In order to get to the root of "Los Angeles Cuisine", I recently attended a foodie discussion moderated by the one and only, Pulitzer Prize-winning, food writer Jonathan Gold. An impressive panel was comprised of Michael Cimarusti, Evan Kleinmen and Octavio Bercerra. Perhaps these acclaimed chefs and restaurateurs would be able to enlighten me on the truth of what exactly Los Angeles Cuisine might be because I had honestly never given it a second (or first) thought. Los Angeles - I have spent a bulk of my cooking years here, and therefore, much of my cooking style is shaped by the food culture here. So what is it all about? And how has it affected my cooking? That's what I kept thinking during the discussion. "Come on. Can we get to the point," I thought impatiently to myself. Our complex human brains like things to be nice and simplified. I wanted an XYZ answer but after 90 minutes or so of discussion, I realized that there was no clear cut answer. Los Angeles Cuisine was not one dish or style but rather an amalgamation of our diverse cultural make up and the availability of the freshest produce made possible by the most wonderful climate.
I immediately thought of a dish that I had been working on recently. I had been playing with glutinous rice flour, forming chewy, playful dumplings. almost bubble gum-like. Traditionally these dumplings (aka tangyuan) are a simple mix of glutinous rice flour and water. Cold water yields a smoother dumpling though the dough starts out more crumbly than with warm water. Online research mostly turned up the dessert version filled with red bean and served in a syrup. Not exactly what I had in mind though. I was thinking about the savory version... the kind that I had growing up, served in steaming bowls of chicken broth with daikon radish, napa cabbage and chinese sausage. Maybe mom had made it up. I took the basic concept of the dish and put my own little Los Angeles spin on it. I transformed it into a vegetarian soup filled with grilled king oyster mushrooms, crunchy wood ear mushrooms and zucchini. Instead of plain dumplings, I added some spicy chilies to up the ante. Does that make me so L.A. or what?