LARKSPUR'S FAVORITE ASIAN MARKETS IN LOS ANGELES

One of the best parts of living in Los Angeles is the huge number of different cultures we have here! We love exploring neighborhoods, sampling new exotic treats, and visiting local markets to find hidden treasures. We're both total fiends for Asian food--Celene because of her upbringing in Bali, and Annie because of growing up competing with her brothers on who could eat the spiciest chili. We're always trying to figure out how to recreate our favorite dishes at home. We've narrowed down a few of our favorite Asian markets where we stock up on hard-to-find essentials. 

Simpang Asia, 10433 National Blvd

Culture: Indonesian

What you need to know: This is our go-to Indonesian restaurant/market. Call ahead and order a few Nasi Bungkus to go (swap our chicken liver for sweet tempeh if organ meat isn't your jam) and shop around in the market section while you wait. The market has everything you need to prepare an Indo feast, minus fresh items like produce and meats which you'll have to get elsewhere. 

What you need to buy:

  • Spice packets: stock up on beef rendang, "bali spices", and ayam goreng.  These packets offer the foundation for the spice blend in Indo cooking and take a lot of the tricky guesswork out of the equation!
  • Chili sauces: Indonesians love their spice! Take a few minutes in the hot sauce aisle and snag crispy chili (fried chili with soybean and garlic), sambal, and fruit pickle! Fruit pickle is a delicious but acquired taste--a sweet/sour chili sauce with shrimp paste that you put on sweet fruit like mango. Try it! 
  • Chips Galore!: Pick up one of everything in the fried chip section.  Our top picks?  Emping/krupuk chips ready fried, deep fried shredded beef called abon, fried onions, and fried coconut.  They also make a battered and fried banana strip which is weird and tasty.
  • Refrigerated Sweets: Head to the refrigerator in the back to snag delicious black rice pudding and green rice pancakes with coconut smothered in melted palm sugar.  YUM!

Galleria Market, 3250 W Olympic Blvd

Culture: Korean

What you need to know: Located in a mall, you'll need at least an hour to explore. Leave time to check out some of the Korean beauty products. Feeling hungry from all the shopping? You can get some noodles or other hot dishes and have dinner. 

What you need to buy: 

  • Spices & Sauces: Fill your basket with gochujang, the fermented chili paste that's an important part of creating authentic Korean flavors. Also snag some chili oil, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and other essentials here where the prices are fair. 
  • Fresh produce: Galleria has a great selection of fresh mushrooms at unbelievable prices. You can also find favorites like bok choy and long beans here. 
  • Dumplings & Noodles: We like to stock up on frozen dumplings while we're here for an easy last-minute dinner solution. Be sure to check out the fresh noodles in the refrigerated section. Some glutenous fresh udon really hits the spot. 
  • Kimchi: Galleria has an amazing kimchi bar! Our favorites are the kimchi cucumbers and kimchi radish which in addition to being tangy and delicious are also a serious cure if you're experiencing a probiotic imbalance in your belly. 

 

Mitsuwa Marketplace, 3760 Centinela Ave

Culture: Japanese

What you need to know: Come hungry! This market has a full food court with a particularly delicious ramen joint. Get down on a bowl of porky goodness before you shop and you'll be less likely to over-buy all the amazing things in the market! Parking is a drag here though, so be prepared. This is perhaps the cleanest of all the Asian markets we love--everything is spotless and meat and fish are very fresh here! 

What you need to buy: 

  • Fresh fish & sushi: Mitsuwa has an excellent selection of fresh fish and sushi. You can snag up a big sushi-grade slab of tuna, tiny fishies meant to be fried and eaten whole, or just hit up their ready-made sushi section for a delicious lunch. 
  • Fresh produce: Dragonfruit, rambutan, bok choy, bean sprouts. Everything here is super fresh so don't be afraid to get lots of stuff! 
  • Japanese snacks: Grab some seaweed snacks, pocky, and fried rice crackers. (Look for an individually packaged rice cracker that's fried and glazed with sweet soy--pure bliss!) Also, don't forget the refrigerated and frozen sections where you can get mochi and yummy rice cakes! 
  • Tea: Matcha, genmaicha, oolong! Mitsuwa has an impressive and reasonably priced tea selection that will have you wondering why you ever paid Whole Foods prices for tea. 
  • Beer & Sake: We love Japanese beer and milky sake! Grab some Sapporo and a few bottles of sake for your next shindig. 

Lutong Bahay, Eagle Rock Blvd & Verdugo 

Culture: Filipino 

What you need to know: Tucked away in a little mini mall on Eagle Rock Blvd in Glassell Park, this is a market not to be missed! We're too chicken to buy the whole fish heads on ice or chicken feet but they do add the ambience! 

