How to run

A friend of mine just told me that she’s running her first half-marathon later this year, which got me thinking about any advice I could give her. I ran my first (and second) half-marathon this past year and I learned a few lessons along the way through research, asking friends and through my own personal experience. Some of them may seem like common sense, but I believe if anyone commits the time and effort, than anyone, regardless of fitness level or age, can enjoy long distance running.  Anyway, here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Get motivated. If you’re thinking about doing a long race, you probably enjoy running. But if you’re going to train for a long run you have to realize that you’ll need to train at times when you don’t want to. In other words, those mornings when the bed is so warm and the thought of getting up seems like the worst idea ever, that’s when you need to get up and put your shoes on and get outside. Often the anticipation of getting started is the worst part. Nike’s marketing people coined a phrase long ago that sums this point up: when you’re doubting if you’ll have time to run or if you think you can skip a day: “Just do it.” If you can run when you don’t want to run, you’ll succeed in training and building up longer distances.

2. Get proper gear. Obviously you’ll need some well fitting shoes. I also love dry-wick shirts and comfortable shorts. They make dry-wick socks if you are running on hot weather you might like them too. I run with a hat to keep the sun and sweat out of my eyes, some people prefer sunglasses or a headband. You may also want a case for a phone or ipod, headphones that won’t fall out, sunscreen or reflectors if you’re running at night. These items are an investment, but worth is if you use them often to be comfortable.

3. Get distracted. Running is very much a mental game. On long runs you’ll have a lot of time, so if you’re alone you’ll need something to occupy your mind.  That could be music, an interesting podcast, or just thinking things through on your own. Whatever you do, you don’t want thoughts of doubt creeping in. The last thing you want to be thinking about is slowing down or taking a break. I find it best to just sort of zone out and get lost in some music or a podcast and let the time go by.

“If you are going to win any battle, you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do… the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”
-General George S. Patton

4. Stay fueled and hydrated. I used to run on an empty stomach thinking it was the best way to effectively exercise. It is not. Just like a car need fuel, the body needs something to burn if you’re going to maintain a high level of activity for more than 20 minutes or so. There are all kinds of useful products to fuel athletes these days and you’ll have to figure out what works best for you. I’ve found a banana, oatmeal or a cliff bar 20 minutes before a run gives me a good start, if I’m going for more than an hour I might grab an energy gel for some sugar and electrolytes. I also drink at least 24 oz of water before each run, and carry a bottle to sip on as I go. Most people don’t carry water, but I enjoy having it handy for the duration and even to refill at water fountains at parks and along paths. Simply put – fueling your body and staying hydrated will allow you to run further, faster, and more comfortably.

5. Find camaraderie. It’s tough to find people who run the same distance, pace and schedule as you, but there are lots of apps and websites where you can find friends and stay motivated together. Nike+ for example is an app I use on my iPhone that tracks my runs, but also allows me to see what my friends are doing. You can even create “challenges” between groups, for example a group of friends and I recently had a challenge to see who could run a total of 26.2 miles in four weeks. There are also running groups and clubs in many areas. And these days there are so many organized races you can sign up for, from 5k to marathons and beyond, and it can be fun to run in a huge crowd with spectators cheering you along.

6. Sign up for a race. I’ve found that once I’ve signed up for a race, the deadline helps me mentally and physically prepare for that specific goal. Knowing that I’ve made that commitment helps me realize that it’s real, and by spending money on a race there’s an incentive to not flake out and quit.

7. Create an stick to a schedule. There are tons of resources online for runners, including training programs and schedules that can help keep you on track. I found a good system to me was 2 short runs, 1 cross training day and 1 long run per week, with miles added on each week as I got closer to race day. I put all the miles into my calendar and I would receive a text reminder each day with my goal. I found this to be an easy way to keep track of where I was, and where I needed to be. Of course you could also use a paper calendar or any other system, just make sure you stick to it.

