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Off Menu with Lucas Kwan Peterson
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Ep. 1: An education in Thai food with Jitlada’s Jazz Singsanong

In the first episode of “Off Menu,” host Lucas Kwan Peterson and Jazz Singsanong, longtime proprietor of the Thai Town restaurant Jitlada, head to LAX-C, a vast, warehouse-like grocery store that’s sometimes known by its informal nickname, Thai Costco.

The two of them go shopping, Jazz educating Lucas on selecting produce and how to pick a high-quality fish to bring home. They then return to the Jitlada kitchen where Jazz shows Lucas how to make a few dishes that aren’t on the regular menu.

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In the first episode of “Off Menu,” Food columnist Lucas Kwan Peterson and Jazz Singsanong, longtime proprietor of the Thai Town restaurant Jitlada, head to LAX-C, a vast, warehouse-like grocery store that’s sometimes known by its informal nickname, Thai Costco.
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Jazz Singsanong of Jitlada restaurant gives us her recipe for nam prik goong, a funky, salty dipping sauce for raw vegetables made with shrimp and shrimp paste.
The restaurant packs ‘em in with its southern Thai home cooking. Don’t know what to order? Just ask owner Sarintip ‘Jazz’ Singsanong.
Jonathan Gold dishes on the Jazz burger, an off-menu item at Jitlada in Thai town, a site of pilgrimage for spicy food lovers.
Spicy food is glorious stuff, particularly in times of duress, or when the weather is unreasonably chilly, or when you’ve misplaced that bottle of Double Chicken Brand Sriracha you still keep in your bag.
Sarintip “Jazz” Singsanong is standing over a pot of tea, watching the water take on a burnt ocher color as the mixture gently simmers.
Regional cuisine is reinventing the Thai food scene. Pssst -- be sure to ask for the ‘other’ menu.

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Ep. 2: A Tijuana road trip with the guys from Tacos 1986

Just a few months after opening, Tacos 1986 quickly ascended to become one of L.A.’s most popular taco spots. Run by Victor Delgado and charismatic taquero Jorge Alvarez-Tostado, Tacos 1986 became known for its Tijuana-style tacos de adobada — juicy marinated pork sliced from a rotating trompo and served with a dollop of smooth guacamole.

Lucas follows Victor and Joy to their hometown, Tijuana, to go on a tour of the childhood friends’ favorite taco spots and learn about the different styles of tacos and tortas just south of the border.

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Tacos 1986 makes the best vegan mushroom tacos. Chef and founder Jorge Alvarez-Tostado shares the easy recipe for the seared mushroom filling and salsa macha.
Salsa macha combines dried chiles and garlic with olive oil, and this Tacos 1986 recipe includes sesame seeds for a nutty richness and orange juice for brightness.
At street stands that sell Tijuana-style tacos de adobada, the eye-catching centerpiece is usually a trompo — a vertical rotisserie stacked with marinated pork.
Tacos 1986, the pop-up taqueria known best for its guacamole-smeared mushroom tacos and charismatic taquero, is opening in downtown L.A. near the corner of Spring and 6th streets.

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Ep. 3: Exploring Little Saigon in Orange County

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Lucas visits Orange County chef Shawn Pham, formerly of the restaurants Simbal and Fiona, for some of the best Vietnamese food in the country. Shawn, who grew up in Orange County, takes Lucas to Bien Hen in Westminster for some classic Vietnamese drinking food — razor clams, spotted escargot and an enormous grilled catfish. They also go to Banh Cuon Luu Luyen in Garden Grove, where Delena Ta runs a small family-owned operation that specializes in banh cuon, or Vietnamese rice sheets.

The guys chat about eating and drinking culture in Vietnam, growing up Asian American and appropriation in food, and eventually end up in Seal Beach with Shawn’s family.

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If you’ve been to Tokyo, you know that finding a restaurant can be even harder than wrangling a reservation to one, even if you have an exact street address, even if you’re with a friend who knows the neighborhood fairly well.

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Ep. 4: This L.A. sushi master creates a one-of-a-kind experience in his Hollywood hideaway
Lucas and master sushi chef Mori Onodera spend the day together shopping for tuna, making plates and discussing the qualities of sushi rice. Mori shows Lucas different sashimi grades and how to break down a fish.

Sushi chef Mori Onodera takes Lucas on an early morning trip to Luxe Seafood in downtown L.A. to show him the ins and outs of selecting a tuna. After that, they head to a pottery studio where Mori shows a different side of his artistic temperament — by making the plates that are used in his restaurant, Inn Ann. Finally, they head to Mori’s restaurant, in the heart of Hollywood, where Mori shows Lucas how to break down a tuna in the way only a master sushi chef can.

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Framed against the sky, tranquil and removed, Inn Ann is a 35-seat Japanese restaurant in a remote corner of the Hollywood & Highland shopping center.
Morihiro “Mori” Onodera sold his beloved namesake sushi bar, Mori, in West L.A. nearly three years ago and has since devoted more time to one of his passion projects: rice.

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Ep. 5: Eating chicken tikka pizza and masala dosas with the boys from L.A.’s Badmaash

Arjun and Nakul Mahendro and their father, Pawan, tell Lucas the story of Badmaash, their modern Indian restaurant with two locations in L.A. They head to Artesia, a small city on the border of Los Angeles and Orange counties, which has some of the best Indian restaurants in Southern California. They chow down on beloved Indian foods like dosai and idli, as well as slightly more unconventional fare, like chicken tikka pizza.

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The Goan pork curry recipe from Badmaash develops deep, meaty richness from a homemade curry powder, a long marinade, and a slow simmer in a tomato-onion sauce.
The first thing you notice when you enter Badmaash, a new Indian gastropub in downtown L.A., is a giant wall covered in striped colors.

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Ep. 6: The best Armenian restaurant in L.A. is this tiny family-run kebab joint in Glendale

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For a small restaurant, Mini Kabob packs a powerful punch. The meat specialist has been serving grilled beef and chicken skewers for 33 years from a tiny three-table space just off Central Avenue in Glendale, home to one of the largest Armenian communities in the United States.

Lucas visits the Martirosyan family — Ovakim, Alvard and son Armen — and gets to know one of the most beloved restaurants in the city.

The more I eat khachapuri, the more I’m convinced that I want to be one of the older Armenian men who congregate at the patio tables outside of Old Sasoon Bakery on Allen Avenue in north Pasadena.


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Lucas Kwan Peterson is a columnist and video producer for the Los Angeles Times Food section.