Archive for the 'Video' Category

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BonChon Chicken – Los Angeles (Koreatown)

As soon as the Astronomer and I got engaged, our families and friends wanted to know if we’d set a date. It’s been nearly two months since The Astronomer popped the question, and no date is in sight. Our thinking was location first, then choose a date based on the facility’s availability. We’re trying to be as rational and logical as possible throughout this b-a-n-a-n-a-s process.

On our first afternoon of scoping out possible locations, The Astronomer and I visited The London West Hollywood and The Oviatt Penthouse in downtown L.A. We loved the rooftop and the English gardens at The London, but The Oviatt’s old Hollywood vibe wasn’t really our style. After thoroughly inspecting the two venues, we skipped over to BonChon Chicken in Koreatown for lunch. Wedding planning, like all proper endurance sports, really works up an appetite.

Similar to Chicken Day and arch-nemesis KyoChon, food orders at BonChon are placed up front at the cash register. While the chicken meets the deep-fryer—not once, but twice—patrons must patiently twiddle their thumbs. The wait time at BonChon is comparable to competitors, but a bit more exciting thanks to the compressed napkins distributed to diners.

To entertain ourselves during the tortuously long lull, I made a movie starring The Astronomer titled, “Napkin Fun @ BonChon.” It’s a riot, I promise.

Before our chicken arrived, we were each served a complimentary dish of coleslaw. The thinly sliced red and green cabbage was drizzled in a pleasant Thousand Island dressing. The coleslaw tasted worlds better than the bizarre ketchup and mayonnaise concoction at KyoChon up the street.

We were also served a complimentary dish of refreshing pickled radish cubes.

After a solid twenty minutes of twiddling our thumbs and making silly movies, the chicken finally arrived tableside. Our large order of wings ($15.99), half soy-garlic (left) and half spicy (right), was enticingly presented in a wicker basket.

The texture of both varieties was spot-on, with the requisite KFC snap wholly present. Flavor-wise, The Astronomer and I favored the soy-garlic variety for its dangerously addictive umami properties. The spicy ones were really tasty as well, but we both desired a hotter glaze—more burning, please.

BonChon is a formidable competitor in Los Angeles’ KFC battle, but KyoChon wins by a nose.


KyoChon > Bonchon > Chicken Day > Hite Kwang-Jang.

Bonchon Chicken
3407 W. 6th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90020
Phone: 213-487-7878

Bonchon Chicken on Urbanspoon

BonChon in Los Angeles

San Diego Tết Festival

The Astronomer and I drove down to San Diego this weekend to celebrate Tết with my family. In Vietnam, the entire country shuts down for over a week in order for families to gather and celebrate. It was beyond grand last year taking off several weeks of work to eat, drink and be merry, but it looks like this Tết I’m going to have to settle for a measly weekend. Oh, cultural norms…

We woke up early this morning to go to the temple. Instead of having a traditional Buddhist ceremony, the temple organized a festive raffle. I won a book about Africa, while Cousin Jimmy won a jade dragon wall hanging. My grandparents didn’t win a prize, but I awarded them Best Dressed honors.

After the Tết raffle, firecrackers were lit!

Before heading to the San Diego Tết Festival, we ate com chay (vegetarian lunch) at the temple. Many Buddhists refrain from eating meat during the first month of the New Year.

As we entered the Tết Festival at Balboa Park, we were greeted by a bunch of veteran carnies. We thought we had made a wrong turn until we ran into Cho Ben Thanh. Whew!

The number of Vietnamese food vendors present at the festival was pretty limited considering how many Vietnamese restaurants there are in the city. Regardless, the smell of grilled pork permeated the festival air.

Cousin Jimmy was in the mood for a banh mi and procured one soon after we arrived. Even though the sandwich was pre-made and the bread was soft rather than crisp, Cousin Jimmy still thought that it was good eats. The Astronomer went for a tall cup of nuoc mia (sugar cane juice) to start. The nuoc mia was refreshing, but too sweet because the vendor failed to squeeze in a bit of citrus like they do in Vietnam.

To accompany his nuoc mia, The Astronomer purchased some banh khot, which were served with greens, herbs and nuoc cham on the side. The banh khot were soggy in the center and tasted like banh xeo. Texturally, banh khot should be crisper and more wafer-like.

While we ate, a faux wedding procession came through.  The costumes made me feel like I was at the Citadel in Hue.

A wedding isn’t a wedding without a roasted piglet.

The highlight of our afternoon at the festival was the lion dance. The footwork was cool, but the rhythm of the drums is the coolest.

Chúc mừng năm mới! Happy New Year!

Tofu Village – Los Angeles (Koreatown)

One of the things I missed most about America while I was away in Asia was attending rock shows. Sure, I saw some homegrown Saigon death metal and even My Chemical Romance, but none of my favorites ever came to rock the Mekong. This certainly is not the case in Los Angeles. In fact, so many sweet acts come to town that we have to pick and choose which ones to see based on monetary and scheduling constraints.

Ben Folds is The Astronomer’s all-time favorite musician—the Billy Joel of our generation, if you will. When we found out that he was coming to town and playing a show at the Wiltern Theatre, we knew we had to be there. Granted, we’ve already seen him twice, but Ben in concert is a magical experience that’s not to be missed.

