How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Southern California must-trys: Filipino tacos and 'flan icing'

Photo by Ariel Edwards-Levy for KPCC

White Rabbit's red velvet flan: Filipino-style flan on top, the world's trendiest cake on the bottom

KPCC intern Ariel Edwards-Levy is on a mission to find some of the more intriguing tastes to come out of Southern California's cultural stew. We could call it fusion, but we won't. Let's just call it what comes naturally in a place like this.

Ariel's first entry involves a combination as Californian as the Beach Boys, the blending of Filipino and Mexican cuisines. Immigrants from both countries and their descendants have a long and intertwined history in the West that dates back generations. So the offerings of White Rabbit, a gourmet Filipino-Mexican food truck (and its newish brick-and-mortar Canoga Park cafe, housed in what looks like a former Taco Bell), are a naturally-occuring So Cal phenomenon. Hit it, Ariel:

The concept: Filipino-style meats and flavors fused with Mexican-style influences

The inspiration: Melvin Chua, one of the three co-owners, says the combination comes from the tradiitional Filipino dishes he grew up eating at home, and the tacos and burritos endemic to L.A. street food. The result is something that tastes familiar to almost everyone.

"That was one of our main goals - to get the cuisine out to everyone, not just Filipinos," Chua says. "You can't just hit people with all traditional ethnic dishes, but when you reduce it to the simplest building blocks of beef, chicken, pork - how can you go wrong with that?"

The must-trys: The truck's tacos are no-frills, small corn tortillas garnished with a little slaw, the better to serve as vehicles for Filipino-style meats like shreds of garlicky, tender chicken adobo. Chua also recommends the signature pork sisig, which is fried with onions and jalapenos.

For dessert, the red velvet flan fuses the traditional dessert with the super-trendy cake. The Filipino-style leche flan is a slightly richer, heavier cousin to Mexican-style flan, with an intense caramel flavor and a smooth custardy texture that pairs perfectly with the dense, spongy layer of cake beneath. A spoonful combining the two has the effect of a cake with flan icing.

Editor's note: Red velvet cake might be last year's model, but how can anyone not love flan icing?

Ariel is busy scouting for more must-try experiments from Southern California's cultural petri dish, so stay tuned. It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.

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