Filipino Food @ Bahay Kubo, Los Angeles

AFTER a long day sightseeing around LA,  we were pretty much exhausted. Somehow, we managed to make our way to Historic Filipinotown on Temple Street for dinner.

Welcome to Bahay Kubo, which in Tagalog means ‘Nipah Hut’! On the outside, a no frills appearance – basically a short green building with a signboard and jutting green roofing to resemble its name.

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On the inside, spacious with lots of seats, divided into an indoor and outdoor dining area. Filipino soaps played on TV: while we were visiting, they were showing one called ‘Pangako Sa’yo’.

The food is served canteen style: customers move in a line and order food displayed in large stainless steel containers. While American food isn’t bad, one does get sick of burgers, fries and hotdogs everyday so I felt a pang at this Asian-ness after more than a week in LA.

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My favourite Filipino food is sisig (stir fried pig’s jowls and ears ) but they didn’t have it that night 😦

E was not very helpful in suggesting dishes -__- so I simply picked the ones that looked appetising. Ended up with (clockwise from top left) fried chicken skin, pancit  and bopis. 

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The pancit was okay – just fried bihun with veges. The chicken skin was crispy but quite salty, would have been better with rice or something. My fave of the night was bopis: pork lungs and heart sauteed in tomatoes, chillies and onions. The offal didn’t have an unpleasant smell at all and had a soft, melt-in-the-mouth texture. The bopis sauce was tangy and full of flavour; slurped up most of it even though there was no rice. 🙂

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For dessert, one can’t come to a Filipino restaurant and not try Halo-Halo. It’s similar to Malaysian Ais Kacang (shaved ice). The version here came topped with ice-cream and had jelly, nata de coco, sweet beans and other condiments at the bottom. Great for hot days!

BAHAY KUBO

2330 W Temple St, Los Angeles, CA 90026, United States
Phone:(213) 413-4804
Open daily: 730am – 9pm

 

Visiting Chinatown, Los Angeles

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BEING born and raised as a fourth-generation Overseas Chinese, I have lost most of my roots. I don’t even speak Cantonese (mothertongue) that well.

Although I have no close relations left on Mainland China (since all of them emigrated to Malaysia by the early 20th century), I still take pride in my roots. There are Chinese communities in almost every part of the world. What drives most to adapt (and flourish) is their determined doggedness to see economic success because for many traditional Chinese families – money + wealth = happiness. My own great grandparents escaped poverty in Fujian and Guangdong on a boat to Malaya in search of a better life.

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I visited one of these ‘communities’ while sightseeing in Los Angeles at none other than the city’s own Chinatown. Divided into ‘New Chinatown’ and the Old Quarters, the place has been a hub for Chinese culture for close to a century. I was disappointed though – when we arrived in the evening, the place was deserted.

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LA’s Chinatown is very commercialised. I’m not saying it isn’t in other parts of the world, but this one seemed sad and neglected, somehow; like an amusement park that is way past its heyday. A couple of souvenir shops were open, and a row of ugly but colourful kiddie rides lined the front of the ‘Wishing Well’.

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Wishing Well. You can throw coins into slots labeled with things like “Health”,”Wealth””Prosperity”, etc.

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Most shops were already closed even though it was just slightly after five.

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It was bloody sunny!

(Above) A small ‘grove’ decorated with wooden chairs, lanterns and OTT Chinese structures painted in loud, jarring colours. Almost every single building in the area had curvy rooftops. I mean, I get it that it IS Chinatown, but it didn’t feel authentic, y’know? Looked more like a movie set.

In comparison, London’s Chinatown, while touristy, is filled with genuine mom n pop stores selling authentic HK/Chinese treats and snacks, often sandwiched between the alleyways; along with seedy massage parlours, DVD rental shops and hair salons.

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A 7-foot bronze statue of Bruce Lee graced the center of a courtyard.

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We did see some old guys playing Chinese chess in a corner, but otherwise the place was empty. I suppose if you’re into touristy places like these, you can pay a visit but skip Chinatown if you’re looking for a genuine cultural experience.

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We walked some ways down the road to a market. This was not very different from our regular South East Asian markets peddling cheap clothing, scarves, hats, sunglasses, shoes, toys, etc. They weren’t all Chinese merchants either; there were quite a number of Vietnamese and even Filipinas.