8. Find your pace. I’ve found there’s a big difference between running and jogging. While I loose my breath easily and have a hard time keeping up a fast pace, when I get into a comfortable pace I feel like I can jog along for mile after mile. I’m sure this has to do with heart rate, fitness level and form, but it’s important to realize that it’s ok to go slow and steady – as long as you just go.

9. Recover properly. Just like the body needs fuel to burn during a run, it also need proper nutrition after a run to recover. This can mean getting your sugar levels back in check, eating some carbs and protein, electrolytes and of course lots and lots of fluids. A throbbing dehydration headache later in the day can be a huge motivation killer to running, and the best way to avoid them is by taking care of yourself after a long run.  Personally I like a big fruit smoothie (1 banana, frozen strawberries, almond milk, low fat yogurt, whey protein powder). Sometimes I’ll drink coconut water or chocolate milk, fruit juice or even a beer. Your body looses a lot when you run, and if you don’t give it something back it won’t be happy with you.

10. Plan for the finish line. After all the training and all the running you cross the finish line and grab a metal, some snacks, and take a few photos – now what? Well your legs, feet, and pretty much everything else will be exhausted and you’ll be a smelly mess. I strongly recommend some flip flops and a change of shirt for when you’ve finished. It may not seem like a big deal, but a dry, clean shirt really does make a difference to your comfort level. Although most races provide snacks, you’ll want to find a big meal after your race, so either have something prepared or have a plan for a local restaurant. After that, all thats left to do is take a satisfying shower and a rewarding nap.

 

My uncle, myself and a friend enjoying a beer after the Los Angeles Rock and Roll Half Marathon

My uncle, myself and a friend enjoying a beer after the Los Angeles Rock and Roll Half Marathon

Food of the World in Los Angeles: Canada, Eh?

Being less than 150 miles from the border, Los Angeles is known for it’s Mexican food, but tonight I visited a restaurant that features the culture, food and drinks of our friendly neighbors to the north, the Canadians.

P'tit Soleil Poutine Flags

More specifically, food in the style of French Canadians who mostly live on the Eastern Canada’s Quebec Province. At P’tit Soleil in Westwood you can find a variety of French Canadian dishes and drinks, including the deliciousness on a plate known simply as poutine. Poutine consists of french fries smothered in gravy and toped with cheese curds.

What more do I have to say. Fries, gravy, cheese. This place knows their poutine so well they have an ENTIRE MENU for the stuff! I’m getting hungry again.

 

P'tit Soleil Poutine Fries

Anyway it’s a very cozy and charming little restaurant with a nice bar area and some good happy hour specials to enjoy, including some hard to find Canadian beers on tap. This would be a great stop for dinner, for a snack after a day at the beach or maybe even to watch an hockey game. See you there, eh?P'tit Soleil Poutine Exterior

For more Food of the World in Los Angeles, check out my posts on LA restaurants serving the food of ShanghaiVietnamEthiopiaSingaporeAustralia and Guangdong.

Food of the World in Los Angeles: Guangdong (China)

For the latest instalment of my quest to eat various food of the world here in Los Angeles I took the train down to Chinatown and checked out the Chinatown Bakery& Deli.

Chinatown Bakery and Deli Exterior

Located in the heart of Chinatown, this small restaurant was full of older asian guys chatting away in a language I didn’t understand as I picked out a few steamed buns to snack on before work.Chinatown Bakery and Deli Interior Chinatown Bakery and Deli case
If you’ve never had a chinese pork bun, or cha siu bao, you’re missing out. As I understand it, a cha siu bao is a baseball-sized bun of dough that’s stuffed with pork, sauce and seasoning and either steamed or baked. The result can be either a fluffy, sticky cloud that’s still moist with steam or golden brown and sometimes toped with a sweet, honey like glaze. Both are good, but I prefer steamed. Seriously, next time you see and chinese bakery go in and try a steamed pork bun. So good.

