Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Why? Because they have the fried chicken donut sandwich w/ red velvet waffles. That's why.

Better than Roscoe's? Dare I say it. Guess what? I don't have because my photographer did. And, he worked in LA, so that's saying something.

Who even came up with the chicken and waffles combo? Probably someone eating breakfast and had leftover fried chicken from last night. Brilliance by accident? Maybe. Either way, Streetcar Merchants in North Park is the place to get your fix on.

The restaurant located at 30th Street and Lincoln Avenue serves several things. Donuts and coffee for breakfast, beers for the evening and chicken and waffles for ... all day long. The owner told me he did this intentionally so his business wouldn't be pegged as a "breakfast place" or "evening place."

You can get these items a la carte or, of course, combo style as you see them here. They also serve some "off the eaten path" items that are actually very true to southern style cuisine. We're talking fried chicken giblets - liver, heart and gizzards. I love 'em, but definitely can't have a whole plate. One or two and I'm good.

Given I haven't try this yet, it looks phenomenal. It's their Southern fried chicken doughnut sandwich with red velvet waffle with cinnamon cream cheesecake butter.

Let me just write that again...Southern fried chicken doughnut sandwich with red velvet waffle with cinnamon cream cheesecake butter. Shut the front door!

The only downside to this place is their menu can get confusing. It's sort of all over the place. For instance, I didn't even see the red velvet waffle option. And, when I took a while the person at the register seemed to get impatient with me. Big no no. I'm no diva, but I may or may not fall in love with your restaurant in the next 15 minutes, so give me some love and support here. That's something I can get over though. Everyone has bad days.

Streetcar Merchants? A definite must-try in San Diego (but maybe take a look at the menu first before going to the counter) and a great add to the eccentric North Park vibe.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Somali Food in San Diego

Curry and cumin. Lamb and goat. Seasoned rice and spaghetti. Those are some of the flavors and foods of Somali cuisine found in City Heights. San Diego is home to the second largest Somali population in the U.S.

Abdikadir Osman sits with me to talk about Somali culture and cuisine.
Continuing NBC 7's series celebrating San Diego’s rich cultural diversity, here are the places we visited and the dishes we tried:

1.       Fatuma Restaurant (4869 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92105).
- Combo plate with grilled goat, fried tilapia, rice and vegetables.
- Soor, which is a style of corn grits. That was served under seasoned spinach.
- Mixed fruit drink (tastes like guava juice).

Faridas East African Cuisine (1754 Euclid Ave, San Diego, CA 92105)
- Chicken and beef sambusas (fried meat or vegetable pastries).
- Combo chicken plate
- Traditional Somali tea, which is like a fragrant milk tea.


If you like spicy, make sure you ask for the green sauce – or as online reviewers like to refer to as “the green stuff.” The restaurant may give a banana with your meal. If you can resist, don’t eat it right away. It isn’t an appetizer. Traditionally, the banana is eaten with the meal, like a condiment.

In the 90’s thousands of people escaped Somalia as a result of the Somali Civil War. Before then, imperial powers and civil unrest had already displaced many Somalis around Africa (notably North and South Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti) and the world.

There are between 10-20,000 Somalis residing in San Diego.

Abdikidar Osman welcomed us into his business, Fatuma Restaurant, and explained customers can sit and eat at tables or take off their shoes and eat on the carpet on the ground. Traditionally, Somali food is eaten that way, using hands.

At Fatuma Restaurant, you can eat at a table on on the ground
“One of the most important things people should know about Somali culture is we are very open-minded people. We like to talk, and Somalis are well known for sitting around having tea,” said Osman.

When asked what a first-timer should try at his restaurant, he recommended their lamb and goat with rice dishes.

The goat is boiled for two-three hours to make it very tender. It’s then spiced with cumin, curry, pepper and Fatuma’s secret mix of other spices. Many people like the goat grilled after it’s boiled to give it a deliciously gristly crunch.

