May 2009

Aladin Sweets & Market – Los Angeles

There are only four words in the English dictionary that are short, sweet, and crass enough to aptly describe dining out with Tony C:

Balls. To. The. Wall.

Inspired in part by a piece in the New York Times titled, Koreans and Bangladeshis Vie in Los Angeles District, Tony C. spearheaded a Bangladeshi feast at Aladin Sweets & Market. Attendees included me, The Astronomer, Laurie, and Ani P., a Yelper and Bangladeshi food expert whom Tony C. coerced into showing us the ropes. Thanks again, Ani!

Aladin Sweets & Market, which is one of Ani P.’s favorite Bangladeshi eateries, is divided into three distinct sections. A canteen-style lunch counter brimming with goodness greets patrons as they walk through the front door. The prepared foodstuffs here can be eaten in house or packed to-go. To the left of the main entrance is a small dining room and an even smaller market. The market carries a selection of Bangladeshi, Burmese, Indian, and Pakistani spices, groceries, frozen fish, and fresh produce.

As we waited for Ani P. to arrive, Tony C. perused the enticing offerings before us and boldly declared to the man behind the counter, “We’ll take one of everything.”

As we settled into our spacious corner booth and waited for the circus of food to arrive, we sipped fresh coconut juice ($1.49) and mango lassi ($2.99).

Condiments—pickled mangoes, shredded iceberg, lemons, onions, and green chilies. The pickled mangoes tasted too astringent to some, but I dug their harsh sourness.

The biryani ($5.99), which is one of the chef’s specials, was comprised of lightly spiced basmati rice fried with tender mutton and sprinkled with crispy shallots to finish.

Curry four ways (clockwise from top left)—mutton ($2.99), daal ($1.99), beef ($2.99), and vegetable ($2.99). Between the meaty duo, our table favored the musky mutton over the succulent, but standard beef. The big hunks of winter melon in the vegetable curry were most excellent.

To the untrained palate, the selection of curries more or less tasted like typical Indian ones. For someone who grew up eating Bangladeshi cuisine like Ani P., the subtle differences in spicing and preparation were far more pronounced and distinct.

Ani P. was concerned that the sag bhajee ($2.99) was too bizarre for our group, but we assured her that our tastes were very adventurous. Comprised of spinach, onions, and tomatoes simmered in a fragrant bath of garam marsala, chili powder, turmeric, and garlic, the stringy sag bhajee registered a zero on the Strange-o-Meter scale and a solid 7.5 on the Yum-o-Meter. Best of all, the sag bhajee made us feel virtuous for downing spinach in huge heaps.

The saffron-hued hash brown dish was as forgettable as its proper Bangladeshi name.

The most noteworthy, delicious, and distinctly Bangladeshi treat we sampled was the mooli paratha ($3.99)—flat bread (paratha) stuffed with scrambled eggs, onion, green chilies, tomato, cilantro, and shredded chicken. Made to order, the mooli paratha arrived beautifully toasted and generously stuffed. This gem is worth braving L.A. traffic for.

In the deep-fried carbohydrates department, we ordered a few luchis (left – $1 each) and a couple of vegetable samosas (right – 75ยข each). The puffed-up luchi pouches were hollow inside and pleasantly spiced with the usual savory suspects. Laurie was especially fond of these.

The samosas were great as well, but like the curries, the untrained palate could not differentiate any differences between these and their Indian counterparts.

Though they were fine enough specimens, the mountain of roti (left – $1.50 per serving) and paratha (right – $1.50 per serving) were largely ignored by our table due to bread overload.

Although the beef shish kabab ($3.99) appeared dry, it was surprisingly tender and very well-seasoned. Who knew shish kabab was a Bangladeshi staple?

Toward the tail end of our meal, two very traditional Bengladeshi dishes arrived—rui macher (left – $3.99) and korola bhaji (right).

Seasoned and stewed in mustard seeds, tumeric and green chilies, the rui macher fish curry was deeply flavorful but frustrating to eat due to its tiny and plentiful bones. The korola bhaji, a light stew dominated by bitter melon, was an acquired taste.

Even though we were uncomfortably stuffed at the end of our feast, we managed to share two small sweets. The supple rasgulla (left – $1.50)—prepared by kneading chhena (fresh curd cheese), rolling it into small balls, and boiling it in a light sugar syrup—tasted like concentrated milk in solid form. The pool of syrup wasn’t sweet enough to balance the overwhelming taste of dairy.

