Left: Rumi Mahmood showing off his newest knife and cooking accessory. Right: Mario Rodriguez with his mother's molcajete. Photo by Ann Cutting.
"He was a bold man that first ate an oyster."
For the next few weeks, I return to my favorite of all activities--urban food foraging--to remind myself of the extraordinary delights that can be partaken by entering fully and with energy into the great sprawling complex of our Los Angeles food culture. To begin my travels, I checked in with two home chefs, Mario Rodriguez and Rumi Mahmood, whose skills in the creation of great food are well beyond the norm.
Mario is a food ingredient maven, rarely entering any community without “eyes on the side of his head” --the quintessential hunter-gatherer looking for something interesting, authentic, and unknown. He has deconstructed multiple varieties of sausages, red beans, and the dried shrimp made for an Easter-time favorite, Tortitas de Camarón.
And every year in December, he hosts what might be the most rarified tamale making session known and invites his friend and well known chef David Féau to join him. Their experiments include duck confit tamales with foie gras enriched masa along with Piccolo Fiore Al Tartufo cheese filled tamales surrounded by truffle infused masa.
Mario knows that the baker at Panaderia Delicia in Highland Park is good because he learned from a brother, the long-time baker at Dos Aguilas, on Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles. How? Because Mario recognized a similar baking style and quality of their pan dulce apple empanadas.
Rumi, a Bangladeshi native, experienced a number of cultures as a child and young teen because of his father’s career as a diplomat. After a short posting in Manila, where Rumi attended an American International School, his parents sent him to live with his older, college bound brother in St. Louis to continue his high school education. Necessity being the mother of invention, Rumi figured out how to recreate the family’s dishes. He has since moved well beyond these first dishes in expertise and imagination. A good friend and very fine chef, Onil Chibàs, first introduced me to Rumi and I have been a very fortunate guest at his table more than once.
"If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart."
The common table is a favorite metaphor as it means so much of value to me: gathering, sharing, tasting, learning. This short post is an invitation to us all to enter the cooking and eating traditions that are so amply represented in our community’s common table, but unknown to us. The list is long and somewhat rambling, reflecting a desire for what I call intentional wanderings.
Join me if you wish and let me know how you have fared. And if you have some favorite spots, don't hesitate to share them with us all.
Back in a month!
Your Urban Forager
- Best Buy Meat - 7108 Crenshaw Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90043
- Bhanu Indian Spices - 7246 Rosemead Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91775
- Claro's Deli - 19 E Huntington Dr, Arcadia, CA 91006
- Deshi Restaurant and Groceries - 3723 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90020
- Expression Oaxaquena - 3301 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019
- Gardena Marukai - 1740 Artesia Blvd, Gardena, CA 90248
- India Food and Spices - 2221 Huntington Dr, Duarte, CA 91010
- La Espanola Harbor City - 25020 Doble Ave, Harbor City, CA 90710
- La Princesita Tortilleria - 3432 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90063
- Little Tokyo Marukai - 123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St #105, Los Angeles, CA 90012
- Los Cinco Puntos - 3300 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90063
- Panaderia Delicias - 5567 N Figueroa St, Highland Park, CA 90042
- Panaderia Dos Aguilás - 5945 Whittier Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90022
- Papa Cristo's - 2771 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006
- Rincon Argentino - 1375 E Colorado St, Glendale, CA 91205
- Schreiner's - 3417 Ocean View Blvd, Glendale, CA 91208
- Spain Restaurant Los Angeles - 1866 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
- Super A - 5250 York Blvd, Highland Park, CA 90042
- Super King Market - 2260 Lincoln Ave, Altadena, CA 91001
- The Mercado - 3425 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90063
- The Punjab Store - 1300 E Main St #101, Alhambra, CA 91801
- The Truffle Brothers - 4073 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90018