Crawfish Festival

Originally uploaded by illewminator.
how could grubclub be complete without a review of the 13th annual crawfish festival held in redondo beach on may 14-15?

for a mere $20 (i purchased the online pre-sale package), i got entrance to the festival, a t-shirt, and this well-balanced meal, as you can see in the photo, which consisted of 3lbs of crawfish (a.k.a. waterbugs), a tiny corn cobbette and a tiny red potato. in fact, all four of us in my party got the same deal, so between us, we downed 12 lbs. of these ugly little suckers.

they were quite tasty, though. for those of you who are grossed out by the looks of them here, i can tell you that they looked a whole lot better in person, and especially after waiting in line for over an hour to get them. still, 3 lbs of crawfish is quite a bit -- we were trying to eat them quickly (because they taste much better when they're hot). so all of us were sitting there with these huge mounds of crawfish in front of us, silently cracking them open, and methodically tearing open the tails to get at the tiny bit of meat. our concentration was so intense, it felt a bit like we were contestants in The Amazing Race and had to finish our plates before we could advance to our next challenge.

the rest of the festival was not all that exciting. after tearing through our trays (we estimated we each ate probably close to 100 waterbugs), we headed for a wendy's to take advantage of the free frosty weekend -- which turned out to be the perfect antidote to soothe our spice/salt-chapped lips.

here we are pigging out with our 3 lb. trays o' waterbugs EACH!


J-town (Los Angeles) eats

If you've ever wondered "where to go to for what" in J-town, this is a special grubclub posting with tips culled from 8+ years of eating experience while working in J-town:

for JA diner fare:
Suehiro's still has the best spam musubi and other JA diner fare, but i also love Mitsuru Grill for their spam gacha (breakfast only), "honey stung fried chicken," salmon collars (when they have them), and broiled saba. [too bad Tokyo Garden had to close -- they had a great roast pork special, just like the kind my mom made... ]

for ramen:
Daikokuya - the best tonkotsu-style (pork-based broth) ramen around (see earlier "daikokuya" grubclub entry), but before it, there was Koraku, this little 70s-era, orange-boothed diner with a pretty varied menu, but i like their tonkotsu and popeye ramen specials.

other stuff:
the Korean BBQ place in Japanese Village Plaza is good for take-out (it's usually too crowded to eat in) -- lots of food for a fairly reasonable prices. we used to always order from here when we had meetings.

TOT used to have really good (and reasonably priced) lunch specials, but they seem to have gotten kind of pricey lately.

Sushi-Gen - for their sashimi lunch special

Mandarin Deli (now called something else, but i think the menu is still the same or similar) - loved their pork chop soup noodle and the preserved vegetable & shredded pork soup noodle. get both with the scallion pancake and some steamed (or pan-fried) dumplings and you're set for 3 people (or 4 light eaters).

Miki-chan's - Little Tokyo Towers: for when you feel like eating with a bunch of senior citizens. prices aren't that cheap anymore, but you're helping the cause (this place is run by Little Tokyo Service Center).

Mikawaya - for great shave ice. i like to get it with a scoop of ice cream on the bottom and azuki beans and condensed milk sponned over the top. mm mmm mmmmmm!

for Non-Asian food, still in J-town
Senor Fish - the lunch special is a good bargain: 2 tacos, rice and beans for $5 (i think it's still $5). also, great burritos (i like the scallop the best, but shrimp, carne asada and carnitas are also good, depending on your mood) that are as big as your head. you could finish one, but you'll be sleepy the rest of the afternoon.