What you need to buy: 

  • Exotic fruits: Whole 20lb jackfruit, filipino mangoes, and lychees are just some of the exotic delicacies in the produce section. 
  • Chilis, veggies, and herbs: Fill your basket with fresh lemongrass, super spicy bird's eye chilis, fresh turmeric, Chinese broccoli, and mung bean sprouts! 
  • Frozen fish: They have great frozen mackerel and sardines here which are excellent fried and smothered in a tomato-chili sauce. 
  • Prepared foods: There's an impressive selection of prepared foods which we've still need to explore more. Catching our eye? Rice cakes with shredded coconut wrapped in banana leaf and of course, the occasional fish ball!

Angelenos, do you have a local Asian market that you love? Give us the deets and we'll be ready with our wallets in hand! 

 

PALO SANTO INCENSE

Palo Santo Incense

Lighting candles to freshen up my room and settle into a relaxing mood is a daily ritual I seriously enjoy.  But the habit gets pricey fast and can be toxic if you are burning paraffin candles (this is the same stuff in diesel fuel, eek!).  My big-spankin' new idea?  Test out some incense.

I grew up with incense burning in the house so the rich, warm, and earthy scents are very nostalgic for me.  The problem?  I'm not always in the mood for a such a heavy fragrance, especially in the morning as I get down to work.  My fix?  Palo santo incense.

Originally from the Palo Santo trees in Ecuador and Peru, these wood sticks were traditionally used in ceremonies and rituals.  The smoke has a light aroma with a touch of mint, pine, and soft citrus and even wards off mosquitos.  My biggest pro?  The scent lingers through out the day without feeling too overpowering or harsh.  Plus, these wood sticks are ethically harvested and cured for over ten years before landing in my lap.  Ancient traditions revived?  I think yes.

CHEESE 101: INTRO TO QUESO

Breathe in deeply the scent of a ripe Limburger and exhale the smell of wet socks. Are you ready to learn about cheese now? Good. 

I first started learning about the blessed moldy milk product that is cheese a few years ago when my dad developed an intense passion for fine, artisanal fromage. Eager to create peak family experiences, my mom scheduled all five of my family members to attend the Artisan Cheese Festival in Petaluma. Things were never the same. We hobnobbed with the cowgirls from Cowgirl Creamery, tasted never-before-sampled wheels, and noshed on a particularly delicious blue cheese at all stages of its aging. Now fully obsessed with cheese, the Mobergs indulge in a full cheese board at every family gathering. We have a smattering of blue, a kiss of cheddar, a smidgen of triple cream, and then we have dinner. It's a gut (and butt) busting tradition, but it's beautiful.

Among friends, I'm now the one who brings cheese to parties or bossily tells other people what to buy. I can't help myself. But, I can help you learn about cheese and create an impressive selection of queso for your next shindig. A good cheese plate sustains the spirit, buoys a party, and creates a community focal point that even the most lactose-intolerant among us cannot resist. Please pop a Lactaid and tuck in.

Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk

Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk

The Milk: Most cheese is made of one of or a blend of three milks: 

  • Cow: Most people are familiar with cow milk and cow cheese so this is the safest bet for picky types. Cow milk is rich in butterfat, making cow's cheese especially decadent. Common cow's milk cheeses include: Cheddar, Camembert, Gouda, Gruyere, Parmiggiano-Reggiano, and Mozzarella. 
  • Goat: Chances are, even if you haven't sipped on goat's milk, you've tried chèvre, otherwise known as fresh goat's cheese. Goat's cheese has a tangy grassiness to it that makes it distinct. When aged, this tang can go either super funky and almost barnyardy or get mellower and creamier. Goat cheese is often easier on the tummies of lactose-sensitive types. Common goat's milk cheeses include: Cabecou, Feta (sometimes a blend of sheep and goat), Humboldt Fog, and Robiola (a mix of all three milks)
  • Sheep: In my experience, sheep's milk is the most polarizing of the dairy options. There are those that find sheep's milk very strong, very barnyardy, and just plain funky. I am not one of those people. Sheep's milk cheese has a definite earthiness, but it can also be very subtle, creamy, and complex. Certainly not to be missed. Common sheep's milk cheeses include: Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Manchego, and Pecorino.
Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog

Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog

The Types: 

  • Hard: These babies are old and dry. They aren't moldy on the inside and have a much lower moisture content than their other cheesy friends. The older among these may develop crunchy amino acid crystals and a nutty, almost carmelized flavor. Examples: Parmiggianno-Reggiano at the really hard end to Cheddar or Manchego at the softer end of the scale. 
  • Semi-Hard or Semi-Soft:The distinction between semi-hard and semi-soft can be a little tricky. Semi-hard cheeses are creamy but still firm and usually excellent melting cheeses. Semi-softs tend to be a little creamier in the center paste.  Examples: young Gouda, Emmentaler, and Tomme de Savoie
  • Washed Rind: Washed rind cheeses can vary in texture, but fall under the washed-rind family because they have been rubbed and bathed in a solution (think wine, brandy, a brine) to encourage mold to develop on the outside of the cheese. These guys can get real funky (in a good way!) and oozier with age. Examples:  Tallegio, Limburger, Epoisse
  • Soft-Ripened Rind: Also called bloomy-rind, soft-ripened cheese is rubbed or sprayed with bacteria on the exterior of the wheel during ripening. FOR GOD'S SAKE EAT THE RIND. It adds so much to the cheese. Sure, the inside is creamy and delicious, but really why don't you just put butter on your cracker if you're going to scoop out the inside of the cheese?  Examples: Brie, Camembert, Humboldt Fog
  • Blue: Ahhh, the polarizing blue. Blue cheese is one of mankind's greatest mistakes. All those little blue areas are delicious pockets of mold that occur after the cheese is injected with bacteria. Examples: Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Maytag Blue
  • Double or Triple Cream: If you're picky about strong tastes, double or triple cream is the way to go. Mild, creamy, delicious! Double and triple creams are soft-ripened cheeses that have extra cream added before the curd is formed. This means they have lots of fat and taste super amazing. Examples: Brillat-Savarin, St. Andre
  • Fresh Cheese: Fresh cheese is just what it sounds like, fresh! Examples: Mozzarella, chevre, ricotta
Blue Cheese! This  might be a Roquefort but I don't remember because I threw away the label :/ 

