found a correlation between drinking and education level. The higher the education level, the higher the proportion who has used alcohol in the past month. Since education level and income are highly correlated, we can extrapolate that drinking and income are also correlated.

There is your legitimate reason to drink without limits. I challenge you to find a flaw in this argument. If you think you have, you have not drank enough. Drink forth and prosper.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Apartment hunting shoots back

The quest for a new apartment had begun with the first setback already hitting. Pangs of lust and excitement stirred after viewing a beautiful apartment at a beautiful location in Santa Monica on 6th street -- a bachelors going for a very affordable $1295. Instinctually thinking was something was wrong with the apartment I went to go see it over the weekend regardless. Expecting to see fecal matter and a missing wall, I was pleasantly surprised to see it was clean and weighing in at large 620sqft. In fact, the only problem seemed to be was parking for an extra 100$/mth and perhaps the 24mth lease. Suddenly, all I could think about was getting this apartment and finally living in a walkable neighbourhood.

Like a 6 year old on Christmas day, I woke up early on Monday to go submit my application which requested for W-2 tax forms. Without thinking I gathered, pay stubs, bank statements and W-2 and blithely skipped to the management office. After completing details of the application and discussing terms of the lease, she asked me about my income. My response was acknowledged with a pause and an audible breath. Her next three words saddened me like the unmasking of Santa – “You don’t qualify”.

“What?” I replied

The housing apparently is set aside by the city of Santa Monica for moderate income people, meaning individuals whose income exceeds $55,000 do not qualify. My heart was broken and I was desperate again. After about 10 minutes of brainstorming solutions to this problem, she flatly said that nothing can be done. So now I know what was wrong with the apartment after wasting about 1 hour. Now all I can do is imagining life in that apartment.