Friday, December 18, 2009

Bebas - Bolivian Cuisine in LA!

Bolivian food in LA? You must be kidding me, right? You mean, I don't have to fly to VA anymore to get some good Bolivian food?! OMG OMG OMG OMG. I had to go and see for myself. I took my mom and two brothers and we headed out to Beba's in North Hollywood. I've made many treks like this in the past only to find an empty or a burnt down restaurant, or a restaurant that never exist. When we got to Hazeltine Ave., we almost gave up driving up and down that street until finally, we spotted it. A small hole in the wall. So small you'd miss it if you blinked.

Once inside, we noticed that the owners were Bolivian. They even played traditional Bolivian music videos on their television. It's a must see so ask for it to be played if it's not on. Also, do not laugh out loud. It may seem funny to non-Bolivians but Bolivians take their songs and culture seriously and who cares if they filmed it on an abandoned train or if the singers are wearing gangsterlike sunglasses reminiscent of Gangsta's Paradise. This is all part of the experience so sit back and enjoy. All the food on the menu is guaranteed authentic.

Sopa de Mani

We started off with a bowl of peanut soup (Sopa de Mani), my all-time favorite soup in Bolivia. It's nutty, chicken-y, and full of... fries? Yup. They basically put fries in the soup and it's actually pretty tasty. Come to think of it, Bolivians put fries in lots of things. I would have liked more chunks in the soup but the broth itself was pretty good. You have to share this because it's on the heavier side and you don't want to fill yourself up before you try any of their pastries and entrees.

Empanada de Queso

The Empanada de Queso (cheese empanadas) was a little different from the ones from Santa Cruz. The ones I grew up eating with light and fried, sprinkled with powdered sugar. But, in La Paz, I know they have different types of pastries. This restaurant is definitely Pacena (people from La Paz) so the regional difference exists, and I will have to get used to it. It was good, but a bit on the dry side.

This was the highlight of the night. The Saltena is one of the hardest dishes to make. It's not just an empanada, as most people think. It's juicy goodness of beef, chicken, potatoes, eggs, raisins, vegetables, olives that is enclosed in a tasty sweet crust. Most people eat it vertically, sucking the juice as they bite down to the bottom. Since we were in a restaurant, we acted civilized and cut it open with our fork. It's much more fun to eat it from your hands though. This way, you're sure to get all the juice. They have chicken and beef saltenas. I love both but people definitely have preferences so try both to see which one you like. They taste very different from each other.

The Silpancho is a dish that consists of breaded steak with fried eggs on top, french fries, with a side of rice and salad. To me, this is the most boring dish because you can make this anywhere and it's not particularly exclusive to Bolivia but if you talk to any Bolivian, this is almost always one of their favorite dishes. Perhaps because it is so easy to make at home, or because people just eat it frequently but it's definitely a hit. It's also really hard to mess up so it's consistently good.

Plato Mixto

We shared the Picante Mixto, which comes with chicken with yellow sauce (picante de pollo), tongue with red sauce (Aji de Lengua), dehydrated potatoes (chuno), rice, and potatoes. My favorite two dishes - picante de pollo and aji de lengua - in one dish is awesome! Most people need some time to get used to the chuno but once you love it, you crave it. It's just bland potatoes that I used to think were potato salad but it's just dehydrated potatoes. Bolivia has over 200 different types of potatoes and this is one form of it. The beef tongue was tender and the chicken was amazing. I highly recommend getting this dish.

Don't forget to order the mocochinchi, a dehydrated peach drink that is my all-time favorite. You just can't get that anywhere else. I loved the saltenas so much I bought ten - five beef and five chicken, to take home. They have frozen ones you can take home that you can bake in the oven at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Since they do it in a clay oven you won't get the nice burnt crust but it will still taste heavenly.

Bebas Restaurant
6024 Hazeltine Ave

Van Nuys, CA 91401
(818) 786-1511

Click here for past Bolivian blog posts.

Beba's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Don Chow Tacos

This summer, I had the honor of being able to shoot one of our scenes for our latest film about food and love at Don Chow Tacos, a Chinese-Mexican fusion truck operated by Dominic and Lawrence. They were so fabulously hospitable and nice to us and let us try a couple of different dishes.

Here are my faves:

Introducing the Carne Asada Chow Fun. I think this is now a staple on their menu and I'm happy to say I was one of the first to try it! Seeing how it looks on other people's food blogs, I imagine they re-engineered it since I last tasted it. I can't wait to go back to see what is different. I remember thinking why chow fun doesn't actually taste like this! It definitely took the chow fun experience to another level and I think others agreed. The noodles were gone in less than five minutes.