The orange-tinged jilapi coil ($1 per serving) tasted mostly oily and sweet. There’s a fine time for oily and sweet treats, just not at the end of a gut busting lunch.

The damage. The Astronomer and I took home three boxes of leftovers. We were amply fed for the next three days.

Dining with Tony C. is madness.

Aladin Sweets & Market, Inc.
139 S. Vermont Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90004
Phone: 213-382-9592

Aladin Sweets & Market on Urbanspoon

Aladin Sweets & Market, Inc. in Los Angeles

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10 thoughts on “Aladin Sweets & Market – Los Angeles

  1. Ha! I believe you’ve met your match, and then some.

    That spinach dish is the perfect thing for me. I love, love, love spinach stewed with spices and onions. Add paneer? Ok. Add chickpeas? Sure! Anything, baby, so long as there is a ton of spinach and a lot of ground up bark/seeds.

  2. I’m curious as to how the spicing is different between Bangladeshi foods and Indian foods? And I’ve not had a luchi before – have to look for some now!

  3. Fiona – “And then some” is right. 2.5 Gastronomers = 1 Tony C. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I love it when spinach tastes nothing like spinach.

    Nina – Wish you were here with us ๐Ÿ™‚

    gma – I think you should learn how to make luchis.

    Su Lin – Here’s Ani P’s answer to your question:

    Girl, now you’re asking the hard questions!!

    Food from Bangladesh is more fish based (it’s the major protein) — lots of bony fishes cooked with mustard. Dry fish is a common dish — shutki mas.

    Traditional oil used is mustard oil.

    We definitely have no issues with beef.

    A staple blend of seeds that’s used in almost everything is panch poran — it’s a blend of 5 spices (fenugreek seeds, kalongi or kalogeera (onion seeds), black mustard seeds, cumin and fennel seeds). Lots of veggies are cooked with panch poran.

    We definitely don’t tend to cook with coconut milk or sweet fruit. A lot of the curries are dried curries — meat in a very dry sauce or vegetables that are cooked in a bhaji style (skillet fried w/ almost no sauce).

    Bengali sweets (imo) seem to be more sweet than the Indian variety. Kind of like the rasgulla we ate in that syrupy sauce. A lot seem to be based on sweetened cottage cheese.

  4. “Dining with Tony C. is madness.” If so, I’m ready for the insanity! This looks awesome. I’ve never had Bangladeshi cuisine before

  5. I’m soooo sorry?

    Not really.

    Note of truth: it’s been 1+ month and I have NO desire to do this again. But we must, and we shall.

    Fi-Fi, join us next time. Bring your stomachs.

  6. So I checked this place out last Friday night after reading your review. All I have to say is that Bangladesh must be the poorest country in the world if they’re making this stuff. I’m really glad I tried it and am grateful for the experience. But never again will I go there.

  7. As A Bangladeshi Born Angelino I was curious to try out real Bangla food here in LA. And Aladin and Desh (3rd and Catalina-a few Blks away) are the Best in the Area.

    I recommend: Deep Fried Pomfret with Lime (the crispy bones are easy to handle unlike those in Hilsa and Rui mentioned in the article): Called Roopchanda Bhaji

    Vegetable Biriyani
    Traditional Dhakai Biriyani (with Goat meat NOT Mutton-lamb)
    Chicken Boti Kebab (boneless Chicken with Yoghurt)
    Lau Chingri (Shrimp with Gourd) A perfect item for a hot day!!!)
    Shingaras (vegetarian cousin of Samosas)

    Unlike most of the “Indian” (which are actually Bangla owned and operated)restaurants the food here are authentic and have NO FOOD COLORING and No Strange Concoctions like Bell pepper in Curries, Butter masala, Cashew in sweet sauce!!!! Pls these are not authentic South Asian Food! Also the Mutton Here is Actually Goat and called Such and NOT Called Mutton (lamb) like in the other restaurants. Most South Asians DO NOT EAT MUTTON (LAMB)!!!!

  8. Ok Got it…The other Bangla place is Called DESHI FOOD but they have a seating restaurant inside on the right. The address is:

    3723 W 3rd St
    Los Angeles, CA 90020-2304
    (213) 389-9644

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