Attari Sandwich Shop

While I was in “Teherangeles” visiting the family last week, I went to check out Attari Sandwich Shop in Westwood (1388 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, 90024). We started with a Shirazi salad, a simple and refreshing chopped salad of tomato, cucumber, and onion.

Next course was Ash-e joe, a thick soup with lentils, black eyed peas and mixed greens, topped with yogurt and fried onions.  Healthy, hearty, and delicious.  The soup could easily be a meal in itself and is perfect for a cold day rainy day like the day we visited.

Then I had some tongue sandwich.  I love tongue for its chewy, meaty texture, and go for it every time I get Japanese or Korean BBQ.  The tongue at Attari was different though.  It was almost falling-apart tender, like the best pot roast or pastrami.  The sandwich itself reminded me a bit of banh mi in the best possible way.

In summary, Attari has generous portions, reasonable prices and an authentic Persian experience in LA.  Definitely check it out.  I heard that they have brain sandwiches there too, try it if you are feeling adventurous.  My dining companions weren’t ready to deal with that when I went. 😉

Attari on Yelp
Review of Attari in the NYTimes


I checked out Kogi, the much-hyped Los Angeles Korean BBQ Taco truck when I was in town visiting the family last week.  We followed them on Twitter and drove out to Encino to wait in line for the Korean/Mexican fusion food cart.  They have multiple trucks that park at different locations in LA on different days.  All I have to say about the experience is “Yes!”

Yes, the place has a lot of hype, but the food was great.

Yes, it’s fusion, but it’s fusion that just works.

Yes, the lines are long, so get there early.

Yes, the truck was late, stuck in traffic on the 405, but this is LA…

Yes, it’s cheap. Two bucks for a taco and five for a quesadilla.

I tried the tofu and spicy pork tacos and the kimchi quesadilla.  The tofu was flavorful with Korean marinade and seared to make it taste “meaty” rather than gelatinous.  Worth trying even if you are a total carnivore.  The spicy pork was great too: spicy, sweet, meaty, and fatty.  I have to admit this one was an easy sell for me.  When I go to Korean BBQ, I prefer the pork belly to the usual beef dishes like kalbi and bulkogi.  The quesadilla was amazing too.  The umami that comes out of the ménage à trois of kimchi, sesame, and melted cheese is divine.

Kogi Official Website
Kogi on Twitter
Kogi on Yelp

Making Taiwanese Tamales 包粽子

I was visiting family in Arizona for Thanksgiving weekend. I spent the Friday after Thanksgiving with my mom, aunt, and uncle making zongzi or Taiwanese tamales, a fitting description that reflects my Pacific Islander/Southwestern identity. 😉 The zongzi are based on my Taiwanese grandmother’s recipe, and includes sticky rice, peanuts, pork, fried shallots, dried shrimp, dried daikon, shiitake, and salty duck egg yolks wrapped in bamboo leaves. The bamboo-wrapped packages are then boiled and steamed. Yum!

Making "Taiwanese Tamales" (包粽子)

Making "Taiwanese Tamales" (包粽子)

Making "Taiwanese Tamales" (包粽子)

Making "Taiwanese Tamales" (包粽子)

My Thanksgiving photos on Flickr

Sweet Potato Gnocchi Gratin

I improvised this sweet potato gnocchi gratin for a night in with Elizabeth and Catherine.



2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of milk
1 teaspoon of herbes de Provence
1/4 teaspoon of pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika)
1 heaping tablespoon of white miso
1 half package of Neufchatel or cream cheese
2 handfuls of grated Gruyère
1 egg, beaten
Olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
6 fresh shiitake, chopped
2 roasted red or yellow bell peppers, chopped
1 large apple, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
Half package of membrillo (quince paste), chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 package of frozen sweet potato gnocchi
1 slice of whole wheat toast, blended into crumbs and sautéed in olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste




Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Make the Béchamel cheese sauce: melt the butter in a small saucepan and whisk in the flour. Add the milk, herbs, and pimentón. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Whisk until the sauce thickens. Turn off the heat and mix in the miso and the cheese while the mixture is still hot.

