Monday, November 15, 2010

Burmese Please

In celebration of Burma's first open election in viente anos (which was mysteriously won by the incumbent military junta) and more importantly the imminent release of political prisoner and personal hero Aung San Suu Kyi, I decided to dedicate this weekend to my favorite Southeast Asian comida. What Burma lacks in civil liberties is inversely made up for on the dining table. Geographically situated between India, Thailand, Laos, and Southern China; Burma is almost fated to have excellente grub. LA, strangely enough, has a general lack of Burmese restaurants so I started the festivities with Yoma Myanmar in Monterey Park. I had to put on the restraints when I saw the noodle menu (especially Nan Gyi Dok) and resigned myself to order a lunch combo instead: beef curry, fish cake curry, arroz, and a daal-like vegetable soup. Unfortunately all my photos of this plato are terrible, but after talking with the uber friendly waitstaff about my short stay in the border town of Tachileik I asked for an order of fried samusa just to be safe. These little wonders (papas and cauliflower) are served with a mouth-watering sauce flavored by cilantro but is inherently smooth and spicy like an old-fashioned Burma-Shave. More to follow...
Greetings from Inglewood, CA home of The "Fabulous" Forum, Hollywood Park Racetrack, Randy's Donuts, Brian Wilson, and the cozy Mutiara market.
 This Halal cafe specializes in tandoori, kababs, and biryani but serves a few standard Burmese dishes (owner hails from Rangoon) on the weekends. I took this golden opportunity to order up a bowl of Ohn No Khao Swe (a very close relative to Khao Soi): wheat noodles, coconut milk, and curried pollo garnished with cilantro, crispy shallots, dried chiles, hard-boiled egg, and limon. K had curry on the mind and went for the daal-lamb combo: chunky lamb and lentil curry, salad, naan, and basmati rice. The gregarious proprietor of Muriata not only told us about his ethnic roots but also informed us that the secret of making good food is to cook the rice perfectly so it "stays long". I have no idea what that means but it seems to be working.
 Our last stop on the mission of Burma was another Muslim influenced hash house (this time in Culver City) that serves Burmese cuisine after 5 PM and on weekends. The fragrant Jasmine market has a small grocery with an even smaller Burmese menu, but I'll have to take it as it comes.
 I felt an obligation here to order Mohinga the unofficial national dish of Burma. This hearty and gritty soup is typically eaten for desayuno and consists of vermicelli in catfish soup with banana trunk, onions, boiled huevos, garlic, and fried chickpeas. We also added a side of Keema Paratha (spiced ground pollo stuffed in flat-bread served with pickled slaw) to round out the meal. Well, congratulations to the people of Burma for the promise of a brighter future. And, if there are any Burmese nationals reading this who are handy in the cocina, just know that the second largest city in America is awaiting your fantastic comida. Don't say I never did you any favors...

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Heartfelt Missive

If there is one item on the menu that even the most passive comida admirer will undoubtedly have a strong opinion about, it's bound to be pizza pie. Whether the best is found in Chicago, Rome, or a lonely teahouse along a Himalayan trail; folks love to tell you "how it is". As for myself, having lived a number of years in Nueva York, I was exposed to some of the great local pizzerias like Grimaldi's, Patsy's, and Ray's (but which one?). I must confess that although I found these fine establishments tasty, I'm just not sure that I have the pizza "know-how" to write a cultured review on the subject. In fact, my novice skill level has kept me from attempting a pizza entry on CCB thus far, but after receiving a clandestine video from Rackics I acquired the needed inspiration to give it a go.

Fortunately, K and I didn't need to travel to Seoul on Sabado to set our sights on a Korean influenced pizza parlor. We weaved our way through traffic to the interestingly named Pizza & Chicken Love Letter for an unhealthy dose of wings de pollo and specialty pie.
Although the main focus here is the sweet potato gold pizza, we ordered the Love Letter Combo #3: bulgogi pizza (basically a classic supreme with marinated barbecued carne), una docena original crispy fried wings (complete with a stainless steel bone receptacle), crunchy ensalada (shredded cabbage, corn, dressing, hot sauce), tangy pickled radish, and a pitcher of cola all signed and sealed with a beso. The pizza was certainly passable but the wings (plain yet flavorful) were well above the typical barroom standard. Next time I'll be sure to order the spicy chili wings (served with loads of diced ajo). It's sad to say that none of our fellow diners broke out into a comida dance in or around their comfy red booths. Maybe we shouldn't rely so heavily on others and start working out some snazzy moves of our own. One thing's for sure, with the handful of coupons we scored I intend to come back for seconds real soon. Kamsamnida!