Breadwinner - in lobby of medical bldg on third and san pedro (is it still there?). good sandwiches, reasonable prices. not great, but fair. [before Subway and Quizno's came to 1st street, this was pretty much the only place to get a decent sandwich]

410 Boyd - not Asian and not cheap, but has a great burger, BLT, and steak salad. also, their green apple caramel bread pudding is to die for. and they have happy hour drink specials.

but here are the *real* insider tips:

Poppy's (take-out only): this JA guy runs a snack shop in a tiny cubbyhole located in the lobby of Sumitomo (now Calif. Bank & Trust) building on 1st and San Pedro. he has GREAT chili & rice on Wednesdays. he also used to have good beef ribs (i think also on weds). other stuff: tacos, spaghetti and meatballs, salisburg steak... we only went consistently for the chili & rice (w/ wieners). lots of food at dirt cheap prices (less than $5). get there early (before noon is best) because he only makes a limited amount of food (how could he make more?? there's no room in there... ). once that's gone, he's out.

Mitsuwa snack bar - really cheap (and huge) bowls of ramen. again, i like the tonkotsu ramen. their chicken karaage is also pretty good, but they tend to run out of it if you don't get here early. can't speak for anything else on their menu, though. their sushi and other bento boxes are also good & cheap. and you can do some shopping while you're here!

Marukai - good bento boxes. better than enbun market

did i miss any? feel free to post comments.



Originally uploaded by illewminator.
for anyone who has spent some time in the south, you should recognize bojangle's fried chicken. it's the south's answer to KFC -- except it puts kfc's chicken to shame. i think bojangle's must own highway 70 in north carolina from raleigh to atlantic beach -- we must have spotted at least 50 bojangles along the way, compared to perhaps only 5 mcdonald's.

i have several fond memories of bojangle's. first off, it is some tasty fried chicken and they also have these great seasoned fries. bojangle's is also where i was introduced to the southern style "sweet tea," which is iced tea loaded up with sugar -- esp. at bojangles, where their tea is like syrup. and if you ask for unsweetened tea at bojangles, you'll just get a reaction as if you just asked to suck on all the used tea bags before they tell you they don't have unsweetened tea.

but here's my favorite bojangle's story: a friend of ours who was living in NC told us about his cousin who was visiting from california. his cousin, being well-versed in PC lingo, was trying to show off his knowledge of the latino culture and made some comment about the "Bo-Hahn-geh-les." after finally figuring out what the hell he was talking about, our friend said, "this is not california -- you are in the SOUTH... there is no such thing as "Bo-Hahn-geh-les" here. that sh*t is bo-JANG-les!"

hunting for pork products in north carolina

nahunta sign
Originally uploaded by illewminator.
on a recent trip to north carolina, one of my missions was to hunt down some down-home-style country ham, as requested by NuttinButGlutton. [in case you didn't know... country ham is dry cured, as opposed to soaked in brine, like most hams found in stores. consequently, it is much saltier and has a firmer texture than the brined variety.)

this mission took me down a country road off of highway 70, following the promise of a series of screaming yellow signs proclaiming, "Nahunta: Largest Pork Display in the Nation!"

little did i know i'd be following this road about 5 miles, only to come to another sign, directing me to continue for another 5 miles past a bunch of houses, a small racetrack, and some rotted-out tobacco shacks, until finally we were greeted by the pungent -- and distinct -- aroma of pig pens. lo and behold, the nahunta pork store was right in front of us, about the size of a small grocery store with shiny metal grocery carts standing at the ready outside the automatic front doors. these people are serious about their pork products.

inside, there are several meat cases, filled with every imaginable part of the pig. and just in case you forgot where you were, in one of the first cases, there was a pig face (not the whole head, just the face) staring up at you from a cellophane-wrapped styrofoam tray.

i found my way to the ham section, where i've never seen so many varieties and cuts of ham. lined up against the walls were metal racks loaded up with whole country hams. you could also get cured side meats, ham hocks, and ham slices. i opted for the vacuum-packed ham slices as i was not prepared to lug a whole ham back with me on the plane.

i was so tempted to also buy several packages of bacon, but i knew they would never withstand the cross-country journey back home. still, the variety and quantity of bacon was impressive, as you'll see in the photo (which reminds me... i should post my story on my homemade bacon candle on this blog).

as a follow up, NuttonButGlutton will have to post an entry on what he did with the country ham. stay tuned...