Our Los Angeles Feast is just a week away and we had the opportunity to chat with someone who knows the Asian culinary scene just as well as anyone under the California sun. Boasting a following of over 30k, Anthony Lu, a Taipei-native turned LA foodie extraordinaire, shares with us his culinary journey and list of Top 10 LA Asian Eats.
1. Hi Anthony! Can you tell us a little bit about your background growing up in LA and how you got into the food world?
I was born in LA, but I grew up in Taipei, Taiwan till I was 18. My experiences from growing up in Taipei, Taiwan and more recent development as an influencer in the Food Industry in Los Angeles have helped me broaden my palate and understanding of flavor. I was always into discovering new foods and cultures, but it was not until I started living in LA that I realized that food has always been my passion and started exploring the LA food scene, one restaurant at a time.
2. What are some of the underlying issues in the food world that you’re passionate about? People always use the words “cultural appropriation” etc. In essence, what has food taught you about your own culture as well as other cultures?
Food fads can be great; it shows the creativity chefs have to achieve nowadays due to fierce competition. Yet, the truth is, most food fads are not good and are just trying to capitalize on consumer attention. But don’t get me wrong here, there are food fads out there that taste and look good. A few that come to mind are Domnique Ansel’s Cronut, Somi-Somi’s Taiyaki Soft Serve, and Artisanal Ice Cream flavors from Wanderlust. At the end of the day, taste is what’s important as there are plenty of foods out there that aren’t “Instagrammable” but still taste good.
This is why I decided to launch my own beverage concept called Creativi Tea (@drinkcreativitea), where we specialize in creating colorful layered drinks with only the best ingredients. So it not only looks good, but tastes good too. We don’t mind putting in that extra step to make every drink we put out presentable. We use organic loose tea leaves to brew all our teas, our juice is fresh pressed every day from organic fruits, and we sweeten our drinks with organic agave. We don’t believe in using powders, preservatives, artificial syrups, or anything we wouldn’t drink ourselves. At the end of the day, our focus here at Creativi Tea is: Transparency, Creativity, Health, and Quality.
Food has taught me a lot about cultures. Growing up in Asia exposed me to many different ethnic cuisines. When you are exposed to their cuisines, you also learn about their culture and origins. For example, in Japan, it is common to wait for everyone’s order and then to start the meal with the phrase, “itadakimasu” (“I gratefully receive”).
3. What does it mean to be an Asian American today?
Growing up in Taipei, Taiwan has given me an advantage of being fluent in two languages, Mandarin and English. When I came here for college, people were always surprised that I had no accent, but the one thing that would always get to me is when people ask where I’m from and I say Taipei, Taiwan and they would always respond with “I love Thai food” or “What’s it like in China?” I feel like even though most people nowadays are cultured, they are still a select few who don’t know much about the world. I don’t blame them, but I just feel like if you don’t know where a country or city is, just ask. It’s better to not know than to pretend. I feel like many Asian Americans nowadays do not have the luxury I had of growing up in their home country and therefore have a sort of disconnection from their roots.
4. What does it mean to be a foodie? People kind of throw the world around a lot but at the same time seems like you folks have a real strong community.
The word foodie seems to be thrown around a lot recent with different contexts. Some people think that anyone who takes pictures of their food is automatically a foodie, but for me the definition of foodie is a little bit different. I believe a foodie is someone who has an ardent interest in food and beverages, who constantly seeks out new experiences like checking out new restaurants or new food fads. The foodie community is definitely tight-knit, we all enjoy food and its always nice to have people around you who share your passion. We usually eat out together, critique food, and notify each other of restaurant openings and new food trends.
Anthony’s Top 10 Asian LA Eats
1. Tea Master Little Tokyo for their Matcha Softserve
What makes a perfect softserve? Is it the consistency? Flavor? Texture? If your answer is ‘all of the above’, you have to try Tea Masters. Their matcha softserve embodies all the traits of what a good soft serve. One bite into their signature matcha swirl and you will experience the amazingness that is Tea Masters.
2. Tsujita Annex for their Tsukemen and Ramen
Tsujita Annex provides a ramen experience you won’t forget. They use thick noodles and a dense broth topped with a generous portion of charsiu. Their dipping tsukemen is also one of a kind. You will not find tsukemen with noodles as thick and chewy as Tsujita’s!
3. Pine and Crane for their Beef Noodle Soup and Spicy Shrimp Wontons
Growing up in Taiwan, Taiwanese food will always have a special place in my heart. Pine & Crane has become my go-to restaurant for good Taiwanese cooking. Their signature Beef Noodle Soup and Spicy Shrimp Wontons are my favorite dishes because you can taste the authenticity.
4. Wanderlust for their Artisanal Ice Cream with Ube Cone
Wanderlust is, by far, my favorite ice cream shop in LA. Not only do they have delicious signature flavors, their seasonal flavors are also always creative. This month they have their #wanderlustgameofcones featuring flavors inspired by locations in Game of Thrones. My favorites are Fire+Blood, Milk of Poppy, and Winter is Coming! These are some flavors you don’t want to miss out on.
5. Yazawa for their Yazawa-Yaki dipped in Egg Souffle
Yazawa is my favorite yakiniku place in LA because of their Japanese Wagyu Omakase. Their famous Yazawa yaki is cooked for 3 seconds, dipped in an egg soufflé, and eaten immediately. It embodies the perfect combination of flavors and will melt in your mouth.
6. Kimukatsu for their 25 Layer Pork Katsu
Out of all the katsu places I’ve had in LA, Kimukatsu remains one of my favorite. Their signature 25 layer Pork Katsu is crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. This type of katsu is common in Asia, but very hard to find here.
7. Hot Star for their Fried Chicken Cutlet
If you have eaten at Shilin Night Market in Taipei, you would be familiar with the Hot Star’s bigger-than-your-face fried chicken cutlet. It’s crunchy on the outside, yet tender and moist on the inside. Save yourself the plane ticket money and head down to Smorgasburg where Hot Star is set up every Sunday, or visit their brick and motor shop in Rosemead!
8. Somi Somi for their Taiyaki with Softserve
An aesthetically pleasing dessert that is also delicious. Somisomi’s taiyaki is soft, chewy, slightly sweet, and a bit crunchy on the outside. The ice cream has an unique smooth and creamy texture that you won’t find anywhere else. Every bite will leave you wanting more.
9. Edibol for their Miso Peanut Ramen with Pork Belly and Garlic Pork Hash
Edibol not only has one of the best garlic pork hash I’ve had in my entire life, but the owner Andrea Uyeda is also one of the nicest restaurant owner/chefs you’ll meet. Overall, Edibol is one of the most underrated asian-fusion brunch spots in LA.
10. Kang Ho-dong Baekjeong for KBBQ
The word KBBQ is almost synonomous with Los Angeles, and Kang Ho-dong is the best in my books because of their excellent cuts of meats, like their marinated beef short ribs and pork jowl. With the addition of their signature sides like their addictive corn cheese and steamed egg, Kang Ho-dong is truly the best KBBQ experience in Town.