Spiciest Restaurants in Los Angeles

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Originally posted on Discover Los Angeles.

Spicy food is easy to come by in Los Angeles. There are such a variety of spices available, from the tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorn to the elusive ghost chili. Here’s a tip: don’t wash it down with cold water. Water actually will spread the spice in your mouth and make the burning sensation worse. Yogurt, milk, or rice are the best pairings – if you can get your hands on them. Here are great places in Los Angeles to get your fix of super spicy dishes.

Apey Kade
If you’re looking for a true homestyle meal, Apey Kade is the place. It’s a Sri Lankan eatery located on Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana. Their claim to fame is their buffet, which rounds out to about $10 per person. If you’re ordering a la carte, do give the deviled chicken a try. It’s infused with curry leaves, a splattering of lime juice and of course, a liberal handful of fresh and dried chilies. 19662 Ventura Blvd, Tarzana, CA 91356, (818) 609-7683.


Bhanus Indian Grocery & Cuisine

This restaurant specializes in Southern Indian fare and is owned by a Mr. Bedi and Bhanu, a brother and sister pair from Mumbai. They sell the world’s hottest pepper, the elusive ghost chili, which is 401.5 times spicier than Tabasco sauce. Beware. Though you can get it in different levels and in various dishes, it’s bound to make even the most diehard pepper enthusiasts tear up. You can customize your level of spice, but do approach with caution. Pair it with a tall glass of their cool, creamy mango lassi or a dollop of raita (cucumber yogurt). 7246 Rosemad Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91775, (626) 291-2101.

Bull Demon King Cafe
Bull Demon King Cafe is hands down, the best place to get Taiwanese beef noodle soup in Los Angeles. They also have a spicy beef noodle soup challenge: finish within 30 minutes and you’ll get the entire bowl for free, a t-shirt, and your picture immortalized on the wall. The ratio of beef shanks to noodles is ideal. The broth is piquant and flavorful, and the stew is brewed for over 12 hours to achieve its earthy, strong flavor. Beware, pepper flakes are abundant. 5953 Temple City Blvd., Temple City, CA 91780, (626) 286-4788.

Chengdu Taste
Chengdu Taste is L.A.’s Sichuan sweetheart, with lines going out the door at nearly all times of the day. A standout dish is the water boiled fish: a flaky tilapia is bathed in a batch of chili oil with crushed garlic and chili peppers. The twice-cooked pork is also recommended – think of it as the Sichuan version of bacon, but the cut is softer and coated with a layer of hot chili oil. 828 W Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91803, (626) 588-2284.

Hunan Chilli King
If you walk by Hunan Chilli King on any given day, chances are you’ll see a pile of chili peppers being laid outside to dry. As is typical of the Hunan province, spicy dishes are their specialty. The spicy sole is recommended – white fish filets are stir-fried with preserved greens and a generous handful of fresh rainbow chilies. The mala tofu is another great option – their version incorporates more chili sauce than anywhere else. Spice levels can be customized. 534 E Valley Blvd # 2, San Gabriel, CA 91776, (626) 288-7993.

Jitlada
Jitlada is a must for Thai food aficionados and spice chasers. If you haven’t heard of the dynamite spice challenge, then you’re in for a treat. You choose your protein (chicken, fish, beef, tofu, etc.) and it’s paired with a spicy mint leaf sauce or a curry. According to their menu: “If you do not eat spicy food, do not order this. This is Real Chili, Real Spicy.” The Khua Kling Phat Tha Lung, a Southern Thai curry dish with shredded beef and a heaping of turmeric, is another one of their signature hot dishes. The heat might actually be unbearable. 5233 W Sunset Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90027, (323) 667-9809.

Orochon Ramen
Orochon’s ramen base is available in soy, miso or salt and served in one of seven levels of spiciness. Their signature dish is the Special #2, a bright red concoction unlike any ramen you’ve ever had before. According to the owners, the soup is cooked with 13 different spices. The SP2 Challenge – featured on an episode of Man vs. Food – challenges customers to finish a bowl of their spiciest ramen in 30 minutes or less. Succeed and you’ll win a spot on the “wall of bravery.” 123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St, Los Angeles, CA 90012, (213) 617-1766.

