A proper Fourth of July feast probably begins at the grill. And in contemporary Los Angeles, this all-American meal is as likely to be composed of yakitori and carne asada as hot dogs and hamburgers: Americans have been mixing and matching food traditions from our collective immigrant background since the beginning. With L.A.'s demographic diversity and strong cultural retention, you can actually trace the seams of our culinary identity on a barbecue grill -- grilling being a technique found the world over. Turn the page for eight ways of looking at your Weber.
Grilling is firmly esconced in Japanese cooking, and Japanese Angelenos have kept this culinary tradition alive. Still, between Little Tokyo and Little Osaka, restaurants strictly dedicated to robata and yakitori-- respectively, open-hearth charcoal grilling and grilled skewers -- are few. Most izakayas (taverns) like Honda-Ya will have such classics as grilled saba.
Korean barbecue can either be a three- or five-act play, depending on the menu and the diner's soju proclivities. Plates of banchan (side dishes) will open for bulgogi and galbi, after which a bowl of naengmyeon -- often mul, or water -- may drop in as the finale. Between Western and Vermont, Korean barbecue restaurants dot the blocks. Nearly any combo of ambiance (hole-in-the-wall or sleek), specialty (meat or seafood) and price point (all-you-can-eat?) can be found. The two-story Oo-Kook makes for copious eating at your comfort. Away from the perils of all-you-can-eat, Soowon Galbi Genwa and Park's will strain your abdominal walls less.
There is more that goes on a German grill than sausages, but the Deutsch wave in this form shows no sign of ebbing. Not exclusively German in sausage, Würstkuche caused the first set of ripples. Soon thereafter, Steingarten, Wirtshaus, and Berlin Currywurst cropped up.
Anticuchos are Peruvian street food of the grilled skewer variety that stand toe-to-toe with the ceviches and the saltados in relevance. Ricardo Zarate may have reminded us of the cuisine's potential, but neighborhood joints El Pollo Inka, Mario's and Mamita held hints for a while. Daina Beth Solomon's 15 must-try Peruvian restaurants will only confirm this.
While Neapolitan pizza is making the rounds like a pollster in almost every neighborhood, it's early for the oven to triumph over the grill as favored tool for Italian cooking just yet. At least not when lightly charred slices of quality bread for paninis and bruschettas are reliable charmers at cafés. Restaurants like Osteria Mozza and the elder statesman Angelini Osteria honor the grill's place in Italian cuisine, each offering a take on grilled quail and lamb.
3. Middle Eastern
From Glendale to Westwood, approaches to shawarmas and kebabs vary enough in different cultural heritage to be included alongside tacos and burgers in any list on ubiquitous food. Both are available in choice of a pita sandwich or rice plate with grilled tomatoes (or peppers) and sometimes pita with a side of hummus. Inspired by the last scene of The Avengers, Garrett Snyder recently shared where to find the better versions around the city, with Ta-eem Grill locking in as his preferred source.
It is difficult to overstate the influence of two corn tortillas topped with char-kissed meats (and vegetables) on our mind's palate. There is comfort in tacos carne asada, al pastor, and adobada simply dressed with chopped onions, cilantro and your choice of salsa. Try Guisados, Mexicali Tacos & Company, or La Estrella. Maybe your favorite taqueria showed up in Tien Nguyen's top 10 favorites.
Californian cuisine has long been a patchwork of various cuisines bolstered by locally sourced ingredients and a health-conscious sensibility. L.A. chefs and cooks have fine-tuned this by taking advantage of our access to consistently fair weather and fresh produce. So the grill stays a possibility at all times. There is an unparalleled depth of flavor when fruits and vegetables are grilled. Manhattan Beach Post is one such restaurant that understands how grilling enhances the profile of everything from radicchio to shishito peppers.
Honorable mention: Chinese
When it comes to the eight great traditions within Chinese cuisine, grilling is a technique most prominent in the Xinjiang leg. Xinjiang-style lamb skewers dusted with cumin and chili powder belong to the great street eats pantheon in major Chinese cities. You can find a semblance of them at Feng Mao at the edge of Koreatown. The more common association we have here, though, remains the Cantonese char siu. Whereas char siu denotes the technique, it tends to conjure glazed pork skillfully barbecued to reveal ombré rings of crimson at the cut.
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