How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Top ten pastimes at L.A.'s Navasartian Games, the 'Armenian Olympics'

Photo by Helena Gregorian/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Help, too much soujoukh! The Navasartian Games mascot, July 2011

While others were attending cookouts and pool parties over the Fourth of July weekend, Multi-American guest blogger Lory Tatoulian was taking in the sports-related drama at the 2011 Navasartian Games, what she describes as the "mini Armenian Olympics."

Legend has it that the games got their start as chariot races and javelin throwing contests some 4,000 years ago on the Armenian plateau. Today they're held in L.A., taking place each year over the holiday weekend on the Birmingham High School campus in Van Nuys, where more than 8,000 athletes of various ages compete in basketball, volleyball, soccer and swimming during the three-day sports fest. The less athletically inclined compete in events like ping-pong and chess.

There is also a substantial amount of food, music, and tens of thousands of Armenian American attendees celebrating what Lory terms "their cultural personhood."

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The new American barbecue: Carne asada, galbi, lula kebab y más

Photo by Sifu Renka/Flickr (Creative Commons)


In Los Angeles, the aroma that wafts from backyard barbecues on the Fourth of July varies slightly depending on the neighborhood one finds oneself in.

In large swaths of the city, from the Eastside to South L.A. to the southeastern suburbs, the smell of cumin and garlic from Mexican carne asada beckons. Drive north toward Glendale and you'll catch a whiff of the distinctive smell of grilled lamb from Armenian kebab. Head east into Downey and you'll find more garlic in the air, rising from the Cuban mojo smothered on pork chops.

Smelling one's way through neighborhoods is one thing, but eating the offerings is better. If you haven't been invited to one of these backyard feasts, the solution is simple - make one yourself.

A few recipes:

Carne Asada

There are few better backyard meals than tacos made with a good carne asada, grilled flank or skirt steak that has been marinated in a blend of spices that includes chiles, garlic, cumin, lime and orange juice. This comprehensive recipe lists not only the marinate and prep details for this grilled Mexican staple, but the necessary fixings to accompany it.

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Five ethnic food tastes worth acquiring: The meat edition

Photo by Manogamo/Flickr (Creative Commons)


Last week, Multi-American delved once more into that culinary landscape where some diners fear to tread, the territory of the unsung ethnic delicacy.

These are the dishes that don't necessarily sound good, look good or or even smell good, but are worth trying because they are unexpectedly delicious.

Our first series in March covered a range of foods, from drinks like the Vietnamese avocado milkshake to main dishes like arroz con calamares en su tinta, a particularly unattractive squid dish served in several Latin American countries.

The series last week focused on meat dishes, cooked, raw and canned. True to form, none sound like anything one would rush out to try, but don't be put off. For any carnivores who might have missed these treats, here they are in a convenient list. Dig in.

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Spam rocks? Much, much love for Spam musubi

Photo by klyphord/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Spam musubi to go, October 2006. Photo by klyphord/Flickr (Creative Commons)

One of a series of posts last week that explored unsung ethnic delicacies highlighted Spam musubi, a popular snack made with Spam and sushi rice that is popular in Hawaii.

The series focused on those dishes or items that may not look or sound good, but are in fact delicious. I knew that Spam musubi was well-loved on the islands, and at least by one person in Washington, D.C., that being our Hawaii-raised president. But judging by the flood of comments that came in to KPCC's Facebook page, there is a great deal of Spam musubi love out there.

"This is one of my favorite foods!" Joanne Kakuda wrote.

"Hot dogs are worse than spam so I don't understand the prejudice against it," Tracy Munar-Ramos wrote. "Spam rocks!"

Okay, not entirely sure about that. Vanessa Lee put it in perspective:

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More ethnic food tastes worth acquiring: Chee kufta

Photo by anitasarkeesian/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A parsley-laden dish of chee kufta


This week, Multi-American is again exploring the unsung ethnic delicacies that may not sound or look like much, but are worth a try. And for whatever reason, people are suggesting meat dishes this time around.


Today's suggestion comes from blog contributor Lory Tatoulian, and it's not for the faint-hearted. Chee kufta, a raw meat dish, is what she describes as something that "sounds risky but tastes delicious."


The dish is popular in Armenian and Turkish cuisines as an appetizer and consists of ground beef or lamb that is mixed with fine wheat bulghur and seasonings, which in the typical Armenian preparation consist of red and black pepper, water and salt. It is then garnished with scallions, parsley and a generous amount of olive oil.


Here's how Lory describes a good chee kufta:


The redder the meat, the more delectable. It is best to use zero percent fat meat, and there should absolutely be no fat or no tendons in the patty. Chee kufta can be eaten with Akh Makh cracker bread, but it is best eaten when your mom is preparing it in the kitchen and hands you a small sample to ask if more or less salt is needed.

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