Tasty Dining
Dry pots, which originate from the Sichuan province, are akin to hot pots. Various ingredients are cooked tableside in an iron pot, there is a base protein, and the rest of the ingredients are customizable. There’s no soup, just peppers and chili oil, and the condensed results are intense. In Chinese, dry pots are known as gan guo or malaxiangguo. The former literally means dry pot, but it’s the latter translation that’s more accurate: tongue-numbing fragrant pot. Everything seems to come out with at least a slight hue of red.

Ye Rustic Inn
Two words: suicide sauce. This gem in Los Feliz serves up decisively hot chicken wings, their signature dish. If you can’t take the heat, they have milder options, but give it a try before downgrading. The dive bar has a great selection of beers to wash it all down and a rocking jukebox to pair with your evening. 1831 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027, (323) 662-5757.

Yunchuan Garden
Yunchuan Garden in Monterey Park is the best place in Los Angeles to get Yunnan bites in Los Angeles. The spicy chicken cube platter is generously spiked with dried peppercorns and large chunks of chilies. The peppercorns, a Sichuan spice, gives a tongue-numbing, citrusy sensation. Tip: don’t eat the peppers directly, the chicken is already infused with spices. 301 N Garfield Ave, Monterey Park, CA 91754; (626) 571-8387.

My Little Sacred Route

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When things get overwhelming, I’ll drive my car to a specific place in the foothills of Arcadia, park in front of a house — any house, get out and walk around. It’s a weird place to unwind. There are rows of mansions and it’s deathly quiet… sans the sound of a leaf blower in the distance. A few cars will pass by but all in all, I feel like I’m in a ghost town, surrounded by nothing but my thoughts.

This is a sacred site to me. It’s where, as a teenager, I first fell in love, where dreams were sputtered out hastily and promises in the form of pinky locks were made. It used to be our place. We’d point to the houses we wanted to live in and weave together elaborate lives. Our laughter and silly antics would light up the streets; no one ever bothered us, except, well, time. It was our route, our secret playground, where our imaginations freely roamed the pristine lawns of those grand, silent homes. We were only visited once, when, a beautiful stray gray husky noticed us and wouldn’t go away. He eventually followed us back home. I took it as a sign.

And then, as with most first loves, promises were mishandled and our hearts were both shattered into ugly, deformed fragments of glass. Our little route became a crime scene and a deserted site of bitterness and pain.

But time is a wonderful thing and when the dust had settled, years later, I found myself back at our sacred site out of curiosity. How would I feel, if, I came back here?

The tumultuous feelings are long gone.

It’s peaceful and hauntingly beautiful all at the same time.

Those shards of glass are still there. But instead of crying over them, as I once did, trying to piece them back together, I simply leave them put. Once deemed mutilated and repulsive, they’re now glistening mosaics to me, aligned in perfect entropy. They’re reminders of how deeply I can feel and how great and far-reaching imagination can be.

Today, our little sacred route has now become my own personal hiding place. It’s where I reflect on the past and give thanks for the present. It’s where I come up with ideas and go to recharge when I’m short on creativity. The memories are but an afterthought and I spend most of my time weaving my own stories on those lawns. How if, I were the owner, I’d knock down all those tall gates, security cameras, and thick hedges and throw parties with pink lemonade, bubbles, and miniature cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off. During full moons, I’d transform that lawn to a campground and we’d all sleep in little tents around a campfire. The crackling of the fire, the gentle breeze of a Los Angeles evening.

We’d gather ’round the dancing flames and roast chocolate bars and fat, pillowy marshmallows. Jokes would be exchanged, then ghost stories, and then our voices would get quieter, and lower, until everyone fell asleep.

And right before the flames would go out, if I let myself, I’d see our ghosts.

Dancing in the corner, holding hands, tightly. Laughing, pointing to each house and telling each other stories of how life would be if, well, reality didn’t so fervently want to disagree.

Emotions Can Be A Bitch, But…

Flickr/jodene e

Flickr/jodene e


“So…how are things?”

