After asking several students in ALI conversation groups what they missed most about their homes, the unanimous response I received was simply, “food.” Despite the wide array of restaurants in Los Angeles featuring cuisines from all around the world, it is hard for many international students to find what they would consider be truly authentic good food.
A student I recently conversed with talked about the food from his hometown, Chengdu, a city known for its spicy cuisine. Although he likes trying other cuisines, nothing beats Sichuan food. Speaking of the various similarities and differences between regional cuisines in China, I proclaimed my own partiality to Shanghainese food, which is known for having more sweet and sour flavors. One dish that I especially love is Sheng Jian Bao, which roughly translates to pan-fried buns filled with pork inside. This dish can be found throughout China, but is most common in Shanghai, where it is commonly sold as street food.
Thinking about food left me with a craving to make my own Sheng Jian Bao. Ever since I tried the dish on a trip to Shanghai several years ago, I had been looking for a place in the San Gabriel Valley that would meet my expectations. Unfortunately, none of the restaurants I visited succeeded in matching the ones I had eaten abroad. Finally, over a recent three-day weekend, I looked online for a recipe and decided to try a hand at making the dish myself. It was a long process: gathering all the necessary ingredients, letting the yeasted dough rise, seasoning the meat, wrapping the buns, then steaming them. Although the whole affair was rather tedious, the buns turned out to be delicious – perhaps not quite as perfect as the ones I had eaten in Shanghai, but enough to be worth the preparation effort.
Here in SoCal, we hold the largest Asian-themed night market in the U.S, the 626 Market! For those of you who are unfamiliar with night markets, these immersive events contain numerous vendors that serve a assortment of food, with our very own numbering upwards of 250 vendors! From traditional asian street food to fusion-styled treats that are familiar to the Angeleno palette. Not only that, the 626 Market offers local vendors outside of food, like various art and entertainment. The locations change too, with markets popping up in Arcadia, K-Town, Orange County, and more!
If you’ve come from Taiwan, you’ll feel right at home here, and even if you haven’t, you’ll be able to experience and enjoy something completely new and exciting! This is a place to eat a lot of amazing food, to immerse yourself in traditional Asian culture, to learn more about local businesses and artists, and ultimately to have a great time. The night market has a lot to offer and is definitely a great place to visit with your friends or family!
Bryan Lee is a senior in the animation program at USC! He was born and raised in Southern California so he knows a lot about the culture and lifestyle here on the west coast. Bryan enjoys a lot of things like Italian food, music/concerts, and all types of movies and tv shows. As an animator, his favorite hobbies are to draw and just to talk about art, however, he also enjoys a lot of hiking, basketball, and many other kinds of sports. Bryan also has had experience as a Taekwondo instructor and referee, an art teacher, and working at the 626 Night market near here in Arcadia.
As most USC students know, there are plenty of places to eat around the school area. Ethnic cuisine, fast food, and even some awesome dessert places are all located within a mile of our beautiful campus. However, USC students also have another great asset on hand – Downtown LA, where several fun restaurant atmospheres exist and are perfect for when you want to try something new. I spent last summer trying to discover new eateries in downtown so that I’d have new food choices during the school year. I found out that downtown has a multitude of cuisines for all different people, whether they are looking for something fast, formal, or even unique!
Wokcano (800 W. 7th Street) is a Japanese sushi and noodle restaurant located about 7-minutes away from the USC Campus (when driving). They provide premium sushi for a low cost, as well as an affordable happy hour. I would describe the environment as casual and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for small portions of Asian cuisine on any given night. I tried the Pad Thai and it was one of the best noodle dishes I’ve had since coming to USC.
Another excellent choice, for those of you looking for a quick meal or drink, is Sixth Street Tavern (630 W. 6th Street). It is a small bar with excellent appetizers and a relatively affordable happy hour menu. This restaurant caters primarily American dishes, with a few ethnic options mixed in as well. I have tried the Grilled Cheese at Sixth Street and I will definitely be going back for more!