How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

St. Patrick’s Day L.A.-style: Taco specials in Bell, Irish whiskey in Koreatown

Photo by TK/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Yes, it's the Irish Nachos, that pinnacle of culinary fusion. A Guinness helps.

It's St. Patrick's Day, the religious feast day turned celebration of Irish culture that in the United States is, well, marketed to and celebrated by everybody. And in the Los Angeles area, it's celebrated in parts of town where Irish tradition isn't the first thing that comes to mind.

In Bell, the taqueria Tacos El Unico has posted green shamrock-studded coupons on its Facebook page for a "St. Patrick's Day Exclusive" special of street tacos and mini cheeseburgers.

In Boyle Heights (named for Irish immigrant and settler Andrew Boyle) the Chicano hipster bar Eastside Luv Wine Bar y QUEso is celebrating what it's calling “St. Pochi's Day,” a St. Patrick's Day party and a celebration of Eastside-bred pochismo rolled into one. “St. Pochi's is kind of tipping our hat to the Irish, and not so much being satirical but more of being a show of respect,” explained bartender Ed Castellon.

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Why kimchi on a burger makes perfect sense

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/Flickr

A Seoul Burger with veggie patty and garlic fries, January 2011

While food bloggers and food consumers on Twitter buzzed last week over the Sushirrito (exactly what it sounds like, though only in San Francisco at the moment) I contented myself with a more humble creation from an L.A. mini-mall, that environment which never fails to produce some of our fair city's finer homegrown concoctions. And this one couldn't be more L.A.: The Korean hamburger.

Foodies who frequent Koreatown aren't strangers by now to Kalbi Burger, a tiny burger shop tucked into a strip mall at Wilshire Boulevard and Wilton Place. It opened last summer, just as I was getting my bearings moving back to town, so it had been on my to-do list a while.

Here's what's different about the burgers at Kalbi Burger, as explained in Serious Eats' burger blog A Hamburger Today:

I'm probably going to get the explanation of the name a little wrong so I encourage those in the know to give us the heads up in the comments, but I'll try to do it a modicum of justice. Kalbi Burger is named after the Korean dish most familiar to Americans: barbecue. Kalbi (or galbi) while literally meaning "rib" can actually refer to a number of different grilled dishes.

The kalbi referenced here is the Korean marinated short rib. Traditionally made with Korean soy sauce, garlic and sugar, it can also get a little kick from some rice wine, sesame oil, and chili paste. It's a savory and sweet flavor that is, quite simply, delicious. Does it work for a burger? Depends.

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American snapshot: Koreatown

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Greek, Korean, and some Spanish spoken here, January 2011

The Spanish on the sign might be a little off ("Greek" in Spanish is "griego"), but I was impressed by this trilingual effort while driving south on Normandie Avenue the other day.

I'll confess that I've never eaten at Papa Cristo's, a 63-year-old Greek market and eatery on Pico Boulevard. But now I'm intrigued, if anything by their ambitious marketing: They may be the only Greek taverna in Los Angeles with an online menu in Korean. Way to adapt, Papa.

And for those who want to learn a few words of Greek, there's that, too.

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