“Oh god, life is so emotional,” I say in between bites. “Do you want anymore of this?” I point to the brussels sprouts. He shakes his head. I take the last forkful. “I hate it. There are days when I wake up with a huge hole in my stomach and all I want to do is call him and ask for my heart back. But all in all, I’m doing well I think. I’m crawling out of this. This breakup is a lot better than the last one. I have moments of optimism and everyday I learn a new lesson, a new inspiration. The feelings are just really hard to deal with.”

He blinked.

“You just don’t get it huh?”

“No.”

“You’re exactly like my ex. Tell me, how do you guys operate?”

And then we spent the next hour at dinner analyzing personality types, pulling up our Myer-Briggs results for reference. You see, my friend is a bona fide INTJ and ironically, all of my exs have had similar temperaments: mind-numbingly logical, deeply reflective, and well, mostly emotionally unavailable.

“I have super high highs and deep lows. When I’m sad, I feel like I’m drowning and it’s hopeless and scary and suffocating. But when I’m high, it’s this beautiful bliss and nothing else matters.”

“That’s the difference,” my friend reflects. “Bliss, for us, is ignorance. It’s better to regulate our emotions and remain steady. We don’t have extreme fluctuations like you. Everything is felt in moderation. My emotions are pretty much contained.”

“Isn’t that depressing?” I ask.

“It’s lonely.”

“You sound like my ex! He described it as a type of loneliness…”

“That can’t be solved by anyone else. The way we think, it’s just different. No one can relate. We also can’t deal with people who are incompetent and illogical. Though I’m aware different people have different logics.”

I immediately hear my ex’s voice in my head: “If people just thought things through. The world would be a better place.”

I fire back. “Everyone has their own struggles. Everyone has their own style. It’s unfair to judge people just because they don’t align with your logic. Isn’t that elitist?” I feel like I’m talking to my ex again. I’ve had this conversation dozens of times.

“Not to us. It’s just our reality.”

My mind understands what he’s saying, but I can’t comprehend it. While my relationship partners have all been introverted thinkers, I’m the complete opposite — an ENFP (The Inspirer). Though quiet and shy in certain settings, I actually primarily derive my energy from interactions from other people. (Though in certain settings, I can be introverted) Shut me in a room for an entire day with no one to talk to and I will come out depressed, weary, and terribly grumpy. I live in a world of feeling. Sometimes I can think myself to tears and I’ve spent a great amount of time lamenting on why we don’t live in a world where people feel more openly.

My life philosophy, a quote from Oriah Moutain Dreamer: “It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for – and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing. It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool – for love – for your dreams – for the adventure of being alive.”

I thrive off of meaningful interactions. Put me in night club and I will be bored within seconds. Sit me down, talk about what makes you tick, and I will be fascinated beyond belief. Inspire me and I go through great lengths to create something with you.

I live life without much logical deliberation. I do what feels right. I love inspirations, I love inspiring. I hate structure and rules. The couple who quit their jobs and build a mini-house in middle-of-nowhere Oregon? Nomadic families who are traveling the world instead of conforming to the typical suburban lifestyle? The woman who quit her job and traveled with a life-size cutout of her late father? Those are my heroes. Those are the people whose lives I emulate. The people who live with gusto, on the edge, and with a sense of determined bravery. I am cognizant of the temporariness of life and as a reaction, I shun routine and rigid obligations. Rather I gravitate towards spontaneity and creativity.

As for my emotions, they’re all over the place. I feel so deeply. Whenever I fall in love, it becomes this life-altering experience where I’m amazed everyday at how I can care so much for another human being. “This is the best day of my life,” I would exclaim, multiple times in a relationship. And my introverted, thinking partner would always fire back with: “You say that all the time.” But I meant it. I always do. I’d memorize little details about them and stare at them in a sense of awe and curiosity that they never understood.

“Why are you always so attentive?” they would ask, never understanding why I had so much energy and excitement when I was near them.

Because I’m hyperaware that no one lasts forever. Because I’m fascinated and continuously impressed at just how close and vulnerable people can be. And because I loved them, all of them, so deeply and strongly, that it frightened me everyday to my core how attached I was and how crushed I would become if they left.

