Mango Season Is Upon Us

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Mango season is here and Keitt Mangos are sweet, juicy, silky and ready to be used in a myriad of ways.

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The challenges of peeling mangos are minimized when cut into slices or in half and then run over the edge of a glass.  We put our glass inside a bowl to catch any  juice that may run down the sides during the process.  The skin can be scraped over the lip numerous times to make sure we get every last morsel.

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We eat the slices straight, add them to salads and blend them into smoothies.

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We love Karoun Yogurt from Jon’s Market for its thick richness which makes super creamy smoothies and mango lassi.

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Our recipe calls for one large mango, 1 cup yogurt and 8 ice cubes blended until smooth.  The result is approximately 3 ice cold, large glasses of mildly sweet, tart refreshment. Many recipes call for sugar but we don’t find it necessary.  A little fresh squeezed lime and some cardamom are exciting additions although we usually drink it straight.

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For fiber free mangos and the best smoothies and lassi, we strongly recommend Keitt mangos which are ripe and ready to go when they are soft, with a little give and very fragrant.

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To order Melissa’s Green Keitt Mangoes, go to http://www.melissas.com/Keitt-Mango-p/713.htm and use the coupon code KEITT15 to take 15% off Melissa’s Green Keitt Mangoes only. Coupon Expires Sept 18th 2016.

New Afghani in Beverly Hills

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A sweet little patio at the back of a small parking lot in Beverly Hills, is home to the brand new Afghani Kebab House. The menu features fragrant rice dishes, grilled kebabs, meat filled dumplings and a variety of fruit and vegetables entrees suitable for vegetarians. The food of Afghanistan is reminiscent of neighboring Iran’s Persian dishes, and a mild interpretation of the cuisines of Pakistan and India. The restaurant’s small kitchen cranks out homestyle flavors while catering to customers with warm and welcoming hospitality the region is known for.

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Carved wooden bowls filled with potato and garbanzo salad in a cilantro chutney, start guests off with a hint of flavors to come.  Warm, airy Afghani flat bread is the traditional eating utensil, although the table is also set with fork and knife. The chewy, straight from the oven bread is addictive and we went through three baskets over the course of dinner.

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Always looking to incorporate healthy options into our diet, we started with the uber sweet Borani Kadoo, butternut squash, covered in ribbons of in-house made yogurt and a sprinkling of dried mint. This melt in your mouth appetizer is both soothing and gratifying.

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The eggplant appetizer, called Borani Badenjan, is sautéed with fresh tomatoes, garlic and peppers before being drizzled with homemade yogurt.

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The easy to devour mantu are dumplings stuffed with seasoned ground beef and sautéed onions, topped with yogurt, tomatoes, peas and herbs. These little beauties pair exceptionally well with the vibrant green sauce served along side.

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Chicken Kabob skewers are tender boneless chicken breast marinated in their secret mix of ingredients before being charbroiled into plump, juicy chunks.

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For lamb lovers, the Quabili Pallow consists of a hefty mound of richly seasoned basmati rice, raisins and julienned carrots a top tender lamb shank, a specialty of the house. Dishes are large enough to share, which to us means more plates to sample.

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Do not miss the warm walnut and pistachio baklava, whose  sweet and savory balance, coupled with the slight crunch through layers of filo, makes this one of our favorite hidden LA desserts.

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Only three weeks old and already Afghani Kabob House has everything running smoothly, from the friendly service to the well prepared cuisine. We are looking forward to many warm summer nights of affordable meals on their airy patio.

Afghani Kabob House
8560 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Phone – 310-854-1020

Homestyle Azerbaijani Cuisine Has Arrived

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New cuisines light us up, so when Feride Buyuran and Melissa’s Produce teamed up to host a tasting celebrating her new cookbook, Pomegranates & Saffron, A Culinary Journey to Azerbaijan, we jumped at the opportunity. Azerbaijan is surrounded by Iran, Armenia, Turkey, Georgia and Russia, and we found nods to all the neighboring countries in the beautifully prepared dishes.

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Feride’s award winning cookbook features a very accessible cooking style that celebrates Eastern European, Russian and Middle Eastern flavors. Ingredients and spices from the region are presented with a special flare we attribute to Ms. Buyuran’s culinary skills in her adaptation of recipes culled from family and friends.

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Dishes such as tender Meatballs in Sweet and Sour Tomato Sauce (page 71), have pristinely balanced flavors that make them comfort food well suited for a main course as well as a substantial party appetizer guaranteed to keep guests happy from a warming tray perch.

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Ganja-Style Chicken with Eggs (page 98), gives credit to Azerbaijani’s second largest city where this satisfying dish originated. The tender dark meat chicken and egg casserole is ideal for breakfast, brunch, lunch or a new spin on dinner.

