Category Archives: Food

The Best Food Spots Only a Walk Away from USC

By Luke Reshwan

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

Being located in Los Angeles, USC has many local food spots to choose from. In this article, I want to focus on just a few (my favorite few), that are all within walking distance from campus. All of these locations are also within the Free Lyft zone, so if you do not want to walk, you can get to them using the Lyft app and the USC pass that allows free Lyfts near campus. The three locations I will be talking about today are Spud Nuts, Cava, and Tacos Listo (better known as Taco Zone) . Each of these eateries is quite different: Spud Nuts is a smaller breakfast place that is open all hours of the day, Cava is a large chain restaurant serving Mediterranean food that consistently draws a long line in the village, and Tacos Listo is a food truck that doesn’t open until 5 PM (perfect for dinner and the infamous midnight snack).

I’ll begin with Spud Nuts, the best comfort food around USC hands down. Nothing makes a person feel more at home than breakfast sandwiches, doughnuts, smoothies, and some of the best iced coffee I have ever tried. My go-to order is the bacon, egg, and cheese on toast with a cronut and a mint chip milkshake. If you are wondering what the cronut is, it is a croissant glazed like a donut. It is a Spud Nuts delicacy that tastes phenomenal. Nothing starts the day off better than a breakfast sandwich that tastes just like it was cooked in my mother’s kitchen, a sugary croissant, and a nice milkshake to truly create that feeling of being stuffed to the brim with good food. If those things do not suit you, I highly recommend trying the HUGE cinnamon rolls (yes, huge had to be capitalized, they are massive) or one of the croissant sandwiches. Regardless of what you order, Spud Nuts is sure to remind you of a nice home-cooked breakfast that starts the morning off correctly.

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When it comes time for lunch and you are hungry again, I highly recommend Cava in the USC Village as your next stop. Cava is like a Mediterranean Chipotle–you go along the line and choose a base like rice or pita or lettuce, then you choose dips and spreads you would like to add, followed by a protein, toppings, and dressings. I normally go with rice for my base, red pepper hummus, tzatziki, and harissa for my dips, lamb as my protein with assorted toppings depending on what I am feeling for the day, and then hot vinaigrette as the dressing. However, if this does not sound appealing, there are options for everyone to try. I have not met a single individual who does not like Cava, and I think they do a great job of making Mediterranean food more popular in the United States. I myself am Mediterranean, and very rarely do I find flavors of my grandma’s cooking in restaurants, let alone chain restaurants. Also, the portion sizes are quite large which allows for one to feel full after eating their lunch as opposed to many other restaurants that I have tried in which I am still looking for more after I finish eating.

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Lastly, for dinner or a midnight snack, Tacos Listo is the place to go. It is known by many as Taco Zone because it used to be a taco truck in the AutoZone parking lot. However, they have now relocated onto Vermont Street. Everything on their menu is phenomenal, whether it is a burrito, taco, or quesadilla. I highly recommend getting al pastor as the choice of protein; however, I know many people who get many different proteins and they all seem to be more than satisfied. Of all the different taco trucks or taco places around the USC area, Tacos Listo is my top choice. It has numerous different sauces and salsas to choose from that only add to the experience. It is also open until 2 AM, allowing for that midnight snack that we all crave from time to time.

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These locations are my top picks for a day of eating around USC. I highly recommend giving these places a try if you have not yet as they are some of the most consistent restaurants that I have tried in my two years down living in the area. Each of them is special and phenomenal in a different way and I truly think my experience at USC would be worse without them here.

Featured Image by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Luke is a junior studying Computer Science/Business Administration in Dornsife. He was born in the San Francisco Bay Area and has lived there his whole life before coming to USC. Having a father who immigrated from Lebanon, Luke knows a little Arabic, and he is proficient in Spanish after taking Spanish classes in school for seven years. He loves learning about all kinds of cultures and has met close friends from many cultures during his time at USC. He also enjoys sharing his Lebanese culture, whether it be food recipes, his grandparents’ and father’s teachings, or even just the social and conversational norms in Lebanese culture. He likes following fashion trends, especially in relation to shoes (of which he has over 20 pairs). He likes to keep up with basketball, soccer, football, and even F1. Outside of sports, however, he is constantly learning more about the tech world and the different things an individual can do with technology.

The Magic of Sunflower Seeds

By Qianhui Ni

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

“Among all the foods in the world, only sunflower seeds can meet the conditions conducive to killing time. People who can snack on sunflower seeds are great and active implementers of leisure.” — Zikai Feng (1934), Essays in Yuan Yuan Tang

If you ask me what my most satisfying online order was last month, without a doubt my answer would be sunflower seeds. I have been a big fan of snacking on sunflower seeds since childhood. However, I hadn’t had them for a while since I moved to LA for my graduate studies. Finding packaged shelled sunflower seeds was a big surprise for me since I had only seen people here in the United States eating unshelled seeds as sides or as an ingredient to season food. As you may expect, I excitedly purchased six bags of sunflower seeds in different flavors. My most enjoyable time of day soon became the half-hour after dinner when I got to lie on the sofa, watch TV shows, and snack on sunflower seeds. 