But as life would have it, I never got them to feel the way I did. I never understood why they didn’t want to connect on a daily basis. I never understood why they didn’t want to travel, meet people, and create things, ideas, and projects with me.

And as extreme as my happy and blissful states were, my low points were just as intense.

“I’m envious of you guys,” I tell my friend. At this point, we’re one of the few people left at the restaurant. I lower my voice. “The sadness can be so crippling. It’s hard to even function.”

“But you’re able to bounce back. We don’t feel as extremely as you… not because we can’t, but because we don’t allow ourselves to. If I let myself become overcome by emotion, I don’t know if I would ever be able to recover.”

“So it’s a defense mechanism?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, can’t you try to be more emotional?”

“Can you try to be less emotional?”

Touche.

Hours of conversation pass and I leave invigorated and with a deeper understanding of who I am and why my relationships sizzled out the way they did. You see, my emotions, highs and lows, are what makes me…me. In my relationships, I felt like I was running into a brick wall over and over again, hoping it would topple down. It never did. Instead, I was left bruised and rejected.

My emotions can be fucking frustrating, crippling, and the root of a lot of pain in my life. But they also have provided me a sense of intense euphoria and gratefulness.

I would never trade it for anything else because for me, to feel is to be alive.

Why I Stopped Writing

Hello all. It’s been a while since I’ve truly updated this site and written anything non-food related. This is an incredibly personal post and I’m not entirely sure why I’ve decided to craft it. And maybe that’s okay.

(And, admittedly, even when it comes to food-related content, I’ve been pretty slow at it this year.)

Back in college, writing brought to me a sense of euphoric joy and I would spend my time in class submitting freelance articles and pitching new ideas. i loved seeing my byline on publications and got a high from the entire process. Somehow, at the age of 21, I had cracked a ceiling and was being published regularly. CNN. Village Voice. USA Today. The list goes on. That made me feel good about myself. That propelled me. That made me a prolific writer.

I felt valued. And then I started to dive into more personal posts about my dating life, about the lessons I learned. It took a lot of vulnerability to share those pieces, but I stood by them because I was convinced I was creating something valuable.

But then I got attached to someone who convinced me of the vanity of it all. “I would never write a post about ‘How Not To…’,” he said, referring to one of my 2013 xoJane pieces. “That contributes nothing.”

And just like that, I stopped caring. It wasn’t his fault, of course. He supported me in what I did. His words merely just opened a gateway of self-doubt: What’s the point of sharing? Am I over-sharing? Why do people even care about me? Am I indulging in a narcissistic lifestyle, by constantly posting about my life on social media?

I have spent hours on this very site, writing pieces, only to delete them in a frenzy of frustration because I just couldn’t figure out what to write and why it mattered. I’ve gone on to hide a lot of my past posts, cringing at the content.

My issue: I put so much value on what other people think that my source of motivation can be toppled over with a whisper. I need to figure out why I write. I need to find a reason that isn’t based on validation. I need to find a motivation that comes from within. I’m terribly insecure about my writing and my value as a writer. As a result, I’ve been having trouble finding meaning in what I do. That’s why I’ve stopped writing.

And so why am I writing this now?

Well for starters, that someone is no longer in my life and that very reality in itself is forcing me to reframe the way I see the world.

Did he have a point?

I suppose it doesn’t matter. In a way, he opened my eyes to how fragile my previous motivations were. My drive was so fragile that a single person was able to destroy it. That’s no one’s fault but my own.

What’s most important is this:

What do I believe? Why do I write? What do I want to write about?

Where To Get Burrata In Southern California

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Originally posted on KCET.

Burrata is relatively difficult to come by, as cheeses go. Essentially a cream-infused mozzarella ball, burrata has an extremely short shelf life, lasting for only a couple days or so. Few places make it from scratch and when they do, it’s made with cow milk instead of buffalo milk (the original ingredient). For a long time, the only way to get the fresh cheese was to import it from Italy, but then finally someone decided to produce it from scratch in the States and consumption of the delicacy has increased rather a lot since then.

Eating burrata is simple: drizzle some olive oil on, sprinkle some pepper over it, and serve with fresh bread.