Chinatown Bakery and Deli Bao

Although these buns weren’t the best I’ve ever had (nothing compares to the subway station in Tokyo) these baos were tasty and for only ¢.60 each you really can’t go wrong by giving them a try. The young woman behind the counter was friendly and told me this type of food is found in Guangdong Province, in South East China near Hong Kong.
Chinatown Bakery and Deli Bao

For more Food of the World in Los Angeles, check out my posts on LA restaurants serving the food of ShanghaiVietnamEthiopiaSingapore, and Australia.

Food of the World in Los Angeles: Australia

G’day mates!

Two things I love are pies and well-seasoned meat.  Fortunately, at The Bronzed Aussie in downtown, the two are combined into a delicious meat pies.

Bronzed Aussie Exterior

The shop is located in a short alley off South Los Angeles Street in a quiet alcove of new stores and apartments called Santee Court.  The area is welcome escape from the noise and bustle of the main street, and could be a nice place to sit and enjoy a coffee or chat with some friends over some pies.

Bronzed Aussie Interior

The owner Samantha serves up a variety of pies, tarts and coffees.  She informed me that in Australia meat pies are like a hot dog here – fast, cheep, and omnipresent.  She says it was the English who first brought “pie culture” to Australia when it was a colony, but it was the french who added flavor and a gourmet touch.

Bronzed Aussie Pie Case

I tried the “The Original” pie, with lean ground beef, gravy, tomatoes and spices.

Bronzed Aussie Meat Pie

The crust was flakey and delicious, the filling was warm and hearty. It was good for a quick snack or lunch and I’m planning on returning to try some other flavors and desserts.

Bronzed Aussie Meat Pie

For more posts from my Food of the World of Los Angeles Series, check out my posts on the food of ShanghaiVietnamEthiopia and Singapore.

Getty Center Fish Eye

Here are some pics I snapped with my GoPro at the Getty Center right around sunset. I like the wide-angle fisheye like effect, especially on the architecture and lines.
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For more pics of the Getty check out my HDR post.Getty Center Fisheye

Food of the World in Los Angeles: Singapore

I stopped by Singapore’s Banana Leaf at the Farmers Market near the Grove the other day for a quick snack and some Malaysian food as part of my quest to eat local food from all over the world.
Banana Leaf at the Grove in LA

The Farmers Market is a part of the Grove, a huge complex in the heart of LA that has lots of stores and shops, restaurants, a food court and produce stands. It’s a cool place to window shop, see some unique things, do some shopping or grab lunch. We didn’t have a ton of time or much of an appetite so we just split a few apps – the Curry Puff (below) and a Roti Parathan.
Banana Leaf at the Grove in LA

The Puff was deep fried, filled with warmed seasoned vegetables and served with a delicious sweet chili sauce. The Roti was a warm, thin bread served with a coconut curry dipping sauce. Both were flavorful, but I bet the real action is in the main dishes, which I”ll have to come back and try.Banana Leaf at the Grove in LA

For more Food of the World of Los Angeles, check out my posts on the food of VietnamShanghai and Ethiopia.

Getty Center in HDR

I visited the Getty Center this afternoon and was really impressed by the architecture, garden, views and museums.  It’s a really great resource for the City of Los Angeles and I recommend both visitors and residents check it out. Bonus points – it’s free!

Anyway to try something new I took some photos to edit into HDR or High Dynamic Range photography where several exposures are blended into one to create different effects such as more color or detail or more even light. Sometimes they can be subtle, other times extreme. These images are the first HDR images I’ve made with multiple exposures, but it’s a technique I’d try again in certain situations.

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Food of the World in Los Angeles: Ethiopia

I finally made a stop on Fairfax Ave in the neighborhood known as “Little Ethiopia” for dinner tonight, and it was a very cool experience.

Of the many restaurants all along both sides of the street we decided upon Messob, both because we thought it looked interesting inside and because it had good reviews on Yelp.

Exterior of Messob on Fairfax in Los AngelesThe dining room was full and smelled of interesting spices and dishes, people sat around eating communally with their hands out off large platters filled with a variety of colors and textures.