The Chimale!! This is a Chinese Mexican tamale with Kung Pao Chicken inside.

We had the kung pao chicken and Chinese bbq pork tacos. I personally liked all their dishes that had kung pao chicken. I'm not the biggest fan of Chinese bbq pork in general but the people who like it, loved the dishes that had it.

And last but definitely not least, my favorite dish from DCT is the Al pastor quesadilla. There were bacon bits in there and the smokiness still makes me salivate just thinking about it. I'm not entirely sure if this is part of their normal menu but if it isn't, it should be! It was my favorite dish by far.

If you haven't tried Don Chow Tacos yet, this is one food truck you must not miss! I've had food from a lot of food trucks but DCT still ranks #1 on my list.

All pictures courtesy of Edward Shen.

Don Chow Tacos (food truck) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


The best thing that's happened since I got to USC - food wise. Mo-Chica is a Peruvian restaurant inside the Mercado la Paloma. What differentiates this place from other Peruvian places I've been to around Los Angeles is that this place takes Peruvian cuisine to a gourmet level. Sure, I've had Lomo Saltado only a thousand times but never have I had it in a deconstructed form (no pic yet of this dish but will update soon).

Since I've discovered this place, I've been back three times. I've tried the Ceviche del dia, the Arroz con Pollo, the Arroz con Marisco, and the Lomo Saltado.

The Ceviche del dia is delicious and many tend to agree that it's less slimy than most ceviches. It actually tastes and feels more like a sashimi. In this one, you'll notice that there are yams as well as two kinds of corn. My favorite hominy was in it. Hominy is indigenous to Peru and Bolivia (my hometown) so it takes me back to places I cannot enter soley through my imagination.

The Arroz con Marisco, or the Seafood Rice, was reminiscent to paella in a way albeit less spicy. People who love seafood love this dish because of the abundant amount of seafood in the dish. Though in the picture it doesn't look like much, the actual quantity of the food is a lot.

This is definitely one of my favorites, along with the Lomo Saltado which I do not have a picture. This is the Arroz con Pollo and the real differentiation of this dish is the green sauce in the rice. I still dream about this rice and I'm salivating just typing this up. The chicken is also very tender and juicy but man, the rice is out of this world. If you like green sauce, you'll love this dish.

My favorite is still the Lomo Saltado because of the way it's deconstructed. It's very smart and tasty. The beef is tender and juicy, the sauce is the highlight of the dish, and the fries are stacked in a way where you can dictate how much of the sauce you want on it.

I'm so happy I found this place. I don't have to eat anywhere else around USC anymore. In La Mercado La Paloma, you will also find Chichen-Itza, Taqueria Vista Hermosa, Oaxacacalifornia, and a Thai restaurant. Here's a few snapshots of the food you can eat in this Mercado:


Taqueria Vista Hermosa:

So if you're in the USC area or you are at the DMV in downtown near the 110 fwy, this is the place you should eat at. Seriously. PS my fave dessert here is the queso napolitano at Chichen-Itza. If you like dense flan, this will make you want to go gaga.

Mo-Chica on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving madness

So I finally managed to upload the short video I made about brining the turkey. It's hilarious because I don't believe in formalities or going by the book. It's kind of a miracle that the turkey came out great. Check here for past Thanksgiving post.

Yes, I understand how late this post is. Sorry, I'm a film student! Hopefully this will come in handy for Thanksgiving 2010.

Monday, August 17, 2009


      I really can't complain because I got a $75 lunch gift certificate from the blogger prom to come here! After reading through everyone's review, we decided to get one dish from the secret kitchen, and a few lighter options.

      We ended up getting the colossal royal tiger prawns that came with the garlic noodles ($39.95), the traditional vietnamese salad (13.95), and the crispy rice paper roll ($9.00). We also got green tea ($7.00) and two desserts - the coconut cake with creme anglais, and the pineapple brioche with vanilla bean ice cream (both $9).

      the garlic noodles were definitely tasty. panida r. mentioned it contained parmesan cheese. i could def taste it now. i was wondering what the smell was. the garlic and butter was heavy handed but definitely crack like for the first 3 bites. after that, it's a little too heavy to continue consuming without feeling your arteries clogging. the prawns were aiite. a little on the dry side. next time i'd prob get the garlic noodles as a dish and maybe get the coconut prawns instead. the crispy rice paper roll was delish and according to my vietnamese dining companion, a little less heavier than at his fave place that serves the same dish. glad that was the case since the garlic noodles were on the heavier side. the vietnamese traditional salad to me, was effing delicious. i could have prob had more of that, as it was something new and delightful. however, according to my companion, his mother can make it better and would have yelled at him if she knew he spent over $13 for it.