Gioia
Vito Girardi was actually the man who introduced burrata to the United States. His factory is a humble operation tucked in an industrial area of South El Monte, producing more than 2,000 pounds of the treat daily. Girardi, who opened Gioia in 1992, comes from Apulia, the region of Italy that claims to have created burrata. His grandfather was one of the first makers of the cheese. You can pick up their cheese at various shops or directly from their factory; it sells for $6 a pound. 1605 Potrero Ave, South El Monte, CA 91733.

Distefano
Distefano Cheese is located in Pomona and, like Gioia, opened in the early 1990s. Cool fact: within each bundle of burrata, they wrap in a single Asphodel leaf. The tradition comes from Italy. When fresh, the leaf would be green and after a few days, the leaf would dry up, which would indicate the burrata was no longer fresh. Burrata is sold in 2 ounce, 4 ounce, 8 ounce, and 1 pound sizes. 1485 E 3rd St, Pomona, CA 91766.

Belfiore
Established in 1987, Belfiore was one of first producers of Italian-style mozzarella. They pioneered hand-crafted fior di latte, or fresh mozzarella in water, in America. The Berkeley cheese factory won the prize for best burrata from the American Cheese Society in 2012. It’s $4 for 8 ounces. All the cheese are certified kosher with no additives or preservatives. 2031-A Second Street, Berkeley, CA 94710.

Best Pho in Los Angeles

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Originally posted in DineLA.

Pho has been around for a century and is indisputably the national dish of Vietnam. “Pho” is supposedly a corruption of the French word for “fire,” or “feu.” Or more accurately, it could be a play on “pot au feu,” which means “pot on fire.” A good pho takes hours to make; beef bones and parts are simmered under low heat to obtain a rich, complex flavor. Pho is typically divided into two camps: southern pho and northern pho. The southern version is the more common one, with an abundant use of spices and flavorings (fish sauce, hoisin, etc.) and versatile cuts of meat like tripe and brisket. The north is much more simplistic. The noodles are flatter and wider, and the focus is really on its pure beef broth. The main ingredients are rice noodles and thinly sliced raw beef. In the north, accoutrements are not necessary.

Here are ten great places to get your pho fix in Los Angeles.

Golden Deli Vietnamese Restaurant
Golden Deli is L.A.’s pho sweetheart. There are two locations within miles of each other and the lines are notably long. The pho has a wide appeal because of its complex broth, delicate meats, and soft noodles. Golden Deli is consistent and you can get a combination of raw beef, cooked, tripe, and/or tendon. A tip: Don’t miss out on their goi cuon, Vietnamese spring rolls wrapped with rice paper and stuffed with hefty amounts of shrimp. 815 W. Las Tunas Dr., San Gabriel, CA 91770.

Noodle Guy
Noodle Guy has been around since 2011 and has already earned a reputation. Three words: Kobe beef pho. Some people deem it gimmicky, but give it a try and you’re sure to be impressed. It’s sliced extremely thin, served raw, but then heated and slightly cooked by the warmth of the soup alone. The beef is tender and accentuated by the tangy, yet well-seasoned broth. 1257 E Valley Blvd., Alhambra, CA 91801.

Pho 999
With two locations in the San Fernando Valley, Pho 999 is one of the few places in the 818 to get your pho fix. The Van Nuys location is right next to the 99 Ranch market. Admittedly, the soup isn’t as fantastic as the selections in the San Gabriel Valley and Orange County, but it works well for the price point. The baked catfish and beef over tomato rice are also recommended. 6411 Sepulveda Blvd., Van Nuys, CA 91411.

Pho Filet
Pho Filet specializes in pho bac, a northern Vietnamese noodle soup that uses wider noodles and thick chunks of green onions. The meat – thin, soft pieces of bloodied filet mignon thrown liberally into each bowl – is the highlight of this eatery. The broth is nicely balanced; it’s heavy on the beef and ginger with a touch of cinnamon and clove. 9463 Garvey Ave., South El Monte, CA 91733.

Pho Huynh
Pho Huynh is a champion for northern Vietnamese pho. Keep the ordering process simple: order the pho bac. The noodles are wider, the broth is lighter, and the meat – a filet mignon cut – is thin and tender. Skip the lime, hoisin and Sriracha this time around; you won’t need any extra garnishes here. 9706 Garvey Ave., South El Monte, CA 91733.

