Sunday, April 6, 2014

Best of LA Eats #4 Jeon Ju's Sizzling Bibimbap

Bibimbap is a Korean rice dish served with a rainbow of marinated vegetables, meat and topped with a fried egg. The rice develops a nice crunchy layer from being served in a sizzling stone bowl hot enough to give you blisters if you touch it.

Located just off of Vermont Ave., Jeon Ju serves the best bibimbap in Los my humble opinion. Elsewhere, you might find versions of this dish where it's served in a regular bowl (what's the point then?), the rice is greasy from too much sesame oil or the vegetables are bland.  At Jeon Ju, you can taste that each vegetable in the bibimbap (shiitake mushrooms, chives, spinach, carrots, bean sprouts, daikon, kimchi) was seasoned with care. And what makes Jeon Ju's bibimbap unique is that they have several versions and their most popular one is the one topped with bbq short rib galbi meat. Mmmmmm.

The selections vary slightly from time to time.

Bibimbap with Galbi
The Korean hot sauce is technically optional but you should give it a try. It's not the same without it and it's really not that spicy.

Spicy Beef and Glass Noodle Soup
Perfect for a cold day. Guaranteed to clear your sinuses! But seriously, this soup is delicious with a bowl of white rice if you can resist ordering a bibimbap.

Beef Bulgogi
Sweet and slightly charred beef bulgogi that comes on a bed of sliced onions and sizzling hot plate. It's the perfect compliment especially if you like more meat in your meal.

LA's Korean food is hard to beat, except I guess in South Korea. My Portland food intelligence tells me to be prepared to miss LA's Korean food badly so I recently bought two stone pots at the Korean market with the naive hope to replicate Jeon Ju's bibimbap. Hey, at least I'm trying. 

Jeon Ju
2716 W. Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 386-5678 
*Parking in the strip mall is often hard. The strip mall is on the corner of Olympic and New Hampshire. Go past the strip mall on New Hampshire and there's a backlot that always has parking.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Best of LA Eats #3 - LA's Best Tsukemen Ramen at Tsujita

It's rare for a ramen shop to be so elegantly designed and decorated but at Tsujita everything fades away as soon as your tsukemen (dipping ramen) arrives. Attention must be paid to the noodles and char siu because Tsujita serves the best tsukemen in Los Angeles!

Char Siu Tsukemen
When you order the tsukemen, you get two bowls. One is this bowl of thick al dente noodles topped with generous slices of braised fatty pork. This is the most tender char siu you'll ever taste. You also get a second smaller bowl of tonkotsu broth to dip your noodles in. Enjoy a few bites and then squeeze some lime on the noodles to help cut the fattiness. 

Tonkotsu Broth
Tsujita boils their tonkotsu pork bone broth for 60 hours. The result is a super thick and concentrated broth that glazes and clings to every strand of noodle. Sitting in the broth is a seasoned soft-boiled egg, house-made bamboo shoots, chopped bits of char siu pork and green onions.

The Perfect Egg
To me, a soft-boiled egg with an oozing orange yolk is the perfect egg with ramen. I can eat this egg every day.

Char Siu Don
If you're feeling extra hungry, this small bowl of hot, fluffy short-grain rice topped with the same pork that comes with the tsukemen is the perfect meal topper. Or, you can always order extra noodles and Tsujita will also add additional soup stock to your tonkotsu so it's drinkable.

If you don't like the tsukemen style, Tsujita also serves the usual pork ramen in a lighter tonkotsu broth. But I don't know why you wouldn't like the tsukemen!  Tsujita also has a sister location diagonally across the street known as Tsujita Annex but that restaurant serves a different kind of pork ramen that I'm less fond of. Portland is short on ramen shops that could compare to the quality in Los Angeles. I'm bracing myself...

2057 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 231-7373
Protip: Arrive before Noon on weekdays to beat the office lunch crowd. Weekends are always crowded so be prepared to do some people-watching. The ramen is ONLY served during lunch. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Best of LA Eats #2 - Langer's Deli & LA's Best Pastrami Sandwich

Langer's Deli's famous #19 is their best-selling sandwich since 1947. You get moist, tender pastrami marbled with bits of delicious fat, sweet, crunchy cole slaw and soft rye bread (also the best in town). Hands down Langer's serves LA's best pastrami and corned beef sandwiches. I might even argue it's better than what I've had in New York City.

And I love that inside the restaurant, you'll see that LA is truly a multicultural mecca with couples, families, friends and co-workers of every shade all enjoying the best Jewish deli food the city has to offer. It's too bad that it's only open until 4pm and it's closed on Sundays.

