5 Questions for Jet Tila
Jet Tila's Charleston just opened in Santa Monica, where he's serving his take on American comfort food, through the lens of a chef specializing in all styles of Asian cuisine. Tila grew up in his family’s restaurants and Thai grocery store Bangkok Market in Hollywood, attended Le Cordon Bleu and was chef of pan-Asian restaurant Wazuzu at the Encore in Las Vegas and creator of the L.A. pop-up series Bistronomics. He also holds the Guinness World Record for the “World’s Largest Stir-Fry” at 4,010 pounds.
What’s coming up next on your menu? Asian pork belly bao. Pork belly braised for four hours in five-spice and sweet soy sauce. I stuff that into steamed gwah bao buns -- fried brown and crispy -- and finish with carrot pickle and hoisin. Panzarotti! For the unfamiliar, my version of pizza hot pockets.
Latest ingredient obsession? Crispy fried gwah bao. This is the dough that makes dim sum bao white, pillowy, semi-sweet and yielding. I deep-fry them so they are crunchy and pillowy at the same time; it's insane!
The one piece of kitchen equipment you can’t live without, other than your knives? Wow, other than? Is there anything more important than my beloved knives? Then I'd have to say my Vitamix blender right now. It makes oils, acids and ingredients into aioli. It also makes garlic and ginger submit and give up their essential oils into marinades.
What’s your favorite breakfast? Machaca con huevos, without a doubt. I braise my own brisket for up to six hours and then make machaca. Slam it into a fresh tortilla with spicy salsa and ripe avocados and I'm happy.
The last cookbook you read –- and what inspired you to pick it up? I've been reading a lot of mixology lately. So the latest book was Tony Abou-Ganim's "The Modern Mixologist." I want some fun cocktails!
The Charleston, 2460 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 828-2115, www.charlestonla.com.
-- Betty Hallock