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By Steven Li on 2006-04-24

April 24, 2006

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(I’m sorry for constantly “interrupting” and delay my NYC spring break posts, but I’m eating rather well here and don’t want to fall back on LA either. So, just a short break, cause Sunday was a really massive and good eating day!)

Kathy knows she eats a lot. Perhaps a little (or a lot) too much. And one day her tummy is probably going to explode if she doesn’t learn how to control mad cravings to try everything. She woke up Sunday morning very hungry. So hungry that she ate the world. No, not really, but almost. Accompanied by her friend Julie, they made the 90 minute long trek to the LA’s Farmer’s Market. It’s a farmer’s market in the traditional sense but more along the lines of many outdoor eating spots crammed together in a nice location. But there’s a huge variety and provided you know which stall to invest in, it’s delicious!

Our first stop was Moishe’s Village Mediterranean flatbread sandwich. As you can see in the picture, they sell about a dozen kinds of flatbread with assorted toppings. It’s like pizza, but they’ve “Medeterranian-nized” it somehow. How? I do not know. After you decide, the rough ‘n tough guy behind the counter whips out a precut piece of dough, rolls into a rectangle, lays on your toppings and pops it into the wood fired oven behind him.

We had to get the prosciutto and egg just because the idea of cracking an egg on flatbread then baking it is, well, very very awesome. It’s hard to go wrong with this basic combo, made better with a bread base to soak up the warm melty yolks. I felt they didn’t cook it long enough, as the crust was still on the pale side. A creative, aesthetically pleasing dish, but since it was so basic, everything from ingredient quality to baking time/temp is much more crucial, something they should have paid more attention to. (This might be for a Sunday morning breakfast – going back to Hawaii in 3 weeks, I’d like to surprise my family with this dish:))

The Gumbo Pot is the best known of the food stands in the market. Claimed by magazines as “best gumbo this side Bourbon Street” and “Inexpensive and Delicious” by Bon Appetit, I had high expectations. They’ve got all the Cajun food covered from Po’Boys to Jambalaya and even Blackened Alligator Tails. I was tempted to try the alligator but since it was my first visit I had the Gumbo Ya Ya.

Ok, so my picture sucks, all you can see is rice in a muddy red/brown stew but keep in mind that looks can be deceiving. And they are in this case. The gumbo was thick and spicy, coating every grain of rice as I gave it a stir. Ample chunks of juicy andouille sausages and soft cuts of chicken were so satisfying. The meats were clearly cooked over low heat for looong time, retaining the sweet juices and flavor but taking on a completely different texture. Even though it was a hot day, I found the warmth and spice of the gumbo demanding me to spoon up one spoonful after another till nothing was left.

I ordered a side of Sweet Potato Salad so was surprised to discover this when I opened up the container. Doesn’t it look like a shredded carrot salad? But nope, they were right. It was sweet potato! Funny thing was, it TASTED like carrots. Either way, I enjoyed shredded bits of sweet potatoes/carrots, the raisins and apple cubes rounded out the salad, adding both necessary sweetness and texture to the dish. (I swear they were carrots. I’ve had my share sweet potatoes and they sure didn’t taste like sweet potatoes!)

I love cornbread, but I did not love this cornbread. I loved it even less after seeing Robyn’s beautiful cornbread brick. Very dry and nearly tasteless, I don’t know why I finished the entire thing, but I did.

Luckily the meal started on a high note and ended on an even higher one. Four puffy beignets to an order, and though they look big, they were so airy and fluffy that I would also have ordered the chocolate ones if our parking validation didn’t expire soon. Blistering hot, these rectangular babies were showered with powdered sugar and absolutely emphermal. They’re nothing like donuts, more like soft, fried doughy baguette dough, sweetened only by a welcome coating of powdered sugar. A bite though the thin crunchy surface revealed a warm moist dough. They remind me of a refined malassada – only not even a hint of grease.

Normally this would fill me up. But something was wrong today. I was still hungry. Very hungry, actually. I needed BREAD!!! We drove down Fairfax to Canter’s, (Julie had challah on the mind, so we both benefit here:)) Having no self control whatsoever, we walked out with THREE loaves, each one about a foot long, of bread.