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For a serious sampling of the Mediterranean table, the Vegetable Kabab Salad (page 42) is both refreshing and healthy.

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We were also impressed with the abundance of dill that spikes Feride’s perfectly cooked basmati rice, reminding us of the famous, aromatic Persian rice dishes celebrated internationally.

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The final treat that won our hearts and palates was the layer upon layer of pastry dough, not filo, that is the secret to the scrumptious Azerbaijani walnut baklava.  A mild sweetness and loads of crushed nut meats packed between layers of melt in your mouth pastry, is a labor intensive endeavor that is worth every minute put into it.

For those looking for something unique that is easy on the eyes, nose and palate, we strongly recommend purchasing Pomegranates & Saffron, at least until Feride opens her first restaurant.

The Power Of The Pomegranate

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Street vendors all over Istanbul soothe parched pedestrians with freshly squeezed orange and pomegranate juice. The orange is delightful, but it’s the red, juicy, ancient (dating back to 4000 BC) nar (Turkish for pomegranate) nectar that has us dropping Turkish lire all over the city.

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We are told that autum is prime season for the power packed fruit, but we have found the most vibrant, ruby red seeds are still exploding with the sweetest juice in early March.  Even the sweet, slightly tart cups we encounter have us singing the praises of this enchantress.

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It takes just moments for our juice barista to halve and squeeze two or three globes, place them in the sturdy manual juicer and extract the liquid ambrosia.

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Small servings set us back about .50 cents with larger cups ranging from a dollar to two depending on size and vendor location. At this price we indulge daily, taking advantage of the benefits of this Turkish delight.

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Celebrated for its high antioxidant content and inflammation reducing properties, we find it one of the most restorative beverages we’ve encountered. Ordering large glasses after long days exploring the vast treasures of Istanbul we feel instantly revitalized and up for more adventures.

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Fresh pomegranite kiosks and stands are located throughout Istanbul.  Every pedestrian and tourist area we have explored offers abundant opportunities to experience these glasses of pure refreshment. Don’t miss this charming tradition.

 

Healthy Fast Food Wins Us Over Everytime

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We have become completely aligned with the new fast food model, embracing the ease, abundant variety, freshness and speed through which our meal is assembled. PokiNometry falls squarely into this genre, with a thin sliver of a space at Hollywood and Highland that we saunter through before receiving our self-designed poke bowl.

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The third floor of the entertainment center houses the outdoor food court called The Deck, and those tables or booths provide customers of PokiNometry a space to chow down. Bad weather means we have to pack food to go, fortunately LA has mostly sunny, mild days.

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The protocol is simple. First chose your bowl size and your base. We opted for a large bowl with half and half, brown rice and deep greens.

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Then come the add ons which are unlimited and included in the price, except for the faux crab meat and avocado which after the first scoop are $1.50 for each additional helping.

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We found the scoops included to be just the right amount, but we can’t slight anyone for wanting more avocado.

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Next we chose our fish. The large bowl incorporates 5 scoops of any combination of seafood desired.

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After asking about the freshest available that day, we opted for tuna, albacore, yellow tail and two scoops of mashed tuna. The cooked shrimp adds a different consistency so we kept the bowl strictly raw to retain a uniformity of texture.

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At Station 4 we got to choose our sauces and since we like it hot we let them know.

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Sauces can be added directly to the bowl or served in to go cups for those wanting to add as they consume. We requested the spicy, original Nometry sauce and a couple of cups of spicy mayo and miso just in case.

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The last decisions to be made are about the toppings, again unlimited. We went heavy on the green onion and ginger plus requested extra cups of pickled ginger because we adore the flavor.

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Our alluring bowl was delivered to us exactly how we like it, quickly, efficiently and by a staff that couldn’t have been nicer.

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Drinks and miso soup are also on the menu for an additional charge.

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We found the bowls to be vibrant and enjoyable, with the large containing too much for one lunch, and they happily packed up the left overs to go. Validation at the visitor center kept parking at $2.00 for two hours, giving us a chance to browse a bit after lunch. When in Hollywood looking for a quick, easy and healthy meal, PokiNometry fits the bill swimmingly.

PokiNometry,
6801 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 316, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Phone – 323-645-7730           web site –PokiNometry.com

Vietnamese Market Opens In The San Gabriel Valley

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Hoa Binh Vietnamese Supermarket, located in Garden Grove, opened a new branch in Rosemead late 2014, bringing a new voice to the Asian markets in the San Gabriel Valley.

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Hard to find items such as sugarcane, fresh rambutan and mangosteen are conveniently available in season.

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Soy bean products, from fresh soy milk to tofu, are on display near the back of the vegetable aisles.

