Question: In the three years I’ve been living here, it has only just occurred to me: Where is the damned beef jerky? And I don’t mean Slim Jims or that desiccated monkey meat sitting in those jars on the counter at every 7-Eleven, but the real stuff, the manly-man jerky you can find at every crossroads in Colorado and Utah, the Jerky that Won the West. Please don’t tell me that Los Angeles is less civilized than Kingman, Arizona, even in this relatively small regard.
Answer: Something in the tone of your letter tells me that you are not at all interested in the many fine varieties of Chinese beef jerky available in the Southland, much less the sweet stuff that Vietnamese menus sometime call du du. Your loss, really — a good Chinese jerky may taste as if it has been marinating in Hawaiian Punch for a while, but the slow, sneaky heat of the best varieties is something worth experiencing at least once. It’s Shaolin beef jerky, I’m telling you.
Anyway, you should probably hop in the car this instant and head over to A&Z’s Nut Wagon in Boyle Heights, which manufactures a spicy beef jerky that is really something else, crumbly rather than tough in texture, and glazed with a blast-furnace sort of black-pepper heat. The jerky explodes into powdery crumbs under your teeth, which is interesting, and it has an aftertaste that lasts half the afternoon. Good jerky. And if you hit A&Z’s on the right day, you might also find discs of homemade cajeta, smooth, nut-spiked boiled-milk caramels good enough to give New Orleans’ most famous praline makers pause. 816. S. Lorena St., (323) 267-1695.