The #19 (aka #1 if you don't want swiss cheese)

Look at those layers of soft and tender pastrami! The cole slaw is perfect too; it's marinated just right so it doesn't make that fresh rye bread soggy. I will really miss this when I leave LA. This is a sandwich to dream about. Thankfully, they will Fedex their pastrami and rye bread.

Langer's Deli
704 S. Alvarado St.
Los Angeles, CA 90057
Small parking lot available down the block at 7th cross Westlake
Protip: Arrive just before Noon to beat the long line that usually snakes outside the entrance. There are even stanchions for crowd control! 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Goodbye to Los Angeles Tour: Best of LA Eats #1 at Flavor Garden 嘴香园

The Hungry Kat is leaving Los Angeles. 

I was born and raised in El Monte (aka San Gabriel Valley for those who don't know all the little cities that dot the SGV) and have lived on the Westside of LA for the last sixteen years. It is time to leave and start a new adventure!

I will be joining the City of Roses also known as Portlandia. Yep, Dan and I look forward to walking and biking everywhere, doing yoga daily and having a house to raise chickens (already have names: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner) and planting a vegetable and herb garden. 

I will miss my family, my friends and the wonderful diverse cultures and food in LA. However, I'm happy to say goodbye to the traffic, the expensive real estate and general high-level of stress associated with living in a big city.

I am moving in mid-April. From now until I leave, I will attempt to eat at all of my favorite LA spots and take you on this tour so you can go enjoy it too!

Best Eats #1
Flavor Garden (aka New Flavour Garden or its Chinese name 嘴香园)

This mom-and-pop in Alhambra is currently my favorite shop for Chinese beef noodle soups, dumplings and other fried goodies. Everything I've tried so far is made in-house, fresh and has great balance in rich flavors and texture. The restaurant is small - mostly small tables with two 6-tops - and it gets really busy on the weekends so if you don't want to wait, try to arrive before 11:30am. And as usual per mom-and-pop Chinese restaurants, decor is minimal to none but service is efficient and food is delicious.

Green Onion Pancake (蔥油餅)
Hands down best green onion pancake I've had in a loooong time. Lots of green onions, layers of seasoned flour dough pan-fried to crispy perfection. Sprinkle a little salt and enjoy.

 Beef Noodle Soup (牛肉面)
You have many choices to enjoy this giant bowl of noodles. It's big enough to share with another person especially if you're ordering all this other food. You can get this spicy or not spicy. Beef only or beef with pieces of tender, jelly-like beef tendon. Wide, chewy hand-pulled noodles or softer, thin-cut noodles. You can also get it with clear beef broth which is doesn't have all the herbs and spices that makes the soup heavier and darker as seen here. The clear broth is delicious too and has intense meat sweetness from all the bones used in the broth.

Pan-fried Pork Dumplings (鍋貼)
Get these pan-fried or steamed and dip it in a little soy, vinegar and/or hot sauce. They come in various fillings with pork, shrimp and/or veggies. Just be careful when you bite into them. They're hot and full of meat juice. The first time I had these, I hit Dan in the face...amusing but let's try not to scald our loved ones faces. 

Chili Wontons (红油炒手)
 Pork wontons steeped in fragrant chili oil and topped with crushed peanuts and green onions. It was surprisingly not super spicy. The chili oil was heavier on the fragrance than heat. Again, really good and I loved the delicate wonton skins. I don't encounter good versions of this dish very often.

Leek Dumplings (韭菜盒子)
Vegetarian-friendly...if you eat eggs. These pan-fried dumplings are filled with Asian leeks/chives, eggs and vermicelli noodles. I love it with a dash of soy and black vinegar and you can really taste the sweetness of the leeks. 

View inside Leek Dumpling

And not pictured here is also there Beef Pancake Roll (牛肉卷). My god that pancake roll is delicious (rivals the one at 101 Noodle House) and its essentially similar to a green onion pancake but the pancake is thinner and its rolled up with stewed shredded beef, hoisin sauce and a mix of cilantro and green onions. It's the perfect Chinese burrito.

I'm sad that we can't try everything at Flavor Garden because every time Dan and I visit, we are tempted to order our favorites.  If I have time to visit again, I will definitely order a plate of steamed meat buns, spicy dan dan noodles and steamed pork spareribs. Check out Yelp for other folks' photos. 

  • Flavor Garden (嘴香园)
    1269 E Valley Blvd
  • Alhambra, CA 91801
  • (626) 284-3549