Massab InteriorI’d never had Ethiopian food before, and I’ll admit the prospect of eating soft, saucy food without any utensils or plates (Gursha style) sounded both challenging and different – right up my alley.

From Massab’s website:

Gursha is an Ethiopian tradition of hand feeding your dinner companion. The tradition of giving Gursha plays on the exotic component of eating. Gursha means mouthful and refers to a morsel of food which one places carefully in another person’s mouth, usually as a gesture of affection. This is perfect for couples wanting an intimate experience that is out of the ordinary.

Out of the ordinary for sure. After consulting our waitress for a popular, signature item to try we were served the Super Messob Exclusive, which as you probably know consists of Doro Wot, Siga Wot, Yebeg Siga Alitcha, Yater Alitcha, Kitffo, Tibs, Yatakilt Alitcha, Alitcha, Yemisir Wot & Collard Greens.

Super Messob Exclusive

The dish is served on a large plater along side and over lots of spongy bread called Injera which is used to scoop up the food for eating. There was salad, corn, lentils, chicken, beef, lamb…and…who knows what else but it was flavorful and filling and I’d try it again for sure. It reminded me of mild Indian food with the addition of lots of veggies and of course the injera.

I sipped on a floral Ethiopian beer and K enjoyed a homemade honeywine in an awesome chemistry-class style glass flask.

Honeywine

For more Food of the World of Los Angels, check out my posts on the food of Vietnam and Shanghai.

New Year’s Day Chili Recipe

A warm bowl of chili is always a good thing on a cold day, and recently I made a batch that got good reviews, so I thought I’d share the recipe here on the ol’ blog. Secret ingredients are bacon fat for flavor and brown sugar to cut down on the tomato’s acidity.

New Year’s Chili
Prep – 20 mins
Cook – 30 mins
6-8 servings

1 Lb lean ground turkey
2 small yellow onions (or 1 large), diced
1 TBS olive oil
1 tsp bacon fat (or butter or more oil)
1 tb minced garlic (about 1 clove)
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 can pinto beans, rinsed
1 28oz can of crushed tomato
2oz (approx) of tomato paste
1 TBS brown sugar
1 TBS chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 TBS liquid smoke
Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese, light sour cream, Texas Pete hot sauce, cornbread and / or Fritos

In a large stock pot over medium-high heat brown the ground turkey, stirring and breaking up chunks occasionally.
Add additional oil as needed, as well as bacon fat or butter and sauté onions and garlic for about 3 minutes.
Add diced peppers, stir and cook an additional 3 minutes to soften.
Add beans, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar and remaining seasoning, stir to combine and bring to a boil (add 1/4 cup of water if it looks too thick). Simmer on low until color darkens and flavor develops, at least 30 minutes. Then put on a college football game, serve with toppings and enjoy.

2014 Rose Parade

 

We started 2014 off with an early start – the 2014 Rose Parade in Pasadena, CA.

Beautiful floats, lots of bands, and great weather combined for a full day of Southern Cali culture. Here are a few pics I snapped with my Canon T3i (with 55-250mm zoom lens) and some from my new GoPro Hero 3.

Peacock Float Float Flowers Can you hear me now? Marine Band Colorful woman Digging Dog TB and KW Colorful Flags Hippo E Harmony Palms Stanford Tree Pegasus Float

For some photos from Pasadena’s wacky summer time Doo Dah Parade, click here.

Happy New Year!

TB and KW

Gear Review – Terramar Helix Mountain Tee

As part of the Terramar Tribe program, over the next few months I’ll be testing and reviewing some outdoor Terramar gear.  Terramar is a sports apparel company that specializes in base layers. Here’s my latest review:

Terramar Helix Mountain Tee

Terramar Helix Tee | $20

For my first review I busted out this insanely bright neon green technical tee shirt and went for a 4 mile run along the strand at Playa Del Mar Beach here in Los Angeles. The breathable fabric fit me well and was very lightweight. The stitching seems sturdy and the sleeves sat at a comfortable length above my elbow.