(left) Combo plate: goat, tilapia, rice and salad. (right) Soor or corn grits with spinach.
In 1990, Osman came to the U.S. by himself. He had two things – $19 in his pocket and a positive attitude. Noticing the Somali community in San Diego didn’t have the best access to the food they needed, he opened a market in City Heights and then a restaurant. He named his restaurant Fatuma, after his wife who currently resides in Ethiopia. Together they have six children.

Abdikadir Osman talking to photojournalist Jeff Herrera
Somalis are Muslim. They eat Halal food which means it’s prepared following Islamic principle.

“For the Somali community, going out and trying to eat that food, there was no accessibility there,” he explained. “For me it was a business opportunity and at the same time serving the community.”

Although Somalis are, geographically, a divided people, Osman says San Diego has united them.

“The most amazing thing in San Diego, compared to other cities, and I can fully say this – the community, the elders in San Diego are very united elders,” he said. “We were divided back in Somalia because of the civil war, but once we come over here it’s a completely different mentality.”

Elders are the most respected – the decision makers – in Somali communities.

** If you’ve been watching/reading this “Off the Eaten Path” series celebrating San Diego’s diversity through food, share your thoughts with reporter Candice Nguyen by emailing her at candice.nguyen@nbcuni.com or messaging her on her Facebook page.  

** A TV segment of this will air Friday August 28th on NBC 7 at 4:30 p.m.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Vietnamese - Beyond Pho!

To see the NBC 7 TV segment, click here

Vietnamese food is harmonious. There are many different flavors, textures and temperatures that go into one dish to create culinary harmony. Soft with the crunchy, savory with the sweet and sour, the hot and the cool – you can experience it all and even cater it to make it your own (think Sriracha, plum sauce and lime slices).

Pho, specifically, has made a name for itself in San Diego, and now more people are venturing a little further past their comfort zones to discover other traditional Vietnamese dishes. Here’s a list of my favorite local places to try some of those foods.

The bolded businesses places we highlighted in our TV segment on NBC 7.

Pho (beef rice noodle soup): Pho Hoa (4717 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92115), Pho Cow Cali (9170 Mira Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92126) and Pho-Ever (485 S Melrose Dr, Vista, CA 92081)

Bún bò Huế (spicy beef noodle soup): Hoai Hue (4660 El Cajon Blvd #102, San Diego, CA 92115) and Pho Cow Cali (9170 Mira Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92126)
Vietnamese egg rolls: Phuong Trang (4170 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111)

Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwiches): Saigon Sandwiches and Deli (4133 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92105) and A-Chau (4644 El Cajon Blvd #111, San Diego, CA 92115)
Bún (rice noodle “salad”): Mien Trung (7530 Mesa College Dr, San Diego, CA 92111)

Images: Vietnamese Food in San Diegomages: Vietnamese Food in San Diego

There are 44,000+ Vietnamese people in San Diego County, according to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, and they make up the second largest Asian population in the area. A few years ago, the city of San Diego designated a several-block stretch of El Cajon Boulevard in City Heights “Little Saigon.” In the 70’s and 80’s many Vietnamese immigrants ended up there after what’s known as The Fall of Saigon.

The Cao family runs Pho Hoa – a.k.a. “the pho place with the cow on it!” Pho Hoa, located at Euclid and El Cajon Boulevard, has been around since 1984. Since then, An Cao and his father have been waking up every morning at 4 A.M. to work on and perfect their broth. It’s a glorious broth indeed! If you ask pho-enthusiasts who’ve tried it, they’ll describe it as a “clean tasting broth” (not implying others are dirty). What they mean is that it tastes pure. It tastes like nothing with the word “instant” in its name was added. It tastes like it’s supposed to, and that’s a intentional thing by Cao and his father.
“We keep it as consistent as possible. That’s something we really hang our hats on to,” he said.

Some tasty ways to change up your pho experience – if you’re into rare meat, ask for the beef on the side. You’ll cook it as you go by dipping it in the hot soup. Ask for their house chili oil sauce. It’s fabulous. You can also ask for something called “nuoc beo,” which is essentially the oil skimmed off the broth. Some say it gives the soup an extra punch of flavor.