      the tea was incredibly expensive in my opinion. the food was actually not that bad for a $$$$ restaurant. i expected it to be a lot more expensive but i see that the dinner menu is where they rake in the dough cuz the lunch menu's pretty affordable. they even had a three course pre fixed menu for express business lunches for $15.95. I used to spend that much for lunch at the fashion district working with koreans, eating korean food that wasn't as good as my dad's home-cooked meal.

      their desserts were also kick-ass. nothing so transformational but we were full by the time dessert came out and we devoured the whole thing.

      only gripe was the tea. stick to the tap water and save yourself some money!

      the decor was awesome. there were a lot of very traditional items that mimicked old vietnam and i almost had a heart attack when i thought i was going to step into the "river" that was in the middle of the restaurant cuz i didn't see the glass casing protecting it. the fans are made of bamboo fans and it looked like a two story restaurant like in martial arts movies right before people come barging in and messing up the entire place. very quiet and enjoyable. didn't want to leave.

      servers in the costume was a bit too much but at the same time, a bit hilarious. KEKEKEKE. it's better than those corn on a stick costumes though.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

1st Annual Korean Barbeque Cookoff

Oh Em Gee.

I cannot believe the success of this event. I mean, I know how much people love Korean barbeque but this was ridiculously successful - so successful it was almost annoying. If you wanted to eat something, the lines were at least a 20 minute wait. Some lines moved faster than others because the restaurant owners were more efficient and set up some sort of cracked out assembly line. Other restaurants took too long to cook and then even longer to distribute. A lot of people were walking around with corn because they were cheap ($3) and fast. Next year, I hope they have a lot more sides featured. Korean bbq is awesome but Korean banchan is also a staple as well as a crowd pleaser. Apparently, there were 10,000 people who passed through the doors that day. That's so incredible. It's amazing to see how people come together for food. To organize this massive crowd to come to a charity event would be much more difficult, I'm sure.

At $10-$15 a plate, the bbq plates were not the cheapest. Hell, you could have driven to the restaurants and eaten their AYCE bbq in less time than eating here. But people still came in droves, paid $5 in parking, another $10-$15 in food, and stayed for the contests to spot the likes of Jonathan Gold, Evan Kleiman, Russ Parson as the judges. Of course, there were politicians there too, as well as comics and hordes of newscasters and media.

I sported a media badge as well. I was there filming some stuff for Yong, the organizer's brother. I was allowed to keep my footage for my doc so I thought it'd be a mutually beneficial gig. I wish I got more footage though, but we only started filming from 5pm. H.C. was my host, and asked some splendid questions to the judges. We even got an interview with Jonathan Gold and Evan Kleiman.

This is not part of the interview, but just a shot of J. Gold thinking hard about the dish he just had. It was pretty intense watching the judges eat and then evaluate the dishes. The one that won (Mu Dae Po) was actually the only restaurant we waited in line to eat at since it seemed short and popular enough. Were they really the best? Actually, I'm not sure. I don't know what kind of meat the judges got but I thought what I ate was just okay, and it could have been because it was already so cold by the time I sat down and ate it but then again, the judges were saying that by the time they get to eat and judge it, the meat is always cold.

Some of the dishes from the other restaurants looked amazing! Mu Dae Po's wasn't bad either but just in terms of presentation, I think So Hyang's was the prettiest. What do you think?

Doesn't it look amazing? These dishes elevated Korean bbq to a whole other level. Not only was this event successful, but everyone felt this to be true: this ain't the last time they're having it! I hope next year, they feature not just Korean bbq but also a lot more other meat dishes like spicy pork, and maybe even Korean fried chicken, bool dak (fire chicken), and a host of banchans. If the corns were any sign of success for the carb lovers, they should have a few more cheaper finger food options like that. The beer garden was a huge hit and the VIP tent was pretty cool.

Yes, the wait was long but in the end, I think people didn't mind going to an event that would introduce them to the world of Korean bbq. For the veterans, you might be surprised to find a new place. I've never been to Mu Dae Po and am willing to try them again since I don't think my plate was a good representation of what they have to offer and obviously, they're good for a reason since they won.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

7th annual Plate by Plate

On August 1st, I drove to the California Science Center for the 7th Annual Project by Project Tasting Benefit. Every year I've wanted to go but couldn't make it for one reason or another. I finally got to go this year and I'm so glad I did!