Terramar Helix Mountain Tee

Later I wore the shirt as I climbed the steep stairs leading up to the Baldwin Hills Overlook in Culver City and the Helix Tee really helped keep me dry as I started sweating about halfway up.

Terramar Helix Mountain Tee

Finally, on a 7-mile hike to the peak of Smith Mountain in the San Gabriel Wilderness the tee worked as a solid base to keep my skin dry and warm as I progressed from sun to shade, low to higher altitude and while hiking and scrambling across different zones.

Terramar Helix Mountain Tee

One thing I’d recommend for the next generation’s design would be a few small reflective patches of fabric around the back and sleeves – nothing too major, just something to catch the light of an oncoming car when jogging at night or catch the headlamp of a fellow night-kayaker. 

Terramar Helix Mountain Tee

The Helix Tee comes in many different colors, and given its performance thus far I recommend checking it out, especially given the value at this price point. For more info checkout the Terramar Website.

Terramar Helix Mountain Tee

 

Slice of the LA Fashion District

I did some xmas shopping this year in Los Angeles’ Fashion District, a sprawling complex of storefronts and warehouses near downtown where people buy and sell all kinds of stuff. It’s a real experience to walk through, one I recommend, especially Santee Alley.

Here are some photos I snapped after I finished shopping. They’ve been treated with a Photoshop Action called Winter Breeze which can be downloaded here.

 

Slice of the LA fashion district(click to enlarge)

15-Minute Phone Photography Excersize

I was motivated tonight to take some photos with my iPhone 4 while on a break at work. Earlier I’ve viewed a some interesting videos, specifically one about using ‘light’ as the subject of photography for a quick 15-minute exersize. Below are some of the pics I took around the Staples Center and LA Live.

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Breaking Bad Cookbook

Breaking Food Logo

I was a big fan of the AMC show Breaking Bad which concluded this year. For those who don’t know, it was a show about the misadventures of an average middle aged guy as he descends into the seedy business of producing and distributing crystal meth.  The focus on the show was the characters, the drug trade and family drama. But there were also many other layers to the show, including the presence of various foods.

I randomly woke up the other day with an idea for a Breaking Bad cookbook.  Not instructions on how to synthesize or “cook” meth, but rather collection would be a humors take on how to prepare and serve some of the foods featured in the show.

Here are a few dishes I thought of:

  • Flynn’s Flapjacks
  • Heisenberg’s PB&J
  • Skylar’s Greenbeans and slivered almonds
  • Hank’s ‘Schraderbrau’ brew
  • Gus’s Chilean Paila Marina
  • Los Pollos Hermanos Fried Chicken with Madrigal Franch Sauce
  • Lydia’s Camomile Tea with Soy Milk (and Stevia)
  • Tuco’s Tight! Tight tight, yeah! Burritos
  • Jesse’s Funyuns with Chili P (Chili Powder)
  • Venezia’s Cost-Saving Uncut Pizza

Which am I missing? The show was so dense I’m sure there are a few other good ones out there!

 

Paragliding in Santa Barbara

Last summer I made my first visit to Santa Barbra California and I was blown away by the beauty of the entire area. I’ve been all up and down the east coast from Maine to Key West, all over Florida, the gulf coast, San Diego to Big Sur, and I’ve spent some time in the Pacific Northwest coast but Santa Barbara might be the most beautiful part of the country I’ve seen. Big, majestic mountains surround the charming and clean town.  Picturesque palms line bike paths and parks, sailboats fill the harbor and there are wide, bright beaches everywhere. Combine that with near perfect weather and the vibrancy that comes along with a few local colleges, and you have a pretty special place.

Palms at Sunset in Santa Barbara

Palms at Sunset in Santa Barbara

It was biking along one of those palm lined paths one day when I I looked up to see a few people flying above one afternoon, suspended below a parachute like contraption and gently gliding back and forth above the beach.

This, I thought, looks likes fun.

