Do you enjoy delicious Mexican food? If your answer is yes, I have a recommendation for you! Due to its location near the USC campus, Chichen Itza is a popular spot for students and community members to pick up a bite to eat. They serve a variety of dishes from tamales, tacos, soups, tortas, appetizers, and more! It is one of my favorite places to eat around USC, and a great spot to go to if you are looking for a new place to eat during quarantine.
First and foremost, the restaurant is located in Mercado La Paloma – a local business hub of the Figueroa corridor that supports business ownership opportunities and living wages for members of our community. There are many restaurants and businesses similar to Chichen Itza, as well as non-profit offices, a health office, and a range of affordable meeting rooms and community spaces. They frequently host art and music-centered events, film showings, and open mic nights as well, giving the community a forum and a place for local interaction. The market takes pride in the quality of their goods and services and are proud to serve the community with the goal of achieving economic and environmental justice while fostering community engagement and exchange of culture. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurants and shops are only open for takeout or delivery. Don’t miss the chance to check out the market!
The cuisine served at Chichen Itza comes from Yucatan, a region in the south of Mexico known for its fresh chili peppers, cilantro, and oregano as well as achiote. Their menu is expansive and definitely contains something for everyone! They take pride in their ingredients and use house-made meats and handmade corn tortillas. These ingredients are staples of Mexican street cuisine and a vital part of serving a delicious Yucatan dish. Many of the marinades and preparation techniques come from the Yucatan region, providing flavors and ingredients that aren’t commonly seen on restaurant menus. Each dish comes with a few options for fillings, cooking techniques, and salsas. I recommend the cochinita pibil (banana leaf-wrapped slow-roasted pork) and the pollo asado (roasted chicken) on any dish. If you’re struggling to find something to order, you can’t go wrong with tamales – arguably the most famous Mexican street food.
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.
Academic and Professional English Language Instruction