Plate by Plate is not just for foodies. I mean, obviously foodies will be more willing to pay up for tickets to a tasting event but it's really all about helping out the Asian Pacific Islander Small Business Program which in turn helps out micro businesses in Los Angeles, especially those of low income immigrants of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, and Filipino communities. So yes, not only do you have to have the stomach for this event but also the heart (cheesy, I know but it's true).

I ended up bumping into so many people that I knew from the past, people who I fell out of touch with, and people who probably would not have recognized me even if I had introduced myself to them. It's amazing how food can bring people together. I really felt like I was part of this larger network of Asian Americans who really cared about the community.

Once inside the large open space, I saw that there were as many drinks and dessert options as there were savory dishes. I already knew I couldn't try everything. I started from the back, hoping to go against traffic but I think a lot of people had the same idea. I started with Mendocino Farms' heirloom tomato and arugula with bacon and mayo (aka BLT on crack) and Kurobuta Pork Belly Banh Mi. Both were generous in portion and quite tasty. I'm totally going to be a regular at their dtla location.

Once I started my way through, entertainment was well underway with celebs like James Kyson Lee of Heroes (Ando) and Jinah Kim hosting (newscaster). Debbie Lee from the Food Network's The Next Food Network Star was there, as well as actors like Lynn Chen (Saving Face), Dante Basco (Hook, The Debut, Take the Lead ), Jimmy Tsai (Ping Pong Playa), Archie Kao (CSI: Las Vegas), Aaron Takahashi (Yes Man, Balls of Fury), Ruthie Alcaide (Real World, Road Rules), Jessica Yu (Ping Pong Playa, Grey's Anatomy). Oh, and Aziz Ansari, aka RAAAAAAAANDY was also there. Ted Chen (newscaster), Jerell Scott (Project Runway), Eliot Chang (comic), Lara Avengoza (Recording artist, The King and I) were also all there to help out as sous chefs for the night. Entertainment was provided by DK Denkym, J-Ricz, Oak & Gorski, Daion Taiko, and Esna.

I never found XIV by Michael Mina. I wonder if they were in the VIP section with The Bazaar. My favorite dish of the night was from Mo-Chica because it reminded me of home.

Japan Bistro's Salmon Ceviche was a great way to whet my appetite.

Moonshadows had this interesting dish. Possibly the prettiest of the night though I wouldn't necessarily say it was the tastiest. It was the truffled cauliflower panna cotta, lobster gelee & butter poached lobster, and american sturgeon caviar all in one dessert looking dish.

Scoops & Golden State had the beer floats, Matt from Mattatouille working the station.

BottleRock Downtown had green papaya salad avec oreille de cochon (pork ears).

Katsuya's line was too long, so I skipped out on it.

Citizen Smith had jalepeno mac and cheese.

Cicada, where Dante was helping out, had these fritter-like things with a kimchi topping.

Roy's had great dishes with noodles and skewers. I really enjoyed the taste and presentation of their dishes. I might check them out, since they're also in the dtla neighborhood.

My favorite dish of the night was from Mo-Chica, a peruvian restaurant. They had a ceviche with hominy. I loved it because it reminded me of my childhood in S. America. I'm going to use the 20% coupon I got from them. It expires in October so I have to go soon.

These were milky, yogurty alcoholic drinks. They reminded me of yogurt soju.

Pinkberry was there, introducing new flavors. I think I got the coconut.

It was too hard. I think they overfroze it to make sure it wouldn't melt but it was so hard I had to add some liquid to it. I chose to follow Scoop's example and added some alcohol in it.

I finished the night with Sno:LA. This fro-yo tasted really healthy and the toppings were really interesting and healthy-sounding. I'm glad I tasted it because I can't wait to go back. It's like Pinkberry for green people.

I also had Brazilian mojitos from Sagatiba, a shot of Courvoisier, a toffee from Valerie Confections, some dessert from Good Girl Dinette, and then I got really full so I just took pictures of the beautiful concoctions. There were a ton of desserts. I wish they had more savory things because I don't particularly have a sweet tooth but for those who do, it would have been heaven for you.

There was a silent auction for attendees to bid on the unique experiences from exclusive cooking lesson, special dining package, airline tickets to chic products but I was too busy trying to taste everything. Some places ran out of food so I had to drink instead. It's very hard not to get buzzed at this event. Next year, I need to bring a DD so I can drink more.

The event was from 7 PM – 10 PM and ran $150 per person. Thanks Abby, for the hookups. Maybe next year, I will come back and be willing to pay for it. It's for a great cause and I was only able to try half the things. It's like going to Disneyland for the first time. You have to come back to get the full experience. I'm glad so many people have benefitted from this event.