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We finally came to the arch because we were walking backwards instead of from the entrance lol.

I read up some stuff on the Internet and found that LA’s Chinatown is in a decline due to the majority of its residents steadily moving to the San Gabriel Valley over the years – which also explains why a majority of its residents are elders.I guess the younger generation found that they didn’t want to stay in a dying part of town – kind of like how many youngsters in Malaysia leave their hometowns in search of the ‘Malaysian dream’ in Kuala Lumpur.

I hope someone does something to revitalize it because it is a charming place with solid history and it would be sad if it just lost its identity.

Getting There 

  • Metro Gold Line – Chinatown stop
  • Or take the LADOT Dash Bus which services Downtown LA (Route B)

The Griddle Cafe, Los Angeles

Can’t get enough of pancakes?

Even the most hardcore pancake lovers can have their fill at The Griddle Cafe, Los Angeles. The place serves humongous portions of the American breakfast staple in a variety of flavours, from plain to blueberry and banana, to chocolate and savoury types.

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Was there on a Saturday morning and the place was packed – lucky to get seats. The inside is cozy with a brick wall on one side, open air grill and wooden tables.

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Tea with milk to kickstart the day!

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Waiting for food. Our order took awhile to get to the table, but it was a Saturday and we didn’t have much sightseeing to do, so we took our time.

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We ordered a banana pancake. IT. WAS. FUCKING. HUGE. When it came to our table I was like wtf how are we supposed to finish this? Served in a stack with a dollop of butter on top and dusted with sugar, the pancakes could easily serve a small army. Now you know how food tends to deteriorate in quality when the portions are big? None of that over here. The pancakes were soft and so fluffy it felt like a bouncy party was happening in my mouth. I like how they were not too sweet to the point of being cloying.

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I didn’t know that they were that big and had wanted something savoury so I also got two eggs sunny side up and four strips of bacon. ._.”

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All dat food though

We ended up having half of the pancake to go and ate it later for dinner.

If you don’t like bananas, they still have a huge selection to choose from with quirky names like ‘Yellow Brick Road’, ‘Teachers Pet’ that reflect the ingredients in the pancake. They also serve eggs, tacos, burritos and other American fare. I think the price is quite reasonable considering the portion.

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THE GRIDDLE CAFE 

7916 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90046, United States
Hours :
7am – 4pm (Mon-Fri)

Los Angeles Zoo

I have a love-hate relationship with zoos.

While it’s great that I get to see the animals up close, it’s not good to keep them fenced up in cages either. They should be roaming free; wild and happy. But then again, habitat destruction and the eradication of various species is so common that people have started justifying the actions of ‘protecting’ animals by keeping them in zoos, where they are safe, well-fed and cared for.

Is life worth living behind bars?

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Not everything is bad about zoos though. I think it’s a great place to take young children, to educate the next generation about the importance of caring for the environment, lest these amazing creatures become extinct in our time. People learn from seeing, observing and experiencing much better than from reading about tigers in a text book.

Anyway, we visited the Los Angeles Zoo during our stay in the city. Founded in 1966 and sprawled across 54 acres of land, the place is pretty old.  And huge. Allocate at least a day if you’re planning to visit while in LA.

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Palm trees! Why am I not surprised? Palm trees are everywhere in LA.

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Just at the entrance is a large tank with a resident manatee. They look fat and tubby but are super graceful and fast swimmers. I can see why sailors (who were probably dehydrated/famished/hallucinating while on dangerous journeys) would mistake them for being mermaids.

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“Reggie” – a gator that became a media sensation after irresponsible owners let him off in a lake in Cali. He was captured after two years of eluding the authorities, and became an unofficial zoo mascot. They even have an eatery in the zoo named after him.

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Bad composition photo lol.

It was a weekday and there were lots of elementary kids running about on school trips. We (evilly) nicknamed them little zombies because they seemed to go to each exhibit in droves, screaming. I applaud teachers the world over – how do you guys handle it?

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Also within the zoo is a botanical garden with lovely roses.

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It’s Timon!

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“Some day, I shall gaze at the sun from the vast fields of Africa instead of this small excuse of a ‘habitat’.”

Well, a meerkat can dream.

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Flamingoes. The ones here have a healthy colour – bright pink/orange. I’ve been to a lake in Putrajaya back in Malaysia where they kept flamingoes, and their colours were pale and sickly-looking.

