The Southern region of the United States is known for its comfort food, also known as “soul” food (because it comforts your soul!). And in the state of Texas, at Thanksgiving, or really for any other big, home cooked meal, cornbread is essential.
According to the magazine Southern Living, cornbread is a side dish that originated in Native American cuisine. Corn was a staple crop for the Native Americans, and would grind it up and mix it with water to make a type of corn-based bread. This dish stayed in the region after the settlers came, where they adapted it and started incorporating more ingredients to enrich its taste and texture—thus, cornbread was born. Today, my family makes cornbread to go along with chili, beans, and especially at Thanksgiving (just in a larger batch so that there’s enough to go around for the whole family!)
Cornbread is a very simple-tasting dish. It is a little bit dry and has a very prominent corn taste that is slightly sweet, thanks to the addition of sugar to balance out the saltiness of the other ingredients. It is typically made in a cast-iron skillet and is best served warm (not hot) and with a smear of butter on top. To “spice up” your cornbread, you can even add different herbs, candied bacon, or jalapeños (for some literal spice!)
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.
As a person who has lived in Los Angeles her entire life, I have gotten the chance to explore Los Angeles for years. Here are some places that stand out to me and I still continue to visit every year.
Everyone in Los Angeles has been to The Grove at least once. Most of the stores are more high-end, but many people just go because of the bright lights and warm atmosphere. However, if you go, the best time to go is at night when the view is best. My personal favorite part is the farmer’s market. They have cheap, tasty food and the best crepes.
Top of the World
This is a very local secret. It is hidden in the hills of Paciﬁc Palisades. Not many people know of this place and I just found out about it recently. It does take a bit of a drive to get here, but it’s worth it. It gives you the best Los Angeles view possible. From here you can see the whole Los Angeles coastline and at night, the view is even more stunning.
The Griﬃth Observatory is a very common and popular site to visit. They have popular shows where they project the night sky on a screen on the ceiling indoors. However, many people enjoy coming here to see the night view of Los Angeles, especially the night lights of downtown.
Sawtelle is a street but from Sawtelle and Pico to Sawtelle and La Grange, there are tons of popular Asian stores. Many locals visit this area often. It has the city’s best ramen, lots of boba choices, and yummy sweets. It is open very late, so if you want some midnight ramen, this is the perfect place to go. One particularly popular place here is Bsweet. They have warm doughnuts ﬁlled with ice cream and all diﬀerent kinds of warm fudge topped with ice cream.
Culver City Stairs
The oﬃcial name is the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, but locals call it the Culver City Stairs. This is another popular scenic view; however, most people come here to exercise. Visitors range from children to adults to whole teams who come here to exercise. The individual stairs are tall and the climb is long, but once you’re at the top, you can take a rewarding picture to document your achievement.
Melissa is a freshman majoring in Business Administration and minoring in East Asian Studies. She graduated as valedictorian and spent her summer before college volunteering at the 2017 Summer Taipei Universade. She is half Japanese and half Taiwanese but has lived in Los Angeles her whole life. Every year she visits friends and family in Taiwan and speaks Mandarin fluently. Her interests include playing basketball, traveling, and socializing. She is eager to share her experiences while learning about your experiences.
Academic and Professional English Language Instruction