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Eating sunflower seeds is a fairly simple process–you place one seed between your upper and lower incisors with its tip facing inward. Then, simply squeeze it between your teeth, and you will be able to hear a crisp cracking sound, indicating that the shell is open and what’s between your teeth is the seed inside. This sound is quite relaxing for me because is it clear, crisp, and seems to come from the inside of my own head. I guess it is the reason why eating sunflower seeds is also called “cracking” sunflower seeds. In Chinese, the verb for this action is pronounced as “ke”, which sounds almost identical to the sound when the shell cracks. After you crack the seed open, you can throw away the shell and enjoy the seed. With enough practice, the experienced sunflower seed eater (like me) can complete the above steps in one second without the shell touching their tongue or getting their hands dirty. 

After snacking on sunflower seeds for the whole week, I started wondering about the magic of these little seeds. Zikai Feng, the influential Chinese artist, summarized three advantages of eating sunflower seeds that make it the best activity for leisure and time killing. First, people never get tired of them because their flavor isn’t that strong. Imagine you are eating salty barbecue-flavored chips; you would get bored easily of the strong flavor after a while. Sunflower seeds taste like plant seeds with a very light smell. After being pan-fried, the bluntness caused by the soft textures disappears. The seeds become crispy and stiff with a light taste.

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The second reason is that sunflower seeds cannot provide a sense of satiety. Even after eating the whole bag of them, you will not feel full. They are too small to be a staple food. I find it hard to stop eating them once I start since my stomach never sends my brain a signal of being full.

Continue reading The Magic of Sunflower Seeds

Handpulled Noodles: A Taste of Home

By Cassandra Liu

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

After every hard day, depressing event, or stressful moment, the first meal I turn to is one that has been passed down to me through many generations of my family. It is our family’s version of a classic Chinese noodle dish – handpulled noodles. We call it Lā Miàn, which literally translates to “pull noodles” in English. Paired with a vinegary, spicy dressing sauce, this dish is something that never fails to bring me comfort and even a sprinkle of happiness. 

Handmade noodles have an incredibly long and rich history. The oldest known origin of the noodles was traced to an area in Northwestern China and its recipe has diverged into countless variations with differing ingredients, noodle width length, and ways of making the noodles. This is how my family makes it:

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My family uses a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flour. We begin by adding water to flour with a ratio of 1 water to 2 flour. Then, add a pinch of salt to the mixture and knead until a rough dough is formed. Cover the mixture with either a damp towel or cling wrap and let the mixture rest for around 10 to 15 minutes so that the dough is more workable. After that short period of time, continue kneading the dough until it is smooth, which might take around 2 minutes. Be sure to not overwork the dough, or else the gluten will develop and the noodles will become too tough. After the dough is smooth, divide it into two pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll them out into a rectangle shape with about a 0.5 inch thickness. Coat a plate in oil, coat both sides of the rectangle dough in oil, and place the dough on the oiled plate. Cover the plate in cling wrap and let it rest at room temperature for an hour and a half.

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Next, bring a pot of water to a boil. While the water is boiling, remove the dough from the oiled plate and cut the dough into 0.5 inch strips. Grab a strip and gently pull the ends in opposite directions. While pulling the strips apart, gently move your arms up and down and let the dough bounce against the tabletop, which helps the dough stretch out even more to your desired length. Drop the noodles into the boiling water and cook the noodles for 2 minutes, until the noodles are chewy and cooked through. Drizzle some sesame oil over the noodles to prevent them from sticking together while preparing the sauce. 

To make the sauce, mince garlic, ginger, and scallions. Place the chopped vegetables over the noodles along with some red pepper flakes. Heat up some neutral oil in a pan and pour over the chopped vegetables. Listen to and savor the sound as the hot oil fries the garnish. Add soy sauce and black vinegar to taste and enjoy!

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Summer or winter, rain or shine, this dish is something that my family eats at least once every two weeks. Pair it with some boiled vegetables, and you have yourself a hearty and delicious meal! Whenever I’m feeling homesick, I come back to these noodles and I’m immediately taken right back to my family. 

Featured Image by Önder Örtel on Unsplash

Cassandra is a recent graduate who studied Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. She grew up in the Bay Area and speaks Mandarin fluently, a language she uses to interact with her parents and grandparents. On campus, she was involved in Trojan Shelter, Wazo Connect, and worked as a research assistant in the Brain and Music Lab at the USC Brain and Creativity Institute, among other things. In her free time, Cassandra enjoys cooking, playing music with her friends, and exploring the best food places in LA.