Pho Ly Thuong Kiet
This place is a chicken specialist, so sticking to poultry is recommended – the pho ga (chicken pho) is a standout. The chicken is leaner than conventional types, and it’s served on the side with an addicting garlic and ginger dipping sauce. If you’re ordering for two, try throwing in the Hainan chicken for good measure. Or at the very least, get it for take-out. 303 E Garvey Ave., Monterey Park, CA 91755.

Pho Pasteur
Pho Pasteur in Rosemead makes a fantastic brisket pho. The rice noodles, made fresh, are chewy and don’t stick together. Most importantly, the broth is complex but not overwhelming. Pho Pasteur is also known for their bun bo hue, a beef soup with rice noodles thicker and rounder than pho. It gets crowded in here, but there’s a service bell attached to each table to help expedite the entire process. 8821 Valley Blvd., Rosemead, CA 91770.

Phorage
If you’re looking for a hipster chic setting to enjoy your pho, Phorage is the place to be. The restaurant boasts three types of pho: washugyu beef, chicken, and oxtail. While the toppings deviate from the norm, it’s still all really delicious. The broth is substantial – no doubt a by-product of hours of work. They source their chickens from Mary’s Free Range Chicken in the San Joaquin Valley and are big on local, sustainable ingredients. Phorage is also MSG-free. 3300 Overland Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90034.

Viet Huong
The broth at Viet Huong in South El Monte is bursting with flavor. The ingredient-to-soup ratio is idyllic; they’re very generous with their raw beef and thinly sliced onions. The pho dac biet is highly recommended – “dac biet” means “combo with everything.” The small will cost you $5.50 and comes with a hefty ensemble of rare beef, well-done brisket, flank, tendon, and tripe. The whole bowl is flavorful enough already, but you can ask for a side of their beef oil to take it up another notch. 10727 Garvey Ave., South El Monte, CA 91733.

Great Fried Chicken in Los Angeles

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Originally posted on KCET.

It’s hard not to love fried chicken. And, there are so many varieties of this American classic. Whether you prefer it coated in a sweet chili sauce, or paired with tabasco maple butter, there’s really something for everyone’s taste buds here in Los Angeles. Here’s a rundown on the different types of fried chicken available around town.

Gluten-Free Chicken at Addiction Bistro
At first glance, Addiction Bistro looks and tastes like any other American diner. They have an extensive repertoire of pasta, burgers, and fried chicken. The cool part? Everything is available in gluten-free form. The chefs started doling out wheatless options once they realized they were sensitive to gluten. 408 N La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90048.

Fancy Fried Chicken at Tart Restaurant
The fried chicken at Tart Restaurant is wonderful and ideal for brunch. It’s a buttermilk marinated chicken, fried and then plopped on top of a waffle laced with tabasco-maple butter. The dish is sweet, spicy, crunchy, and spongy — all at the same time. The restaurant describes itself as “where American Country meets a London Pub and has an affair in Paris.” We’re guessing that this is the tribute to the American Country. 115 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036.

Sichuan Chicken Cubes at Yun Chuan Garden
This chicken cube dish, which originates from Chonqing, China, is both intimidating and addicting. The chefs take chicken breast, cut them into cubes and stir-fry them with a heap of dried peppers, garlic, spices, and peppercorns. It’s a common dish among Sichuan restaurants in Los Angeles, but Yun Chuan consistently remains the best place to get them. Don’t eat the peppers. They’re only there for flavor. Navigate around them and pick out the chicken. Beware, this dish is extremely spicy. 301 N Garfield Ave, Monterey Park, CA 91754; (626) 571-8387.

Classic Fried Chicken at Jim Dandy
The best classic fried poultry is at Jim Dandy and their version boasts a crust so crunchy you’ll want to just keep eating it forever, calories be darned. It’s lightly battered and mildly spiced. The establishment won’t have you waiting long; don’t be deterred by the bullet proof glass. Also try the fried corn fritters sprinkled with powdered sugar. They’re a perfect side. 11328 S. Vermont Ave., L.A.; (323) 779-5567.