Across the street you can find Hiep Diep’s family’s business, Hoai Hua, which loosely translates to “nostalgia Hue.” Hue is a city in central Vietnam known for its spicy cuisine. That is where Diep’s family is from.

“The universal language for everyone is food. We speak through our food. The culture that we have is spoken through our cuisine,” Diep said.

Hoai Hue is specifically known for its bun bo hue, which is a spicy beef noodle soup. It’s ingredients include lemongrass infused beef broth, rice noodles, fresh vegetables on the side and different cuts of meat. Often times the dish includes blood cubes, but you can ask for the soup without it. The thought of eating blood may curdle some people’s, well, blood. It’s not strange tasting at all. It has a very mild mineral-like flavor that takes on the taste of the soup. It has the texture of hard jello.

“It tastes like bone marrow and bone barrow is the new thing for people to eat,” Diep said.

Bun bo hue is a dish fit for royalty. It was served to the royal family of Vietnam with Hue was the imperal capital. Ironically enough, the noodle soup originated as peasant’s food, which explains the blood cubes. Plain and simple, poorer communities eat and cook with the ingredients they’re able to afford.

Hoai Hue serves many other traditional dishes like steamed rice cake. Try those too. Really delicious.

Finally, we visited Saigon Sandwiches & Deli on University Avenue. Thuyt Nguyen and her son Tom Nguyen have been making banh mi for San Diegans for decades. A banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich with a French twist.

During French colonization, the French taught Vietnamese people about baguettes, cold cut meats, pate, etc. Since Vietnam didn’t have other vegetables from Europe, they improvised with local ones like carrots and daicon. Add all those things together, and there you have the banh mi!


San Diego Tacos!

To see the NBC 7 TV segment, click here

I don’t understand how someone can try to find “San Diego’s Best Taco.” That seems, not just impossible, but unwise. Like, you’re-probably-going-to-make-a-lot-people-mad unwise. Hence, this article is not about the best or favorite tacos, but rather the different tacos San Diego has to offer and the stories they tell about the people and places from which they come.
For this part of NBC 7’s food/culture series, we visited these local spots:

  1. - Las Cuatro Milpas (1857 Logan Ave, San Diego, CA 92113)
  2. City Tacos (3028 University Avenue, San Diego, CA 92104)
  3. Tacos Perla (3000 Upas Street Suite 105, San Diego, CA 92104)

Off the Eaten Path: Tacos

Las Cuatro Milpas 

Barrio Logan is one of the oldest and most culturally rich neighborhoods in San Diego and, in many ways, the same can be said about Las Cuatro Milpas located on Logan Avenue. Everything about this place is old school. The ladies behind the counter have worked there for years. The menu with only seven items has never really changed. Ladies make handmade tortillas in the back, not for show, but because the restaurant…actually needs tortillas.

The place opens early in the morning and closes at 3 p.m. There’s usually a line of people down the block. A few minutes there and my photographer and I were being told what to order from other customers left and right. People had their favorites and they wanted the world to know.

“The chorizo and rice. The beans and rice!” exclaimed one customer who said those items were so good her family catered them for her quincenera.

“The fried beef tacos!” said Sergio De Los Rios, who’s been coming to Las Cuatro Milpas since grade school.

Talk about a family-owned business, the restaurant has been owned by three generations of the Estudillo family at the same Logan Avenue location.

Natividad Estudillo and his sisters now run the restaurant. Natividad says his grandparents came to the U.S. in the early 1900’s fleeing The Mexican Revolution.

“It was our grandparents dream since they came to this country,” he said. “People like what they like, and if you keep it simple they come back.”

We asked Natividad’s sister, Manuela, why they don’t update their popular menu. She responded, “Too many things. It’s better to do the right thing.”