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An indoor area with small animals like reptiles and frogs.

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We had to wait for the horde…I mean, the school kids to pass through the area before we could take pictures and look at the animals.

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More gators

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All the way from Down Under, the Kangaroo…

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And fluffy koala bears.

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Bougainvilleas in bloom.

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Mountain goats. They made a hill-like structure to simulate their natural habitat.

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It is hard to see stripey zebras behind foliage. #theoryproven

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Mountain gorillas

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A type of African gazelle which can stand on its hind legs to eat high shoots and leaves. We waited for a long time but they didnt do it ._.

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Okapi – a shy animal that looks like a cross between a tapir and a zebra.

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They also have large animals like hippos, rhinos, giraffes and Asian elephants.

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The zoo is relatively well kept on the most part, but it is old and needs upgrading. I had a nice time exploring the place and there is lots of greenery even when you’re not looking at the animals.

LA Zoo

5333 Zoo Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90027, United States

10am to 5pm (daily)

Admission Adult: 19$
Getting There 
Take the Bus line 96 route, which originates in Burbank and Downtown.

Intelligentsia Cafe, Los Angeles

Cafes in KL are often open til way past midnight. Even if they aren’t, people still like to hangout at mamaks (Indian restaurants) or food courts til the wee hours of the morning, watching football on an LED projector screen. Otherwise, we’ll be watching late night movies or hangout at the shopping mall til late. What can I say, Malaysians are night owls.

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American culture is wayy different. After 9pm on a weekday, you’ll be hard pressed to find a coffee place that’s open. We dropped by at Intelligentsia at 7.30pm and they were already closing at 8pm.

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Fire truck red building screams hipster cafe

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Just had a quick cappuccino. The place is highly recommended with good reviews, and it did not disappoint. The brew was rich and strong, while the milk was steamed just right. Its too bad we didn’t get to try more. There weren’t many seats inside the cafe, which was decorated with yellow light bulbs to give off a cosy light, and wooden furniture/accents.

If I really moved to America in the future, I think I’d miss a lot of things about Malaysian culture. Our shopping, for instance. I haven’t seen anything other than strip malls in LA. In KL, you can throw a stone and it would land on a large shopping mall. People shop all day because its too hot to do anything else lol.

INTELLIGENTSIA

Silver Lake

3922 West Sunset Blvd.

Los Angeles, California 90029

6am – 8pm Sunday – Wednesday
6am – 11pm Thursday – Saturday 

Daikokuya Original Noodle & Rice Bowl, Los Angeles

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DAIKOKUYA looks deceivingly simple on the outside.

But this Japanese restaurant, which specialises in ramen, embodies the saying ‘Don’t judge a book (or restaurant!) by its cover’.

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Located in the middle of Little Tokyo in Downtown Los Angeles, one can immediately tell Daikokuya from the rest of its competitors by the constant stream of dinner patrons lining up outside. The inside is typical Japanese – small space, open air kitchen and seats facing the cooking area. The walls are plastered with Japanese posters and pop art.

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For appetizers, we had a tempura basket of fried ebi (shrimp) and assorted vegetables such as sweet potato, long beans and aubergine. They came served with a sweet soy sauce.

Unlike some places which serve extremely oily fried items, these were done well and were crispy on the outside while retaining the moistness of the shrimp/vegetables on the inside. Good tempura!

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Their signature dish is Daikokuya Ramen (USD 9.50), which came in a specialtonkotsu (pork) soup base. It must have been boiled for hours and with lots of ingredients, as you can really feel the sweetness of the meat and bones with each sip. 

The ramen is springy with a slight bite; which was perfect since I don’t like soft, soggy noodles. It was topped over with slices of sweet chasiu, Japanese-style boiled egg (with the creamy yolk!) and bamboo shoots.

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I can’t describe how heavenly it feels to have a hot, soupy meal when its freezing outside.

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While I like their house specialty, my favourite was actually the Spicy Miso Ramen (USD9.95), which was sour, tangy, spicy and full of garlicky oomph. I’m Malaysian and eating spicy food is in our genes lol. The ramen also came served with egg and sliced chasiu.

The food lives up to its reputation as one of the best ramen establishments in Little Tokyo and some say LA! Service is fairly fast and efficient, albeit a bit brusque.