Korean Fried Chicken at KyoChon
KyoChon is a South Korea-based chain. The main difference between the Korean and American version is that the former is fried twice. The poultry is crispy, but that crunch is attributed to the skin, not to excessive amounts of deep-fried flour. After being fried, wings are caramelized in a sweet, spicy glaze while still hot. 3833 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020.

5 Great Sushi Restaurants on Ventura Boulevard

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Ventura Boulevard is the main artery of the San Fernando Valley and stretches from Studio City to Calabasas. A big chunk of it is also known as Sushi Row for the sheer amount of Japanese restaurants on the stretch. There are quite a handful of these restaurants, but we’ve rounded up our favorite places to get our fix of raw fish.

Asanebo
Asanebo was a recipient of a Michelin star back in 2009. The restaurant skews to the pricer end; it’s hard to leave without spending a good $80 per person. The omakase starts at $60 and unlike most restaurants of their kind, they have quite a selection of hot, fusion dishes on their menu that are just as good than their sushi. The seared toro is a must. 11941 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604.

Sushi Spot
Sushi Spot in Tarzana is known for their a la carte sushi selection. Dinner omakase prices start at $37 (a steal for the quality) and for lunch, there are combos that start at $10. If ordering a la carte, we recommend the raw octopus and uni selections. Don’t be deterred by the location either. It may be nestled in a sketchy looking strip mall, but the food is delicious and for us, that’s all that really matters.  19658 Ventura Blvd, Tarzana, CA 91356.

The Sushi House
The Sushi House is a newcomer to the Ventura Boulevard scene. We’re a fan of their chirashi bowl; it’s packed with a sizable amount of fish and the varieties are stellar. All in all, though, they’re a roll specialist. Maki selections average out to $5 a pop, and house specialty selections are about $6. Tip: request fresh wasabi. 11388 Ventura Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 91604.

Sugarfish
There’s almost always a wait in front of Sugarfish, but the hype is justified. The sushi is undeniably fresh and always touched with the right amount of flavoring. The menu is simple. It’s omakase-style and you can choose from three options, depending on the amount of food you desire. It’s nice to not have to think about what to order. Add-ons are, of course, readily available. 11288 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604.

Okumura
Okumura has the best value for its price. Located in Encino, they’re a top notch restaurant that costs about $50 per person. Owner Ryota Okumura is a graduate of the Hattori Culinary Academy in Tokyo and has also been under the toque at local sushi joints Koi, Katana, and Sushi Zo. Rolls are available, but it’s the nigiri sushi that keeps people coming. 17302 Ventura Blvd, Encino, CA 91316.

Originally posted on KCET Food.

People Read My Blog?!

In the last couple of years, I’ve been fortunate enough to randomly encounter people who actually read my work. While I know eyes are on my writing (yay for being able to write for large publications),  it’s always surreal to actually meet the individual people who follow me. I’m honestly still always dumbfounded whenever I meet a stranger who reads this blog.

So to you folks — thanks for making yourself known, thanks for the kind emails, and thanks for the sweet words. These types of encounters keep me motivated.

10 Best Chinese Beef Noodle Soups

a-and-j-beef-noodle-soup

Originally posted on Discover L.A. See the full piece + photos here

Beef noodle soup, known as niu rou mian, is the epitome of Chinese comfort food. Found all throughout China and Taiwan, it’s a beloved dish that takes hours to make. Beef shanks must be slow-cooked for hours before they achieve their creamy texture. Noodles must be chewy, and most importantly, the broth must be rich and sustainable. Traditionally, the noodles are paired with a heaping of pickled mustard greens, which offers a crisp, sour contrast. Spicy is customizable and in some joints, used extremely liberally. It makes for a sustainable lunch or dinner and thankfully, there are plenty of places in Los Angeles to get your fix. Here are our picks.

Bull Demon King Cafe
Bull Demon King is hands down, the best place to get Taiwanese beef noodle soup in Los Angeles. It’s perfectly balanced – the ratio of beef shanks to noodles is ideal. The broth is piquant and flavorful; the stew is brewed for over 12 hours and the taste is noticeable. They also have a customer challenge: finish an entire bowl of their spiciest beef noodle soup within 30 minutes and you’ll get a noodle bowl for free, a T-shirt, and your picture on the wall. Beware, pepper flakes are abundant. 5953 Temple City Blvd., Temple City, CA 91780.