Owner Gerald Torres says when people try his tacos at City Tacos in North Park he wants them to taste the different flavors of modern-day Mexico.

“There are so many more recipes and flavors that people don’t know here,” he said. “Mainland Mexico, Guadalajara, Mexico City…” Torres was born and raised in Mexico City. Since then, he’s lived in several places including other parts of Mexico, San Diego and Miami.

From bay scallops in cream sauce to seared mahi, City Tacos serves up affordable tacos with a gourmet twist. Not only do they highlight flavors from different regions in Mexico, they highlight North Park.

“North Park is great. It’s fantastic, vibrant and young; people here are very open-minded,” said Torres.

Located at 30th and Upas streets, Tacos Perla is another new taco shop in San Diego that’s taking the traditional taco to the next level.

Consulting Chef Oso Campos is from Tijuana. He spent seven years backpacking across Mexico’s coastline.

In return for a roof over his head, he would help different families clean and cook. Campos says the flavors he learned from the mothers and grandmothers he met on his more than 2,000-mile journey appear in his taco and sauce recipes.

Campos is also not afraid to push limits. In addition to typical garnishes, you’re able to order roasted crickets, also known as “chapulines.”

“In my personal opinion, they’re great with flavor, protein and no grease,” said Campos.
Roasted crickets are commonly eaten in certain parts of Mexico. In fact, they’re eaten all around the world where other sources of protein can be difficult to come by.

Although the practice of eating bugs, or “entomaphagy,” is harder to digest psychologically for Westerners, crickets and insects are valued by other cultural communities for being high in protein and typically low in fat. They usually take on the flavor of whatever sauce or seasoning they’re mixed with.

In 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations released a report about the benefits of bug eating to our world’s food insecurity.

The food lesson this week: whatever your cup of tea is, there’s probably a taco out there in San Diego just for you. All of them are a little different. They tell a different story about the people who make them and the places that influence their flavors.

Check out the map below to pinpoint the taco spots mentioned in this piece, along with some must-try local Chinese food restaurants.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What Color is Your Breakfast This Morning?

Of course it was spicy, but it wasn't as intense as it looks. You're looking at the Spicy Beef and Vegetable Soup at Myungin Dumplings on Convoy Street.

The establishment is based out of LA, and they have a picture with Anthony Bourdain on their wall. If it's legit, I'm sold. If there was some photoshop action going on, that is unforgivable. The Bourdain plug is not to be messed with foodie world! Check out their video of Bourdain.

By all accounts, this place looks Bourdain ordained, immortalized, pedestalized, foodie festishized. Actual words cannot describe the food/culture holiness he brings upon this world.

I didn't get the dumplings. What's wrong with me? Don't answer that - that was rhetorical. I'll have to come back and try them, but this time I got the spicy soup. It was surprisingly mild compared to what it looks like it's going to taste. The kimchi-tasting beef broth is filled with delicious Chinese vegetables (different mushrooms, sprouts, etc.). There was also shredded beef and some clear noodles. The soup was served with a bowl of fluffy white rice and some ban chan, aka Korean appetizers that usually consist of kimchi and other fermented vegetables.

It's a breakfast that'll wake you up in the morning. Next time, dumplings!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Off the Eaten Path on NBC 7! Fridays @ 4:30 PM

When I get “that craving” sometimes I get it bad. Like, stop-whatever-we’re-doing-I-need-it-now bad. Ramen, sushi, dumplings, pot pie, you name it. Who knows what trigger, brain chemistry or planet alignment is behind such a feeling that manifests like a tiny Hulk post-hibernation.

One time, it was very late and I was with a few friends at someone’s house. I said, “Oh my gosh, I can totally go for some ramen right now!” They were digging what I was putting down, so next thing I knew I was in a packed car at 2 A.M. driving to a little ramen/sushi spot in Mission Hills. It was a great night. Oh, and the ramen was good too.

