Category Archives: New Experience

Pumpkin Spiced Fall

By Emiko Akama-Garren

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

The American fall time consists of many traditions and holidays, and those who are not familiar with them may find the traditions amusing and sometimes odd. This time of year is heavily centered around food, with the most important item being the pumpkin. Pumpkins play a role in Thanksgiving, Halloween and essential fall activities like going to a pumpkin patch. So, it is no surprise that pumpkin spice has become an essential part of the season. I always feel more festive and start to get into the fall mood when I see all of the seasonal pumpkin-flavored items available.

Pumpkin spice products are continuing to spread and major brands continue to introduce new pumpkin fused items for the fall time. The limited availability of the flavor has been a key selling point for the products. Some of the most popular items include candles, soap, cookies, drinks, baked goods, snacks, and even pet products. The most quintessential pumpkin spice item to try is most definitely the pumpkin spice latte. Social media, especially Instagram, has created a large following and obsession for pumpkin spice latte fans of all ages.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

It is already a shock to many non Americans how many different products that feature pumpkins are available, so it is even more surprising when people find out that pumpkin flavored coffee is such a sought after trend. Pumpkin spice lattes have become quite the commodity and bring in huge profits for coffee companies. Pumpkin spice lattes are typically made from milk, pumpkin puree or flavoring, pumpkin spice seasoning, a sweetener, and coffee.

Starbucks is the main party responsible for starting the pumpkin spice latte craze and turning the name of their drink into an acronym and widespread hashtag (PSL). Since Starbucks has launched their drink, over 200 million drinks have been sold and it has quickly become their most popular beverage. Now many other coffee chains offer their own versions of pumpkin spice coffees. Starbucks starts to offer the PSL in the beginning of September and it is only available “while supplies last”. This period is usually right up until when they bring back their holiday drinks.

Photo by Maddy Baker on Unsplash

Pumpkin spice no longer just creates a flavorful sensation but it also creates an emotional one. The widely loved trend admired by many Americans is slowly starting to spread, but understandably has not been picked up as quickly in foreign markets. There is no better place to try pumpkin spice food than in America as a way to celebrate the beginning of the fall holidays. Trying out and tasting this fall trend is the best way to understand the American obsession, and might just help you feel some of the holiday spirit.

Featured Image by Chris Hardy on Unsplash

Emiko is a recent graduate from the Sol Price School of Public Policy and Marshall School of Business. She was born and raised in the Bay Area, California up until high school, when she moved to Switzerland and then France. Emiko lived in Switzerland and Germany all throughout high school and then studied abroad her first year of university in Paris. While living abroad, she was involved with Model United Nations and was a figure skating coach for international students and local students looking to work on their English. She loves meeting new people, traveling, dancing, figure skating and entrepreneurship.

Have A Bowl of Crossing-the-bridge Rice Noodles Before Exams

By Qianhui Ni

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[4.5 minute read]

What do you normally do before an important exam? In some cultures, people will pray to the god of wisdom, or avoid washing their hair because it is believed to wash the knowledge out of the brain. Some tend to wear clothes with lucky colors. For me, my pre-exam ritual is to have a bowl of crossing-the-bridge rice noodles.

Crossing-the-bridge Rice Noodles from Ludingji at San Gabriel

In Yunnan, China, the local people’s diet holds rice noodles to an equal status as rice. Different from rice noodles from other provinces, the traditional Yunnan rice noodles are made of fermented and milled rice. Thus, they have a very slightly sour taste due to the longer fermentation time in the production process. Crossing-the-bridge rice noodles are the most famous cooking method of these noodles. The soup base is stewed with pork ribs, fresh chicken, fresh duck, and Yunnan ham. After simple seasoning, the thick soup must stay boiling and be put into a large, insulated bowl. You can then add fresh fish slices, fresh tenderloin slices, mung bean sprouts, and mushroom slices to the soup individually. My favorite ingredient to add are fresh raw quail eggs. As the raw quail egg touches the soup, the color of the egg white and yolk changes even before they start changing shape in the broth. This is how we magically make a soft boiled egg in a fully intact shape. When I was a little kid, I always wanted to complete this part by myself but was stopped by my parents since the temperature of the soup was too high. 

You are probably wondering why this dish is named “crossing-the-bridge” and why it is connected to pre-exam rituals. One well-accepted version of its origin story goes like this: in the Qing Dynasty, a scholar living in southern Yunnan used to go study at a pavilion in the middle of a lake to prepare for the imperial examination. To support him, his wife often made his favorite rice noodles and brought them to the pavilion. Every time she got there, the rice noodles had already become cold. One day, she accidentally found out that the thick layer of chicken fat covering the soup helped it stay at a high temperature. The rice noodles, the meat, and the vegetables actually tasted more refreshing if they were put in right before eating. Since then, she always stewed the soup with chicken and other meat first, and waited until she arrived at the pavilion before putting in the extra thinly sliced ingredients and rice noodles. With her support, the scholar eventually got the highest exam score. Because every time the scholar’s wife needed to walk across a bridge to reach the pavilion, people named this cooking method “crossing-the-bridge rice noodles” in order to commemorate this talented woman. Since then, having a bowl of crossing-the-bridge rice noodles has become a popular pre-exam ritual for many local people. 

