How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

American snapshot: Logan Circle, D.C.

Photo courtesy of Calvin N. Ho


Calvin Ho of the L.A.-based Asian diaspora blog The Plaid Bag Connection encountered this - Ethiopian injera bread, served on a standard-issue Chinese restaurant plate - while visiting Washington, D.C. over the weekend. "The world we live in," he tweeted yesterday.

I'd initially wondered if the restaurant was in Los Angeles, as this combo would make sense here, too. But it's the Lalibela Restaurant, an Ethiopian eatery in D.C.'s Logan Circle neighborhood.

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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: Kitfo

Photo by Manogamo/Flickr (Creative Commons)


Since our list of unsung ethnic delicacies this week has so far focused on meat - most recently, raw meat - why stop now?

A couple of different colleagues lately have praised the virtues of raw Ethiopian kitfo, a spicy relative of steak tartare and its global cousins, among them the Armenian-style chee kufta featured yesterday.

Kitfo is quite unlike the simpler chee kufta and its Lebanese cousin, kibbeh nayyeh. The dish is made from minced lean beef that has been flavored with an elaborate spice blend containing chili peppers and fragrant spices, among them cardamom and cloves, and with seasoned clarified butter. It's typically served with flat injera bread and a mild cheese, which balances the spice.

With its complex seasonings, the dish tends to surprise those who didn't grow up with it, but grow to like it. Here is what Elahe Izadi, one of my NPR Argo Network colleagues from WAMU's DCentric blog, had to say about her first kitfo experience:

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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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