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Sandwiches gone global: Finding ethnic L.A. between two pieces of bread

July 22, 2009 |  3:34 pm

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As soon as you place your order at Pita Pocketsin Northridge, a cook slaps a soft round of dough onto the wall of a blazing tandoor-like oven. After a few moments, a bubbly disk of laffa, catacombed with air pockets and rich with yeasty char, is ready to be filled. Next a counterman slathers the chewy flatbread with lemony hummus, then loads it with grilled vegetables or juicy marinated kebabs.

The hefty hand-held feast -- just one culture's take on the sandwich -- doesn't quite fit the dictionary's narrow definition: "food between slices of bread," but in L.A.'s sandwich universe this stuffed laffa has lots of delicious company.

Take pav bhaji, the Mumbai street vendor's answer to burgers. The rich vegetable curry, mounded onto slider-style buns, draws droves of homesick expats to Little India's snack shops. Mexico's mighty pambazo, a chile-sauce-drenched roll heaped with chorizo and potato filling, then drizzled with crema, is finding its way onto more and more menus. And gua bao, a steamed round of flatbread folded over great slabs of juicy roasted pork -- the Chinese equivalent of a towering pastrami on rye -- was rarely found outside Taiwanese dives and Chinese bakeries until its recent appearance at Take a Bao in Century City, where the fillings run to spicy Thai peanut chicken and pomegranate glazed steak.

To read the full story, filled with delicious details and a gorgeous gallery, click here.

-- Linda Burum

Photo credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

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