When they landed I asked them what they were up to and how to get involved. Here’s the definition according to everyone’s favorite source, wikipedia:

Paragliding is the recreational and competitive adventure sport of flying paragliders: lightweight, free-flying, foot-launched glider aircraft with no rigid primary structure.[1] The pilot sits in a harness suspended below a fabric wing consisting of a large number of interconnected and baffled cells. Wing shape is maintained by its suspension lines, the pressure of air entering vents in the front of the wing and the aerodynamic forces of the air flowing over the outside.

The guys explained there was a company that does training for beginners right up the road, and to check out there website. So that day I learned more about Eagle Paragliding, did some more research and started to get excited.

A few months and a few emails later and my buddy Mike and I made the trek “up the hill” at Elings Park to join Eagle Paragliding for a full day lesson.

View of the Sky and the Pacific from the top of the hill at Ellings Park

View of the Sky and the Pacific from the top of the hill at Elings Park

After filling out a ton of paperwork and waivers, we got fitted for gear (helmets, radios, harnesses and wings) and the instructors demonstrated how it all works together. In it’s simplest terms, you strap your legs, waist and chest into a big, padded backpack that’s connected through a series of cords (risers) at the hip to a wide parachute style wing that inflates when you give it a pull into the wind and provides the lift you need to stay air bound. You control your speed and direction with pressure on these hip connections and also by pulling on hand levers that act as “brakes”.

We watched the instructors inflate the wings a few times by running forward and maintaining the right amount of pressure and force on the wing, then we each gave it a shot a few times.

Strapped into the harness, getting a feel for the risers, brakes and wing

Strapped into the harness, getting a feel for the risers, brakes and wing

Building "the wall" with the wing.

Building “the wall” with the wing.

Getting the wing ready to fly takes a lot of practice. One method for spreading it out evenly is to let it catch the wind for a second to “build a wall” before letting it lay flat on the ground before takeoff. But one of the trickiest parts was keeping control of the wing once it left the ground. It seemed very touchy – one second its floating evenly the next second its a wrinkled ball of nylon and string all bundled up. But after practicing we got a better idea of how to control it by feeling the pressures and making slight adjustments.

We then sat at the forward edge of the hill and had a preflight briefing. Here we talked about take off, flight plans, turning in the air and landing. At this point, after training for about an hour and a half, we prepared to make our first launches into the sky.

At this point I’m thinking to myself, is this safe?  I thought I had a good understanding of how it all works, but the idea of flinging myself into the air, completely reliant on this equipment and my own abilities to control it was a little daunting.

But, like the kid at the top of an intimidating sledding hill or the teenager behind the wheel alone for the first time: At some point the only way to learn is to do.

And so, we did.

Inflating the wing

Inflating the wing

Running toward the instructor at full speed until the wing lifts and inflates with air, we push forward until the wing speed and our speed match, push forward until it’s even and steady, and push until it creates enough lift that your feet leave the ground and you’re suspended 6 inches, 12 inches, 6 feet, 20 feet above the air.

And then, you’re flying.

Getting up to speed

Getting up to speed

Feeling the lift and take off

Feeling the lift and take off

Floating towards the Pacific

Floating towards the Pacific

 

Stepping into the foot rest and harness

Stepping into the footrest and harness

Enjoying the views, making turns

Prepping for the landing approach

Prepping for approach

Touchdown

Touchdown

Once you’ve made your first flight, your only thought is to gather your gear, get to the van as quick as you can for a ride back up the hill and do it all over again!

My buddy Mike in flight

My buddy Mike in flight

We did about 6 flights before lunch and about 6 after, and had a great time.

It was a really good chance to try something new and unique, enjoy nature and push our bodies to try something we’ve only seen James Bond or Batman do in the movies.

I think it’s also good to do something every once in a while that scares you a little bit. Find the edge and cross it. It’s not often we do that these days, but I think its important to figure out what your capable of. That, and its just fun.

Anyway, big thanks to the good folks at Eagle and my buddy Mike for joining and taking some photos.