That’s the thing about food. It’s great. It’s wonderful. It’s everything needed to satiate voracious cravings and more. A lot of times, though, it’s more than that. It’s something that gets you out of the house, away from that screen and engaged with incredible people. Not to mention, if you read certain Off the Eaten Path food blogs, the experience can be in a brand new place. What can be more exciting? (Unless you're an extreme introvert. Then there's always the to go option. #nojudgment)

I am thrilled to announce that shameless plug above is heading to the big screen! By that, I mean however big your television is. 

Some of you know, I’ve been writing about my favorite places to grub around San Diego for several months now. A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with my NBC 7 higher-ups and we thought this “eat beat” would be a great opportunity to celebrate San Diego’s cultural diversity. Not to mention, it may inspire more people to step out of their comfort zones and explore parts of San Diego they wouldn’t have otherwise.

Our first segment airs this Friday, July 24th at 4:30 P.M. on NBC 7 San Diego. Three others will air the Fridays after that around the same time.

The first piece is on...wait for it…drum roll please...CHINESE FOOD!

Char siu bao (BBQ pork buns) in the making @ Jasmine Seafood Restaurant

My photographer and good friend Enrique Lopez traveled around San Diego’s Convoy area exploring the sweet, the savory and the burn-your-face-off spicy that doesn’t come in a white to-go foam box. People! Please believe me when I tell you there's a whole new world beyond orange chicken, fried rice and fortune cookies with pandas on them.

With that Alicia Keys song in mind...my mouth is ON FIIIIRRREE! Szechuan food @ Spicy City Restaurant

First, we taste some Cantonese food from Jasmine Seafood Restaurant on Convoy Street. Cantonese flavors come from China's southern area, notably Guangzhou. We don’t actually go into the main restaurant, but rather its express section in the back. It’s a great place to pick up lunch or dinner for the family at home. It’s quick, it’s very affordable and all the dim sum is handmade - rolled, folded, steamed and baked to perfection. Steamed BBQ pork buns anyone?

A chef standing behind stacks of char siu bao (Cantonese BBQ pork buns)
Next, we fire things up at Spicy City Restaurant, which is also located on Convoy Street (surprise, surprise). We're talking total annihilation here, but in a good way! During rush hour it's not unusual for the restaurant to have a line out the door. 

Many popular Szechuan dishes start with Chinese peppercorns. They look innocent enough (like dried juniper berries), but did you know they were banned in the U.S. for years? Cooked with spicy peppers, the spice creates a flavor the Chinese call "ma la" or "numbing and spicy." It's hard to describe. Maybe like eating electricity or novocaine. Or like, when you were a kid and silly enough to stick your tongue on a 9 volt battery to feel that buzz on the tip of your tongue. It's sort of like that.

Chongqing Chicken w/ peppercorns

Chongqing chicken, duck spicy hot pot, shredded pork & cold dish appetizer
Something I didn't have time to go into detail in the segment is the cold dish appetizer section of the restaurant. Typically, Szechuan restaurants have this near the register. If you're an adventurous eater, you won't want to miss it. There are some deliciously gnarly bits here, which I grew up eating and loving. It'll probably differ depending on the restaurant, but they could serve seasoned seaweed, pickled chicken feet, pig ear (which is really good!) or something called "the husband and wife" dish. It's a mix of thinly sliced beef and tendon covered in seasoning and peppercorn chili oil. That was my favorite cold dish at Spicy City Restaurant.

Cold dish appetizers. You get to pick 3. Can you guess what that is?

Photographer Enrique Lopez filming our waiter Skylar at the cold dish section. 

Last, but not least, Dumpling Inn in Kearny Mesa. I'm such a fan of this place, I already wrote a post about them. Here's the gist, and I'm not trying to be dramatic.

YOU HAVEN'T LIVED UNTIL YOU'VE TRIED XIAO LONG BAO. It's pronounced show-lung-bow and known by English speakers as Chinese soup dumplings. If you translate it literally, it means "little basket steamed bun." And that's what they are! They're little cute baskets of steamed deliciousness. Like little chipmunk purses plump with savory goodness. They're very popular in the Eastern regions of China, especially Shanghai.