Cook the vegetables: in a large (12 inch) cast iron pan or other oven-proof pan, heat up some olive oil and sauté the onions and garlic until they start to brown. Then add the shiitake and cook until lightly golden. Add the bell pepper and sauté for another minute or two. Turn off the heat and stir in the apples and the membrillo.

Cook the frozen gnocchi in boiling water for 1 or 2 minutes, until the just start to float. Drain and add the gnocchi to the vegetable mixture. The sauce will have cooled off slightly by now. Whisk in the egg and pour the mixture into the pan and mix.

Bake the gratin in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Add the bread crumbs on top for the last 10 minutes of baking.

Instant Messenger Iron Chef: Turkey & Rice Stuffed Yellow Squash

Zucchini Touched

My friend Sophia IM’ed me the other night while I was at school. She asked me for some cooking advice based on the ingredients she had in her kitchen.  It turned into a game of IM Iron Chef or Stump the Cook from The Splendid Table.   Here is a log of our chat (edited for readability).  I’ve also posted photos from Sophia of the final result.

Sophia: ok Iron Chef, I’ve got ground turkey, yellow squash, broccoli florets, onion, tomato, garlic, some white rice, bag of frozen cut veggies (carrots/corn/peas), heavy cream. olive oil and balsamic vinegar and soy sauce, ground pepper.
And Fage yogurt

me: ok. You have a rice cooker?

Sophia: yup

me: Ok, easy. Cook the white rice.
while that happens, saute onions, garlic
add tomatoes and ground turkey
add the cooked rice in
and use that as stuffing in the squash (cut in half and partially hollowed out)

Sophia: woaaaahhh

me: you can chuck in some of the other veggies too
or a bit of the yogurt/cream to enrich things
and then put the stuffed squash in the oven
until the squash is cooked through

Sophia: nice – so I’m stuffing the raw squash?
(they’re skinny, is that ok?)

me: yeah, cut them in half lengthwise
and partially de-seed using a spoon

Sophia: oh shoot they’re yellow zucchini
that’s what I meant to say

me: yeah, you can still do it
to save time, you can parboil, steam, or roast the squash while the rice cooks

Sophia: I’m hazy on what cooked through for squash is – got an estimate on time?
oh ok

me: 30 minutes (or however long it takes for the rice to cook)
you can pre-cook the squash and make the squash then
if you have cheese, you could melt it on top
or put the Fage yogurt on as a topping instead of the sauce

Sophia: nice
that’s amazing – you need to do this for a living
or we have to put you on a blog

Sophia: how long would you cook ground turkey for? It’s always dry for me

me: because there is very little fat in the turkey, put the ground turkey in the sauce after you saute and onions and garlic and add tomato
so it cooks in sauce instead of frying it dry

Sophia: also – I was always taught to cook meat separately from veggies – in this case it’s ok to add raw meat to the tomatoes/garlic/onion?

me: yeah, because you are cooking it a long time
the turkey is not frozen, right?

Sophia: nope

me: or if you want to brown the turkey for color or taste, cook the turkey first in olive oil.
remove it from the pan, then cook the onions, garlic and tomatoes
then put the cooked turkey back in when the tomato sauce reduces

Sophia: I like it better not browned. So I can just add it raw to the onions? How long do I simmer/cook this together

me: here are the steps:
heat the pan. When it gets hot, put some oil in. Then the onions and garlic
then put in some turkey
and saute it until it changes color
then the tomatoes
bring to boil
then turn the heat to the lowest setting
until the rice is done
which would be about 20 minutes or so
if you are putting yogurt and cream into the sauce, put that in after you have turned the heat to low

Sophia: it’s ok to cook yogurt?

me: if you use yogurt, just stir it in just before you stuff the squash
but for cream, put it in when you turn heat to low
but I would choose 1, not both

Sophia: awesome. I’m going cream I think

me: sounds yummy. I’m in class and STARVING

Sophia: lol I have green onions too – would that mess it up?

me: no, I would chuck in the green onions at the end, just before you stuff the squash

Sophia: gotcha

me: in order of doing stuff: preheat oven to 400 degrees, wash the rice and get it going
then cut all the veg. Pop the halved squash in the oven
then make the sauce

Sophia: Definitely blog this!

Turkey Stuffed Zucchini