For those of you who don’t know the Fung brothers, you’re missing out. Andrew and David Fung are two funny dudes of YouTube fame (check out their channel). They’ve joined the big leagues now and have teamed up with FYI to bring us a reality travel show about eating good and cheap on a budget of just $50 to $100 a day. While they’re not expert food critics, it makes the show all the better since they’re able to connect with the audience easily, which includes you and me, who are also not food experts. They take it upon themselves to find affordably good eats all over the US while we watch from the comfort of our TV sets (or laptops, for some of us). The brothers start their gourmet US road trip in Los Angeles to sample some Asian food, lobster subs, and mad scientist-worthy ice cream. It’s clear that Los Angeles is truly a melting pot of some interesting cultural cuisine.
We start off at Black Hogg for some Pork Belly Tacos. Chef Eric, or the “Prince of Pork” as the Fung bros call him, takes us behind the scenes in the kitchen. He explains that pork belly wasn’t always the sought-after cut of meat it is now. It was once cheap and undervalued, but thanks to the recent culinary renaissance, it recently exploded on the food scene when people discovered its soft, tender texture. Chef Eric starts by creating the tangy apple slaw for the tacos, which includes fuji apples, cabbage, onions, olive oil and cilantro. The slaw helps cut through the fatty, buttery texture of the pork belly, making it the perfect topping to the taco. Next, he fries up pieces of pork belly on the grill, and apparently it smells so good Andrew claims it would make a great cologne (that only certain people can appreciate). The pieces are then placed on small corn tortillas in generous amounts and are topped with the apple slaw and a jalapeño relish (which can be ordered mild or spicy). Each plate comes with two taco and costs $12. Multiply that by two, and the bros end up only paying $24, leaving them $76 together to try out some Taiwanese noodles. But (vegetarians look away) while we’re still on the subject of pork…
The brothers mention a couple of other places in LA you can find some of the best kinds of it. Berlin Curry Wurst serves all-natural Bratwurst sausages with a large piece of fresh bread for only $5.89. At Belly & Snout, you can find Filipino fusion cuisine, like the Sisig Tater Tots ($8.25) which are — you guessed it — tater tots made not with potatoes but with the bellies and snouts of pigs.
Vegetarians can open their eyes now, cause an awesome noodle bowl awaits at Pine and Crane, a restaurant that serves traditional Taiwanese food with a modern twist. It has a “relaxed, communal atmosphere” and is known for keeping the food fresh and local. Chef Vivian cooks some amazing classic Taiwanese food with seasonal ingredients. The brothers try the Dan Dan Noodles ($7.50) at Vivian’s suggestion, and are far from disappointed. The hot noodles are doused in garlic sauce and hot chili oil and topped with chopped peanuts, cucumbers, and cilantro. The Fung bros, who are used to spicy Chinese noodles, are impressed with the balance this dish strikes, as the fresh veggies help cool the kick of the garlic and chili oil down. As the two bowls only ended up being $15, the brothers are still left with $61 to continue exploring LA cuisine.
They head to St. Gabriel Valley, an area that’s home to one of the largest Chinese-American populations in United States, and also home to some of the best and most authentic Chinese restaurants, like Hui Tou Xiang. David and Andrew order “soup noodles,” their favorite kind of comfort food (#FungFact: the first dumpling may have been created 225 AD in China). The Pork Hui To Soup Dumplings ($7.25) are small circular dumplings and are traditionally eaten with vinegar, not soy sauce. Andrew demonstrates how to eat this particular dumpling as he bites the top off, slurps up the soup inside, and devours the rest of it. Meanwhile, David shows us how not to eat the Xiao Long Bao ($6.95), a rectangular-shaped dumpling also full of soup. He explains that when you don’t have an “attack” or eating strategy ready, the experience will basically bum you out. He bites into the dumpling, as anyone eating a potsticker would, and ends up feeding his shirt instead (lesson learned). However, once eaten correctly, the dumplings prove to be amazing as usual and their meal ended up leaving them with an ample $46.80 to try some lobster sandwiches.
At Knuckle & Claw, founders Chloe and Nikki succeed in mixing their East and West coast upbringings together to bring us an amazing creation called the Knuckle Sandwich (a whopping $16). The price is justified, however, as Knuckle & Claw ensures only the finest ingredients and has their lobster flown in overnight from Maine — fresh, not frozen. The sandwich mainly consists of this uber-fresh lobster and black truffle cheese (picante pecorino cheese infused with black truffle paste to add a rich, earthy balance). The only other flavorings on the Knuckle Sandwich are butter and a super-secret seasoning that includes garlic. The taste is well worth the price, according to the Fung bros, as the high-quality cheese sharply contrasts the fresh lobster to create one heavenly sandwich. With only $14.80 left, the brothers go out for dessert in Little Tokyo.
Co-founder Tommy of the Dessert & Ice-Cream Lab shows us how they use liquid nitrogen at their ice cream parlor. What is the hype of liquid nitrogen, you say? Apparently, it’s amazing because it allows ice cream to be made-to-order and fresh. The flavor the brothers get to help make is the Beary Simple Horchata, which consists of a liquid base (made of milk, sugar and natural flavors), cinnamon and horchata (a sweet cinnamon-y Mexican rice drink). The ingredients are all mixed together, and then comes the crazy part: liquid nitrogen is added to freeze the ingredients all together and create ice cream, making the kitchen of the ice cream parlor look like a science lab. Liquid nitrogen is a completely safe and extremely cold liquid that lets the guys at the Dessert & Ice-Cream Lab freeze the ice cream “batter” instantly, resulting in barely-there ice crystals and a smoother taste than traditional ice cream. The ingredients are always top-notch and strive to be as real as possible. Case in point: the Blue Velvet flavor is made with actual blue velvet cupcakes! A medium bowl of ice cream costs $5.50, and for fresh liquid nitrogen ice cream, it’s not a bad deal (I’ve paid more for a small bowl of less-exciting frozen yogurt).
All in all, we’ve had one interesting experience of LA’s food scene. But dessert marks the end of David and Andrew’s gourmet exploration of LA, and they’re left with $3.80 between the two of them. We’ll be joining them next time in New Orleans, where they get to sample some traditional Creole dishes and some pretty crazy gourmet beignets.