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