Beautiful, beautiful dumplings (xiao long bao)

Chinese food is not all the same. It's not just chow mein and egg rolls. Different flavors highlight different regions and celebrate different people. Get out there and start exploring! Can't wait to hear your thoughts on our first segment this Friday.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

When in City Heights...

...eat Cambodian food!

One of my favorite (and cheap) places to eat, hands down. 777 Noodle House on University Avenue. 

This place serves Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Cambodian food. You'd think it'd be "fusion," but it's far from. Fusion makes you think the place is trying to cater to a wider customer base and therefore serves all different cuisines, compromising the quality of all them. Like, if the name of a place includes the words Thai and Pizza, it wouldn't be wrong to approach with caution.  Not the case here though. 777 Noodle House is L to the E-G-I-T. 

Also, the people are the sweetest. Come a couple times, and you'll see what I mean. It's like going to a nail salon. The folks start recognizing you, remembering the people you bring and asking, "Why I don't see you in long time?" "Why you keep bringing different man?" Because I'm a reporter who works with different photographers. They're on a rotating schedule, okay? Please believe me.

Still, I love it. And, I love this. #2 on the menu. 

The waitress told me it's a popular Cambodian dish. It definitely has the basic make up of Southeast Asian cuisine. Rice noodles, protein, fresh vegetables and delicious bone broth. And I mean BONE broth. One sip and you know no ramen packets were involved. Making this soup involved slow boiling pork bones for hours until the bones soften and the meat melts away like butter. 

This is how good this dish is. The very bones that make the soup are so delicious the cooks go on ahead and throw part of that bone into your bowl!

It may be off-putting to a few folks, but that bone meat will be some of the best meat you've ever eaten. Buttery, light, soft...so good. 

In fact, in my experience, many Asian people prefer meat still on the bones because typically it's a lot tenderer and more flavorful. #SayNayToFillet. 

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the hot chili oil sauce here. They make it themselves. It's so good that months ago I asked to buy some, and for $5 they gave me about a half pint. The picture doesn't do it justice, but here's what to look for...

It doesn't look like much, but the flavor and spice will knock you out of your socks. If it wouldn't destroy my insides, I'd fill a trough with this stuff and dunk everything I eat in it before consumption. 

So, if my message hasn't been clear, here it is in my best Candice cavewoman voice," 777 Noodle House...Good. Go. Eat. Now!"

Monday, May 25, 2015

Pho With Beef on the Side Please

It's cold. It's cloudy. I'm starving and I have about an hour before I have run back to this news story. 

You know what that means? Pho. Like, pho-shizzle mah nizzle, I will eat this pho-ever. The PHO-tastic, pho-nomenal pho. I don't pho around. 

It's funny. Whenever I'm even a little hungry and my photographer is driving to our next destination, I find myself giving my surroundings a hardcore ocular pat-down. For potential interviews of course, but also for where to eat. It's like that Over the Hedge movie....SQUIRREL!! FOOD!

Don't lie, you know you do this too. 

Tonight, we're at Pho Cadao in Santee. There are a few locations around the county. I'm going old school and getting the small, combo pho. If it's a non-shady pho place, I get my raw beef on the side. Pho Cadao is a good place to get it. Lots of pho-lovers do this. Squeeze the lime over the raw meet and then dip or dump the beefy slices in the hot broth. It will melt...in...your...mouth.

So, who's hungry now? Pho-REAL!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Favorite Ramen in San Diego (and the best way to eat it)

I need to be careful about promoting "the best" ramen in San Diego because I haven't tried them all. I'd love to though. If I could stop everything and just eat ramen, I would die a happy person. Probably really fat, but happy. "Death by Ramen" on my tombstone wouldn't be the worst thing ever.

I've been eating ramen here since my college days. I didn't go to school in San Diego, but I had plenty of friends who did and these were our late night, early morning, heck, all day long meals. Ramen has suddenly become really popular, but these, my friends, are my tried-and-true favorite spots. Favorite for different reasons too.