I work a stone’s throw away from the Wiltern, so we stayed in Koreatown for dinner. Tofu Village is conveniently located across the street from the venue.

Tofu Village is known for their generous banchan. On this evening, we were served eleven different ones! My favorites of the bunch were the purple potato salad, jap chae, salty fish with chili sauce, and fried tofu with eggs. I especially loved the chewy little silverfish and ate them straight-up. Banchan are my favorite aspect of Korean meals because they bring about a feeling of adorable abundance.

Tofu Village specializes in soft tofu stew or soondubu jjigae. We ordered a seafood medley filled with clams, shrimp and lots of silken tofu. The stew arrived bubbling like mad in a clay pot, and our waiter cracked a raw quail egg into it upon arrival. Purple rice was served on the side. Since this was our first time venturing into soondubu jigae territory, we received a bit of instruction from our waiter—take a heap of rice, dip it into the stew, put it in your mouth, then repeat.

After the stew cooled down, we could actually taste the broth, which was flavorful, but not the least bit spicy. The waiter probably sensed we were newbies and prepared the stew mild even though we requested medium heat. Next time we’ll ask for a bolder rendition.

For our second dish, we tried the galbi jjim, which was translated as a “beef rib stew” on the menu. This dish was served with sticky rice and fish sauce on the side. The soup contained generous and tender hunks of beef ribs, glass noodles, scallions and dried plums. We incorporated the rice into the soup per our waiter’s instructions, which reminded me of the Vietnamese canh dishes I grew up with. Prior to exploring Koreatown, I associated Korean cuisine with brash, in-your-face spiciness. The galbi jjim highlights a more subtle side of Korean food.

After we polished off our two stews and paid our bill, we headed across the street to rock out.

Ben played a two and a half hour set, which pleased us to no end. The first half of the show was dedicated to new material, while the second half was dominated by the songs we knew by heart. For a nerdy man with a strangely elongated torso, Ben Folds rocks the party.

The Luckiest

Annie Waits

Tofu Village
3807 Wilshire Blvd. #120
Los Angeles, CA 90189
Phone: 213-386-3650

Tofu Village on Urbanspoon

Tofu Village in Los Angeles

La Brea Bakery – Los Angeles

La Brea Bakery is an L.A. institution. Back in 1988, founder Nancy Silverton developed her very own starter from scratch using flour, water, and wild yeasts from the skin of organic grapes. Twenty years later, the original starter remains the signature ingredient in every single loaf of La Brea Bakery bread, even the ones sold at Costco. Talk about a legacy!

My mom, The Astronomer and I made a quick stop at La Brea Bakery because we were in the neighborhood visiting the La Brea Tar Pits, another classic L.A. destination. Because the holidays are upon us, there was a kind woman out front offering samples of La Brea’s holiday pies, including a spiced yam and pumpkin puree, an apple crumble, a sour cherry crumble and a toasted pecan and molasses tart. We all agreed that the sour cherry crumble was the best.

La Brea Bakery’s flagship store is tiny and quaint. In addition to breads and pastries, there are also a selection of gourmet jams, granola and honey. The Astronomer wanted to treat me to a jar of honey or jam, but thirty bucks was too much for a graduate school stipend to handle.

My mom bought me a whole grain loaf, which was wrapped up to-go. I happily consumed the hearty loaf the following week for breakfast and as a midday snack. Even though Ms. Silverton devotes the bulk of her culinary attention these days to Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza (her dining ventures with Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich), the quality at La Brea Bakery has definitely not slipped.

By the way, La Brea’s whole grain loaf is available for sale at your neighborhood Costco. I’ve tasted the Costco variety and can vouch for its comparable deliciousness.

My mom picked up a few treats for herself as well, including a long and skinny baguette and two coconut macaroons.

Prior to visiting La Brea Bakery, we explored the famous La Brea Tar Pits and Page Museum.

The La Brea Tar Pits are a cluster of tar pits located in Hancock Park in the urban heart of Los Angeles. Tar has seeped up from the ground in this area for tens of thousands of years, forming hundreds of sticky pools that trapped animals who unknowingly entered. Over time, the asphalt fossilized the remains. The result is an incredibly rich collection of fossils dating from the last Ice Age.

The collection of skeletons, which includes saber tooth tigers, mastodons, dire wolves and wool mammoths, are located inside the Page Museum.

The pools of black tar surrounding the museum are glossy and smell like fresh pavement. A few of the pits are active excavation sites, including one that is open to the public. Unfortunately, we visited on a weekend so no one was hard at work in the dark matter. Here’s a picture of my mom and I in front of the main tar pit, and a photo of The Astronomer hugging a life-size model of an Ice Age sloth. It was his favorite.

This twenty second clip entitled “La Brea Tar Pits: It’s Alive” captures the awesomeness of tar bubbles and features narration from my mother. What a treat!

La Brea Bakery
624 S. La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA‎ 90036
Phone: 323-939-6813‎

La Brea Bakery on Urbanspoon

La Brea Bakery in Los Angeles

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