Ask a Filipina where to find the best Pinoy cooking in town and she’ll point you to her mother’s home. Ask her where to find an adequate substitute and she’ll suggest Magic Wok in Artesia.
Elena Pulmano converted a former Chinese fast-food outlet into a homey spot for honest Filipino cooking in 1979, but kept the restaurant’s moniker out of convenience. After a decade of feeding the community the crispiest pata in town, Ms. Pulmano handed the reins to her nephew Rudy and his wife, Marivic Abuyen, in 1989. Other than a fresh coat of paint and a few new menu items, not much has changed at Magic Wok since it debuted over 30 years ago.
The crowds still go gaga for the crispy pata, a bone-in leg of pork that’s brined, boiled, and fried till blistered and golden. The sisig is also wildly popular. Bits of skin-on pork, carrots, and scallions are sautéed and seasoned with a heavy dose of garlic, black pepper, and citrus.
For me though, the jewel at Magic Wok is the impossible-to-pronounce-without-a-smile binagoongang baboy, a punchy marriage of deeply fermented shrimp paste (bagoong alamang) and tender and caramelized bits of pork. This dish isn’t for everyone, but if your tastes swing toward the funky, sweet, fatty, and fermented, this pig’s for you (and me).
11869 Artesia Boulevard
Artesia, CA 90701
One year ago: American Doughnuts on Saigon Soil
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Three years ago: Eat My Blog Winter 2009: Doing Good Never Tasted So Delicious
Four years ago: Caltech Olive Harvest Festival
Five years ago: Eating in Phú Quốc
Six years ago: Sandy’s Restaurant – Philadelphia