Spicy Rice Noodles from Ludingji at City of Industry

As part of the cultural heritage of Yunnan, China, crossing-the-bridge rice noodles have become a top cuisine that no visitor to the region should miss out on. Before I went to college, I used to take it for granted because there are so many restaurants that sell it in my hometown. I did not realize how hard it is to find authentic crossing-the-bridge rice noodles until I started my life in another country. However, after visiting almost all the Yunnan restaurants in LA, I found two good ones where you can get a taste of this traditional cuisine: 

Yunnan Restaurant:

You can find two Yunnan Restaurants in LA: one is located in San Gabriel, and the other one is in Monterey Park. Here, when ordering crossing-the-bridge rice noodles, you will have the chance to add all of the ingredients to the boiling soup yourself. Apart from the rice noodles, don’t miss the amazing Chinese Salad with different cold meats or vegetables in spicy sauce. 

Casserole Rice Noodles from Yunnan Garden in Hacienda Heights

Yunnan Garden:

Located in Hacienda Heights, Yunnan Garden has a more spacious dining area. The crossing-the-bridge rice noodles here are put in a big bowl in which the cook has already put in all the ingredients and rice noodles. The soup base is great and I’m sure you will love it. 

If you want to try a new pre-exam ritual before a major exam, try the crossing-the-bridge rice noodles and remember the story of the scholar and the talented wife, and hopefully it will bring you good luck.

Featured Image by Frank Zhang on Unsplash

Qianhui is a doctoral student majoring in Psychology. She received a B.S. in Psychology from East China Normal University in 2019. She is interested in how children learn about social agents and the social world. When she isn’t working in the lab, Qianhui enjoys traveling, reading novels, watching movies, and cooking.  

LA’s Top 5 Touristy Spots

By Connor Brown

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

Popularity is an interesting concept. Some people see popular things as good, assuming that if many people enjoy something, it must have value. Others see popular things as bad, assuming that if a ton of people like something, it must be “basic” or overhyped. Los Angeles is home to both opinions, and as a capital of both trends and hipsters, the nuance between these two stances emerges. Many of the most popular, touristy things to do in Los Angeles are fun, others not as much. From my experience as an Angeleno, here are the five best touristy things to do in Los Angeles — all popular, pleasant, and picturesque!

Photo by Joseph Ngabo on Unsplash

1. Santa Monica

First on our list is arguably LA’s most famous beach, the iconic Santa Monica, brimming with sight seers, seagulls, and sunshine. Santa Monica is a fairly large city within LA, and offers more than just an endless, wide beach. The boardwalk is a popular tourist attraction, and while it’s not my personal favorite, many enjoy it. The Promenade along Third Street is a great shopping center, and the surrounding area is full of intriguing stores and sights. Ocean Avenue offers a great walking path, and leads right into the iconic Pacific Palisades. Best of all, Santa Monica is easily accessible via public transit, as the Metro Expo Line ends in the heart of downtown Santa Monica, blocks from both the beach and the Promenade.

2. Griffith Park

My personal favorite on this list, Griffith Park is a must-visit destination for anyone who’s been to LA. The park itself is massive, covering a large swath of the LA hills, and includes a number of great hiking paths. It is also home to one of LA’s most famous landmarks, the Griffith Observatory. If you go to the Observatory on a clear night, you can see the most spectacular views of the city. While the view is the main attraction, the Observatory is a destination in and of itself, offering fun astronomical and scientific displays, planetarium shows, and telescope viewing opportunities!

Photo by Lydia Koh on Unsplash

3. Downtown Art Museums

One of the best aspects of USC, in my opinion, is its proximity to downtown Los Angeles. Downtown LA is an enigma — there are times when it is bustling, with restaurants overflowing, rooftops full, and clubs thumping, and times when it is so empty you expect to see a tumbleweed roll across the street (Sunday afternoons). The one constant is the tranquility of the art museums. I find few things to be more relaxing than wandering around a quiet, curated space dedicated to the great artists of our time, being able to just pause and stare at some often-unintelligible expression of the human spirit. The Broad and The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) are two of the best modern art museums in the country, and are barely two miles from campus. Hop in a bus, Lyft, Metro, or Bird scooter, head up Figueroa and unwind in the sterile vibrance of a modern art museum.

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