A Jewish deli and bakery, Canter’s always seems to be full – like LA’s version of Katz. Their shelves were pack full of beautiful braided brown loaves of challah, but the ones studded with golden raisins caught out eyes. Not knowing when we’d come back again, we logically decided that splitting a loaf wouldn’t suffice. So we got two. Crap, this bread was good. The exterior was crunchy, almost flaky, even and gave way to a soft, eggy dough generously studded with juicy raisins in shades of gold. I wish I could share it with, but you’ll have to come here. I’d say the challah here even beats B&H Dairy in the East Village.

So that was the plan. Just challah. But then I noticed a whole nother row of breads, savory breads! I was doomed from the start. The women at the register named a variety of breads from poppy seed, oatmeal…and a onion, garlic, cheddar cheese, poppy seedone that had my name written all over it. It was like they decided to put all of my favorite bread “extras” into one loaf and place it right in front of me. Good business plan. I doubted I could finish another entire loaf on my own, but they wouldn’t sell a half loaf, so I really had no choice. Hehe. I bought the whole damn thing. And two days later, it’s gone. I ate about a third of it in the car. First the smell, the cheese, onion and garlic honestly permeated out of the plastic bag. It was crying, “EAT ME EAT ME I’M SO DAMN DELICIOUS” and it was not lying. Using the same eggy challah dough, the breadmaker weaved in plenty of cheese into the bread and all over the crust. Each slice revealed cuts of caramelized onions and pungent chunks of garlic with spots of poppy seed everywhere. It was all at once cheesy, sweet and combusting with strong flavors of onion and garlic that never competed but complemented each other. I can’t believe I finished the loaf. But then again, it was insanely delicious, so I guess I can.

That was supposed to be the end of my fooding for the day. But things don’t always go according to plan…Fan knocked on my door around 9pm and shouted the words, “Rowland Heights!” with great gusto. Off we went.

We picked up an order of dan dan noodles from Shufeng Garden, a small Sichuan restaurant across the street from the Hong Kong Supermarket. Nothing like that lovely burning feeling of spicy hot noodles. And I don’t mean it sarcastically. It’s got that good meaty burn that hurts but keeps you craving more. That, tossed with slippery moist noodles is supposed to compose a meal, but makes a damn delicious snack. There was a lot of sauce left on the bottom and I imagine that I’d suffer from sodium overkill if I mixed it all.

And a little box of something to snack on. After all, there were two us. For $3.95 we had a container split between fuqi feipein, spicy stewed chicken and a type of sweetened seaweed. The seaweed was strange, in a bad way. I don’t know what I was expecting, but coordinately nothing so sugary and wet. At the other end of the container, aside from being composed of only brisket, tripe and peppers, the beefy hot flavoring of the fuqi feipein was quite pleasing, cold and spicy. I believe the chicken was boiled and seasoned with the same sauce/spices used for the fuqi feipan. What scared me though, was all the chili oil left at the bottom of the container after we finished!

All this spicy does the tummy good, but as I’ve been taught by Robyn, the night must end with something sweet. We walked next door to the “food court” and were instantly taken in by the picture of Taiwanese ice. Perfect!

This was the best deal I scored all day. $3 for EIGHT toppings! Count them: red bean, green bean, peanuts, tapioca, mango pudding, taro, black grass jelly and custard (and to think I’ve been paying $3.50 for 3 toppings down the street…). All topped a mountain of ice and ample drizzles of sweetened condensed milk. It was so big that I had difficulty navigating the dessert, a bit of taro, wait no! I want some green beans too and red ones! Before I knew it, I was left with lots of melted ice and a pile of toppings. Still delicious. The perfect way to end a spicy outing. Now my poor stomach is in recovery (no worries…it tends to bounce back pretty quick:))

(Yes it was all in one day. Should I be proud, or horrified of myself?)

LA’s Farmer’s Market
6333 W 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 933-0358

Canters
419 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 651-2030

Shufeng Garden
18459 Colima Road
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 839-7589



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