House of Mandarin Noodle
Per its name, House of Mandarin Noodle is a noodle specialist and their beef noodle soup comes highly recommended. You can customize your noodle size. The soup is topped off with a generous heaping of cilantro and pickled mustards. Beef shanks are noticeably cooked for hours; they crumble the moment they hit your mouth. 4819A Temple City Blvd, Temple City, CA 91780

Taipei Bistro
The main draw of Taipei Bistro? They use absolutely no MSG. While they’re known for their bento boxes, the beef noodle soup here is a great option because it’s a dish traditionally brimming with MSG. They have multiple versions here, but if you can take it, we recommend getting the spicy beef noodle soup. 704 W Las Tunas Drive, Ste E3, San Gabriel CA 91776

Pine and Crane
Finally. A fantastic Taiwanese restaurant west of the San Gabriel Valley. A relatively new Silver Lake addition, Pine and Crane sources their vegetables from their family’s Asian vegetable farm. The menu is seasonal – a feature nearly unheard of at most Chinese joints. We’re crossing our fingers the beef noodle soup stays on their for quite some time. It’s extremely traditional: the noodles are bouncy and have an al dente texture, the beef shanks are soft, and the best part? The dish is finished off with the family’s bok choy. 1521 Griffith Park Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026

A & J Restaurant
Yet another Taiwanese restaurant in Arcadia, A&J is known for their sizeable noodle soups. The beef noodle soup is the first item on their menu. After all, it’s their specialty. Take note that they take their spice level very seriously. If you order the spicy version, you will be gasping for relief. Like all the other joints, noodle size is customizable and you can opt for beef shanks, beef tendon, or both. 27 Las Tunas Dr, Arcadia, CA 91007

Noodle King
If we may, order the wide noodles. It complements the broth well. If you’re planning on sharing, order the extra large version. If you can take the heat, get it with extra spices. Crisp and tart pickled vegetables are served on the side, offering welcome respite to the beefy undertones of the rest of the dish. 31 E Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91801

Peking Tavern
This downtown Los Angeles watering hole is known for their selection of baiju cocktails, a sizeable dumpling repertoire, and a hearty bowl of niu rou mian. And yes, they have gluten-free noodles so wheatless eaters can finally get in on this dish. The noodles are handmade and the beef is slow-cooked for hours to achieve the texture. 806 S Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90014

Dai Ho
Dai Ho makes small-batch noodles and is only open 3.5 hours every single day. It’s a tough window to squeeze into, especially if you don’t live in the area but the noodles are well worth the trek. The portion sizes here are smaller than most places, but the quality is noticeably top notch. The beef noodle soup is served in a dark, earthy broth. It’s not watery in the least bit (some places can be guilty of that) and the beef chunks are remarkably tender. It’s garnished simply: just a sprinkle of cilantro and a heaping of scallions. No MSG is used. 9148 Las Tunas Dr., Temple City, CA 91780

New Mandarin Noodle Deli
A Shanxi specialist, the chef here makes all of his noodles by hand. Shanxi is a province in northwest China famous for their handmade noodles and the province Marco Polo visited before he, allegedly, took the recipe back to Italy. True to its roots, the restaurant has the most extensive selections of noodles here: hand-cut, thick, thin, glass, torn, the list goes on. We love the thick noodles, though note that they make quite a splash if you don’t have a solid grip. 9537 Las Tunas Dr, Temple City, CA 91780

JTYH Restaurant
JTYH is known for their dao xiao mian, or hand-shaved noodles. Chef Shi Peng, who has been under the toque for 27 years, made his own blade and does all the noodle-shaving by hand. Expect thick, short pieces of dough. It soaks up the broth well. The standard beef noodle soup is decorated with pickled vegetables, cilantro and large cubes of meat. The broth is made with a pork and beef base. You can opt for no MSG. 9425 Valley Blvd, Rosemead, CA 91770