Time to get off the computer for a bit, but stay tuned!

Hollywood Sign Hike

One of my goals for this year is doing a lot of local hikes, and one I’ve always been interested in is the summit of Mount Lee, home to the Hollywood Sign.

This website has all the info about how to get there and what to expect, and it took me and K about 2 hours for the 3.5 mile loop.

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Pano

Food of The World in Los Angeles: Vietnam

“The Food of The World of Los Angeles.” is a series of posts intended to identify, discover, enjoy and share unique foods which originate from various places around the world.

 I got a recommendation from my barber (who moved to the US in 1993 from Vietnam) for a good place to grab a Bánh mì, or Vietnamese style sandwich.

Bánh Mì Mỹ-Tho ExteriorAnd when I say sandwich, I mean SANDWICH.

Fresh baguette bread (leftover influence from when the French colonized Vietnam), jalapenos, pickled carrots and radish, cucumber and fresh cilantro and your choice of meat or filling.

Bánh Mì Mỹ-Tho Interior

Bánh Mì Mỹ-Tho is really more of a takeout counter / store than a restaurant, I didn’t see any seating, but the place was very busy with customers. Along with the sandwiches made fresh to order, they also have lots of other vietnamese food which I couldn’t even attempt to identify, but which looked very interesting.

Bánh Mì Mỹ-Tho MenuPer the recommendation, I went for a Number 8, the Charbroiled Pork Sandwich.

Bánh Mì Mỹ-Tho Number 8

Well bah ME this thing is tasty! Crisp, warm bread, fresh veggies and a healthy heap of flavorful and juicy minced pork, all for under three bucks, you really can’t beat that. You could try, but trust me, you can’t. I’ve heard good things about their meatballs too, and I’d love to go back and try some egg rolls, which are sold from a case near the counter for fifty cents each.

For more info checkout Bánh Mì Mỹ-Tho’s website or their page on Yelp.

The Food of The World in Los Angeles: First stop Shanghai…

Tonight I’m starting a new theme of posts “The Food of The World of Los Angeles.”

It’s my goal to identify, discover, enjoy and share unique foods which originate from various places around the world.

It’s an amazing time we live in, one where the globe has never felt smaller and America has never felt more diverse. While I might not be able to travel to all the places I’d like to see in my lifetime, through this project I hope to open up to new experiences and flavors and to take advantage of living in this huge, international city.

First up is Emperor Noodles in San Gabriel for some Shanghai style buns.

Emperor Noodles ExteriorI first heard of this place through an LA Weekly article about Shen Jian Baos, or Pan-Fried Buns.

Since I basically fell in love with Baos on a trip to Japan a few years ago, I knew I had to check out the pan-fried version since pretty much everything is better fried up to a crispy golden brown.

Emperor Noodles InteriorThe restaurant itself was decorated with all types of red furniture and decor, the cliental seemed to all be speaking in another language I assume to be Chinese, and the waitress was very helpful in taking my order, despite a pretty significant language barrier between us.

Emperor Noodles MenuIt took about 5 minutes before my 4pc Pan Fried Pork Buns were ready to go, and I couldn’t wait to try them, despite their molten-hot interiors.

Emperor Noodles Pan Fried Pork BunAs you can see they are comprised of a white, fluffy dough toped with black sesame seeds that’s been seared slightly on the bottom with white sesame seeds.  Each one was about the size of a peach, the outside soft and the bottom  just barely crisp, creating good contrast of texture and flavor. Inside was a savory pork filling along with some very tasty (and very hot) liquid.  I’ve had a fair amount of baos over the past few years, but these stand out because of their unique flavor and presentation.  I was tempted to eat all four, but I resisted and the urge after two and saved the other two for some friends.

Overall? Good food, good price, pretty convenient location for me, so I’ll likely be back for more Shen Jian Baos or for some of the delicious looking soup the rest of the customers were enjoying.

For more info, check out Emperor Noodle on Yelp.