Saturday, December 17, 2011

Truck Stop

As I have mentioned previously on CCB, eating lunch was quite the ritual at my former place of employment. Not only did my colleagues take great care in choosing what type of comida in which to indulge, we were also perpetually mobile so the world (the Bay Area anyway) was literally our oyster. I have many fond memories of those days and often rue the culinary confines of my current appointment. All is not totally lost however, for I still get the freedom from time to time to drive an oversized truck through the endless calles of even more oversized ciudad. I took the advice of a food-minded coworker and coasted over to Van Nuys to dine at his favorito truck stop, the legendary Don Adrian.
The name of the game here is cemitas poblanas; the illustrious Mexican sandwich that hails from the markets and comida stands of 19th century Puebla. When it comes to variety Don Adrian's got it covered: head cheese, millanesas (breaded puerco, beef, or chicken), fried perch fillets, cattle leg cured in vinegar, lamb, jamon, and salmon to name a few. I opened the stakes with a taco arabe (another Puebla creation influenced by Mid-East immigrants) which is a close cousin of the always scrumptious taco al pastor.
This shawarma style plug is filled with piping hot shaved pork and grilled onions wrapped in a flour tortilla served with a thick chipotle sauce. Although I was sad to see it go (could have happily downed two more), my cemita was patiently waiting in the wings.
I ultimately opted for the pollo adobado: marinated grilled chicken, aguacate, panela cheese, onion, jalapenos, cilantro, and quesillo (string cheese) captured in a warm sesame seed egg roll. Doused with a squeeze of lime, this monster is as good as it looks and just outright explodes with flavor. Even the bread was perfecto (not the dry and hard cemita roll at all), slightly crispy on the outside, soft on the inside yet durable enough to keep things standing tall. I actually look forward to future work expeditions to the Valley now that I know where Don Adrian lives. So keep on the lookout Don, we'll be comin' in hot!

For all the art truckers out there, remember: don't break the art, don't wreck the truck, and most of all enjoy your lunch.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tiger Beat

I had originally intended to string together a series regarding Bengali market comida, but due to certain time restraints I'll have to go at it piecemeal. Los Angeles is home to more than a few ethnic enclaves: some large (Koreatown), some medium (Thai Town), and some small (Little Ethiopia) that are each officially recognized by the city as areas of cultural importance. Little Bangladesh occupies a mere five blocks along 3rd street but what this barrio lacks in size is more than made up in good times. I started my expedition at Aladin Sweets and Market on Vermont where the steam table was fully stocked ready for hungry cabbies and curious wayfarers like myself. The helpful young proprietor here proved instrumental in deciphering the many fragrant dishes (all Halal) that range from Hilisha curry to Karahi beef. He also quickly sold me (against my will) on the chef's special Biryani which I ordered with a couple samosas (that he ultimately forgot) to go with it.
While this type of dish isn't really my thing (he also forgot the chutney), I imagine it would make an filling almuerzo for a tireless rickshaw driver pedaling through the dusty streets of Dhaka: Basmati fried arroz with lightly spiced carne served with lime, onions, and pepinos. The small dining room was empty except for a family of four (the matriarch giving me a mean hairy eyeball) who shortly took their leave only to be replaced by a fresh faced couple with a sprightly toddler. They were greeted by an aloof waitress (whom I had yet to encounter) and the hilarity promptly ensued. Although these good folks may have the Muslim faith in common, they most certainly didn't share any similarities when it came to language. Some of the highlights included:

"I want aloo paratha."/ 'no aloo.'/ "no aloo?" (sounding worried)/ 'no no aloo.'

"What's the difference between shammi kabab and shisk kabab?"/ 'yes, different.'

"Do you have french fries?"/ (blank stare)

 I realize that all children love papas fritas, but I'm not sure a random Bangladeshi market is the best place to score a basket of golden brown shoestrings. They then looked me over and asked: "Do you come here all the times?" To which I lied and answered: "Yeah, I like the curries." This seemed to put their minds at ease as I slipped out to pay my tab. The helpful young proprietor implored: "Did you enjoy your mutton?" (I ordered carne but that explained the depth of flavor and the odd shaped bones). He noticed the look on my face and sputtered: "You do eat lamb, I should have asked?" Mortally offended I replied: "I don't eat goats, I worship them." Actually, I just said something like: "Of course, yeah, it was tasty." I ordered dos savory pastries on the way out (one pollo one beef) which were quite delicioso later that evening with a cold cerveza. Despite all the small quirks, I have made it a point to return to Aladin ASAP but not before I check out what's cookin' down the street.