Blue Cheese! This  might be a Roquefort but I don't remember because I threw away the label :/ 

The Cheese Plate: If you want a truly amazing cheese plate, put together a selection of one cheese from every category! Otherwise, just go for one hard, one soft (washed rind or bloomy rind,)  and one blue. Add some nuts, fresh and dried fruit, and perhaps a bit of honey on the side. If you can't commit to three cheeses, buy a big hunk of Parmiggiano-Reggiano and chip it into shards. Everyone likes a Parmiggiano shard. 

My enormous cheese board. 

My enormous cheese board. 

Final Note: Because here in America, we're afraid of germs, the FDA has banned some amazing cheeses. Raw milk cheese is banned in the US unless it has been aged for more than 60 days. The FDA also limits the amount of certain types of bacteria in raw milk cheese aged over that time and will ban it if they feel that it's too much of a risk. Roquefort (which may be the king of all cheeses) was put on notice in 2014. Let's be clear: cheese has bacteria. But the French eat all kinds of raw milk cheeses without problem every year. Chances are, unless you've travelled abroad, you've never had real Camembert. You've had the pasteurized version that tastes like rubber. Sad sad sad. 

NARS X CHRISTOPHER KANE

Nars Christopher Kane

When it comes to eye shadow, NARS is my absolute go-to.  No surprise there!  I love the intensity of their pigments, the combinations in color, and their fluid blending.  For their latest collection NARS collaborated with famed UK fashion designer, Christopher Kane, and released a series exploring the nature of neon.  I was immediately hooked.

I picked up the Parallel Universe eye shadow duo and gave it a run this weekend (now that my summer tan is in full swing).  I typically shy away from purple and lavender shades but the pop of color in this set works my complexion in all the right ways.  The shimmer provides some serious sparkle, making me feel like a fairy princess with a bit of an edge.  The extra bonus?  On their own each shadow can definitely be applied with a more gentle touch, providing for a softer, more subtle daily look.  In fact, Kane deliberately selected hues that would pack a bold punch but could also function as sheer neutrals.  Totally versatile and oh-so-much fun!

Nars Christopher Kane

DOCUMENTARY TO WATCH: TIM'S VERMEER

vermeer-big.png

If you're an art history buff, or just loved The Girl with the Pearl Earring, you need to get yourself to your computer or TV STAT and rent Tim's Vermeer. The doc follows the story of Tim Jenison and his obsession with Dutch master, Johannes Vermeer. 

An inventor by trade, Jenison has spent the last few decades completely captivated by Vermeer and his almost cinematic understanding of light and shadows. After years of studying Vermeer's work and dwelling on the question of why the painter excelled in technique so far beyond his contemporaries, Jenison has a "eureka" moment in his bathtub and sets out on an odyssey to prove that anyone can paint like Vermeer. Tim's theory? That Vermeer used a mirror in tandem with the commonplace tool of the day, the camera obscura, to copy a reflection of reality onto his canvas. Painstakingly recreating one of Vermeer's most famous scenes in a studio, Tim begins work on his own replica of the painting using the technique he believes is the key to Vermeer's artistic mastery. 

From an engineering perspective, the contraption that Tim builds is fascinating, proving that nearly 350 years later, there are still mysteries to be discovered! However, the question that the documentary presents that I find most compelling is whether Vermeer should still be revered as one of the great masters of his time if he was using a technology that makes it possible for anyone, regardless of artistic ability, to paint like him. The film interviews plenty of artists and art experts who feel conflicted by this discovery, and wonder if the Dutch master was truly as artistically exceptional as they'd once believed.  For me, it raised an interesting question of how we as a society understand art and artists: do we revere artists because we believe they are Other? Do we love the idea that artists are savants capable of seeing and doing what the ordinary man cannot?  Do we need artists to have abilities  that cannot be explained by science or reasoning? If Vermeer truly used the technology that Jenison believes he did, the man was a brilliant mathematical and engineering mind with an understanding of mirrors and light far beyond his time. Does this make him any less of an artist?