Luckyrice, best known for hosting their annual food events in cities across the USA, brings together Asian culture and communities together through food. They recently so eloquently wrote on a Facebook post about this year’s LA Feast:
“‘Cuz furikake-avocado toast and poached salmon on kale caesar are alright, but you KNOW at the end of the day, you just want grandma’s dumplings and mom’s curry.”
And it’s true. What makes comfort food so good and… well, comforting is that it has love passed down from generations. It’s food that has a story and has stood the test of time. Chefs that create dishes that show influences of family recipes or don’t take shortcuts on food prep say something to me about their passion for food and serving something they’re proud of to customers, who they feed like family. Or at least, family they like.
This is why I get excited to attend food festivals and similar food tasting events. I’m bound to find someone’s Grandma’s chili recipe or the local farm’s prize winning fruit pie, or some new brewery’s bubbly tribute to the brewer’s wife. And in one location, one event, I can taste and sample multiple stories! I might not be in love with every stand or every taste, but I do love the treasure hunt!
This year’s Luckyrice Feast, one of my favorite annual tasting events in LA, was held at The Vibiana in downtown LA, celebrating their 9th annual Asian food and drink tasting event with a special theme this year of intergenerational culture through food. This year’s Feast, named “Breaking Bao,” asked participating chefs and restaurants to prepare dishes that tell their own personal stories, as well as showcase a little something of the restaurants they come from.
Now, let me put on my Iron Chef voice as I entice you with some details of my favorite food tastings and their creators at the event:
Chefs Ilan Hall and Rahul Khopkar developed a creative vegan take on the familiar spicy tuna on crispy rice appetizer many Japanese restaurants offer. They mixed spices, sesame oil and chili oil to create the spicy tuna flavor, but used beets and avocado in place of tuna. The crispy shell holding the “tuna” gave the perfect delicately crispy bite paired with the tender creaminess of the beet and avocado mixture.
I love musubi. And yes, that goes for the not-so-healthy-but-oh-so-craveable spam musubi too. So I’m slightly biased here. Mama Musubi was at the Luckyrice event last year with a miso pork belly musubi that I still crave to this day, and this year for the Luckyrice theme, they showcased two different dishes that reminded the owner of her mother. My favorite of the two was the rice ball topped with a hot smoked salmon, a sprinkling of crispy puffed rice and thinly cut nori strips. Then a warm dashi broth was carefully poured from a teapot over the dish, pooling around the rice ball. When you lifted it to your lips, you’d be enveloped in a little cloud of simplicity, clean flavors, and a mother’s love. I could practically see the cherry blossoms floating in the wind if I closed my eyes and let myself fall into that peaceful dream… But, I had to wake myself up so I could go taste more food!
Chef Leo Lamprides combined a creamy risotto with a squid ink tofu mousse topped with some fried garlic and crushed fried rockfish. The savory fried bits were a nice contrast to the creaminess of the risotto, and the squid ink tofu mousse gave a little extra lift to the sea flavors of the dish, adding a unique complexity. The extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs gave the dish an additional luxuriousness, as if you were tasting a cloud rising from the sea… The only thing missing is a mermaid to feed you.
Chef Zachary Hamel from the newly opened Kasih in Little Tokyo brought some of his experience living in Indonesia into this dish. No ordinary chicken salad here. The unique flavors begin with the chicken brined with curry and spices before cooled and shredded for the salad. Paired with a sweet crispy chip used in Indonesian street food stands, the combination of sweet, savory and slightly spicy flavors sure pack a punch in this one bite! I also hear they have a sambal tasting at their restaurant that I’m adding to my list of to-dos this summer!
The braised beef brisket curry of Chef Tin Vuong’s childhood reminds me of all the warming stews from my own family’s recipe vault. It’s a dish that warms the heart and doesn’t add anything unnecessary just to fit in with the new cool kids. Instead, it relies on traditional flavors and meat done right. Time tested and family approved! Of course, as Noodle Queen, I only wish I had some noodles or even rice to go with it.
Chef Jamby Roy made me miss my mom, no joke. The texture wasn’t as dense as what you’d expect from, say, an Italian beef meatball, but had more of a tender bite to it. This sweet and savory pork and shrimp meatball sampler was like tasting the memory of the sweet pork sausage of Mom’s Filipino breakfasts. The ones she would pair with garlic rice, maybe some tocino, an over easy fried egg, and some of that quintessential red banana sauce. Only thing missing to make it scream more “mom” to me would be the Tabasco sauce…
A popular favorite proclaimed by several of our friends was the pan de sal bread pudding with ube sauce. Bread pudding is definitely one of my favorite desserts and B Sweet does it right. Just one bite of the moist pudding will hug you like a warm, cuddly embrace in the winter. Meanwhile the bright purple ube sauce drizzled on top sneaks into that hug with a sticky sweet indulgence, like a new spark rekindling an old love. I can’t wait to visit their shop on Sawtelle to taste the other flavors and desserts they have!
So… Am I making you hungry yet? If you didn’t have the chance to go this year, you can always find your way to the participating restaurants, or be sure not to miss next year’s event. This being only a glimpse of what the night offered, I hope your taste buds are intrigued! Hope to see you there next year! If you want to know when that will be, follow us on Facebook or Instagram for updates!
This year we gave away 2 VIP tickets to our readers through Instagram. If you want to be entered in the drawing for tickets next year, be sure to follow our social media and tell your friends to do the same!
– Aimee, @waisikmommy