1. Izakaya Masa in Mission Hills

Stepping into Izakaya Masa is like stepping back in time and into a small town Japanese restaurant. In fact, an izakaya (居酒屋) is a common kind of bar or restaurant in Japan known to serve food that complement drinks. Think tapas, but Japanese. Izakaya Masa has some of the best ramen I've ever had. It's not flashy. It's not a huge portion. It's just right.        

2. Tajima in Kearny Mesa

Tajima is bold. Some of their soups are thicker than most and definitely flavorful. For some reason, I particularly remember their noodles. I got the spicy tonkotsu ramen and the noodles were a lot thicker, almost meaty in texture. It was so delicious because the little curves and crevices in the noodles helped pick up more soup.

3. Santouka in Mitsuwa Market in Kearny Mesa

This place is so fun. It's in the middle of a Japanese supermarket and has a mall/food court feel to it. It totally feels like you're visiting Japan without leaving America (like that little guy to the left said). For $10-$12, you can get a great combo which includes your favorite kind of ramen and a Japanese side dish, like fish roe over rice or soy sauce soft-boiled egg.

If you're wondering how eat ramen, PLEASE watch this video. There's no wrong way to eat ramen, but there is a better way.

1) Don't take too long eating ramen (the noodles will expand)
2) SLURP! Like a good wine =)
3) Crack the poached egg half way in and savor it

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mexican Snack Addiction #It'sAThing

If my taste buds were climbers, Mexican snacks would be Mount Everests (if Mount Everest can be plural...and splashed with limón, chile powder and chicharones *drool*). Being handed a bag of tostilocos is like looking up from the base of the mountain. You want to get started, but you're afraid. How will it feel? Will I regret it?

You're climbing, climbing...regretting those Coronas at the bar the other night that got you announcing to the world you'd do this. But, when you get to the top you're happy you did. Without a doubt it was intense and, at times, too much. The weirder thing is, later on you find yourself wanting to feel that feeling again. Or, in this case, eat more tostilocos you crazy person you!

Or chamango, tamarind candy or takis for that matter. Oh, Mexican snacks - the unhealthy obsession/addiction love you've created for my tastebuds. Who knew flavor face implosion would be an enjoyable experience. I just need one more. Get out of my way! ONE MORE!

What is tostilocos? I thought you'd never ask. I'm not just going to tell you what it is. I'm going to show you.

(Quick background: my photographer and I were in Tijuana doing a story on a secret smuggling tunnel when we embarked on this tostilocos venture)

First, it starts with a bag of CHIPS or Tostitos.

That little girl thinks I'm so lame. 
Then, JICAMA (a.k.a. Mexican turnip).

She's completely over us. Like, why are you filming this?

Then, my favorite, CUERITOS (PICKLED PIG SKIN)!


You think it stops there. Oh no. Dear God, no. Then, LIME JUICE, HOT SAUCE AND CHAMOY (salty, sweet, sour, spicy chile sauce)!


On the outside, I'm smiling in this picture. In the inside, I'm freaking out thinking, "Holy mother to all that's good in the world, what did I just order?!" The sheer weight of the thing was about a pound! I thought my photographer and I were going to share it, but he said "Oh no, that's all you."

I'm proud to say I finished most of it. It's a lot of picking, moving around, eating your favorite things first, leaving the other stuff for the end action. For those of you who can't go to TJ to try tostilocos, here are a few spots in San Diego. I haven't been to these places personally, but they have decent reviews online:

1. Neveria Tocumbo in Chollas View

2. Frutilandia in City Heights

3. Teresita's Fruiteria in Otay Mesa/San Ysidro area

While you at it, make sure to try chamango! Alex and I got some, but they were the processed frozen kind. If anything he has the appropriate reaction in this photo. Make sure you get the ones with real mango inside.

Note to self: When you go to TJ, bring more than $1

Happy eating, friends!