DAIKOKUYA 

327 E 1st St, Los Angeles,
CA 90012, United States
Open daily 11am – 12am (Mon – Thurs), 1am (Fri-Sat), 11pm (Sun)

Little Tokyo – Japan in Los Angeles

Konichiwa! Welcome to Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. One of only three officially recognised Japantowns in California, it hosts the largest population of Japanese-Americans in North America.

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Most of the museums were closed because we got there in the evening, but there is still plenty to see on its streets. Just outside the Japanese American National Museum is an unusual cube-shaped art installation, featuring photos of everyday people.

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An interesting building in the vicinity -The Honpa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple – features traditional Zen-Buddhism architecture.

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The streets are lined with Japanese restaurants and cafes. There is a very famous restaurant here called Daikokuya that serves excellent ramen!

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Just across the street is the Koyasan Buddhist Temple, decorated with stone statues of deities in front of a simple white building with grey tiles. Everything is very Zen-garden-esque, with fresh flowers and carefully sculpted trees and plants. The temple is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in North America, but I couldn’t tell by looking at it because it was so well kept.

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The tall red Little Tokyo Watchtower in the centre of Japantown is a structure that you definitely won’t miss

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The ‘Touristy’ part of Japantown. Loads of restaurants, clothing and souvenir shops.

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I found these hilarious. Incense sticks.

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Mochi. Vanilla and chocolate flavoured.

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Souvenirs – Japanese nest dolls and Maneki Neko (lucky cat), windchimes, scrolls, lanterns. Did not get any because I can get them back in Asia for cheaper.

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We took a bus to the interchange to catch another bus ride back to Fairfax Avenue. LA looks beautiful in the sunset, with the sun’s rays reflecting off buildings and their shiny windows.

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Pls Ignore tired, fugly face.

At first glance, I thought it was another art museum because of its beautiful design, but it turned out to be the Los Angeles Police Department. It is the third largest police force after NYPD and the Chicago Police Department, with close to 12,000 staff.

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Just next to it is a household name in journalism – the LA Times. Founded in 1881, the paper has earned itself 41 Pulitzer Prizes. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could have a stint here?

Getting to JAPANTOWN

  • Metro Gold Line – Little Tokyo/Arts District
  • Metro Red/Purple Line – Civic Center or Union Station (walkable distance)
  • Metro (bus) lines 30 and 330.

 

 

Wandering LA & Jollibee at Beverley Boulevard

Hey guys! We’re still exploring Los Angeles, where there’s plenty to see and do. Not surprising for the second largest city in California, with a whopping 18mil people. That’s more than half the population of Malaysia!

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Parts of SoCal once belonged to Mexico, so it is not surprising to see many Hispanic communities and their influences all over Los Angeles. Travelling around some suburbs, I sometimes found myself wondering if I was in America or Mexico. There were many buildings that mimicked the flat, squarish buildings of Mexico, and signs in Spanish everywhere.

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The Hispanic influence tapered off a little in the city centre, where things took on a more metropolitan facade. Ultra modern buildings and a mix of races walk the street, with an Asian restaurant here, a Mexican canteen there, etc.

LA is nicknamed the city of flowers and sunshine. While we saw a lot of the latter, I wouldn’t say the same about flowers.. except’ maybe in parks. There are a lot of palm trees though.

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The buildings are not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing.

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Koreatown. You’ll know you’ve entered the area once you see lots of billboards and shop signs with Hangul characters

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We had lunch at Jollibee @ Beverley Boulevard. It’s located just next to the subway station. To those familiar with the fast food chain, you’ll know that Jollibee is from the Philippines, serving items such as fried chicken, fries and burgers and home favourites like Filipino spaghetti and pancit.

Although we have a big Filipino community in Malaysia, no one has opened a Jollibee there – much to my dismay since I’ve always wanted to try it. LA has a large Filipino community (they even have a Filipinotown here!) so it was only natural that there’d be a Jollibee.

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I was getting sick of burgers and hot dogs, so having warm rice for a change was heaven. The Chicken Joy meal came with two pieces of fried chicken and awesome gravy. It was much better than KFC or any other fast food fried chicken I’ve ever had – tender and juicy on the inside, crispy and savoury on the outside. Now I really wish they have Jollibee in KL! 😦

E ordered Pancit Palabok, a bihun-like noodle in a garlic and meat sauce with slices of egg.

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View from the drive-in area.