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We were extremely impressed with the fresh and live seafood department which currently carries live tilapia at $4.99 a pound and live catfish at $4.70 a pound.

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Free deep fry service is available and includes cleaning, removal of head and tail, cutting into steaks, if desired, and frying, either regular or extra crispy.

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Fresh seafood on ice shines with bright eyes and shimmery scales.

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The seafood staff spends most of their time preparing fish for customers.

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A pristine meat department is well organized and offers cuts at exceptionally reasonable prices.

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Everything needed for Vietnamese cooking is on hand, from rice paper wrappers to utensils especially designed to make Asian cooking a snap.

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We found lobster and crab crackers and picks, an item that is surprisingly missing from most markets.

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A sale area at the far end of the store offers Vietnamese and other Asian imports at a significant discount, making Hoa Binh one of our new favorite markets.

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Hoa Binh Super Market, 2750 North San Gabriel Boulevard, Rosemead, CA 91770

Inexpensive Sushi Stop

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As sushi fans we are always looking for good sushi at affordable prices. We have been long time customers of Sushi Stop from back in the day when they had only one tiny outlet on Sawtelle.

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They now have six, four of them on Sawtelle, one in Hollywood and another in Pasadena. We attribute their success to quality seafood and a $2.95 price point for most rolls.

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A rich miso soup, at $1.60 a bowl, does not skimp on the miso. It’s a soothing, warm, velvety, healthy broth dotted with scallions, seaweed and a few tofu squares.

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While the crunchy seaweed salad pops with the delightful essence of the ocean.

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Besides the menu, there are specials listed on the wall with slightly higher prices.

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A pen and order form list the offerings and we simply place check marks or the number of orders we want next to chosen dishes.

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The seared peppered tuna is super fresh and meaty, seared at the very edge only.  We roll them up, capturing the onion and sesame seeds, then consume the little ponzu marinated packages.

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Specialty rolls also come in at $2.95 per plate and we definitely have our favorites.

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The dynamite roll conceals a California roll under baby scallops in a rich sauce  quickly broiled and presented still bubbling. The hot, creamy topping is a memorable contrast to the cool inside out crab and avocado roll underneath.

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A shrimp tempura roll pairs crisp, batter encased shrimp with cucumber and avocado, then drizzles everything in sweet eel sauce.

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Under the appetizer section are spicy albacore tartare, fried wonton skins with spicy tuna, avocado, onion slivers, sesame seeds and a serious splattering of spicy Sriracha mayo for one crunchy, smooth, spicy bite.

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The Las Vegas roll is artistically playful, with eel and cucumber beneath spicy tuna and architecturally stunning fried lotus root wheels, smeared with eel sauce.  Another attractive and flavor packed combination.

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Desserts also fall under the $2.95 price point making them a no brainer.

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Being near UCLA, there is usually a wait at peak meal times, but we were seated immediately at 5 PM on Saturday night. Be aware that it is a cash only establishment, but with these prices the bill is usually manageable, plus there is an ATM on the premises. For affordable sushi in a lively environment, Sushi Stop is a great choice that we frequent when the mood strikes.

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SushiStop, 2222 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90064
Phone – 310-479-1222           web site – sushistopusa.com

or

SushiStop, 2053 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Phone – 310-473-3999

or

SushiStop Izakaya, 2218 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90064
Phone – 310-479-1001

or

New Japan by SushiStop, 11283 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Phone – 310-477-0557

or

SushiStop, 5917 Franklin Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Phone – 323-468-2496

or

SushiStop, 58 East Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91101
Phone – 626-405-1518

Diving Deep Into The Vegan Pool

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We strongly recommend finding experts to guide the way when exploring new cuisines. We took our own advice and enlisted the expertise of Zel and Reuben Allen, the masterminds behind Vegetarians in Paradise.

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They eased the way through the menu at the new Vegetarian and Vegan restaurant, Vegetable, in Studio City.

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We were first struck by the official stamp proclaiming all organic produce, with a seasonal and local standard to boot. We jumped right in and were oh so pleasantly surprised by the intensely flavored meal that was delivered one small plate at a time.

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Floored is the best way to describe our reaction to the savory, salty, sweet, spicy mix of flavors and textures incorporated into the butternut squash toast. Roasted garlic and butternut squash “butter” top grilled sourdough. And if that isn’t exciting enough, baby tomato, fried leek, crushed red chili pepper, flake sea salt, fresh oregano and a balsamic reduction sent us into states of ecstasy some of us did not know vegan food could conjure.

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Moving deeper down the rabbit hole, a crisp edged saffron infused savory corn cake turned out to be a beautiful assemblage atop spicy chickpea sweet onion stew and a salty garlic lacinato kale. A kiwi and serrano pepper pico de gallo adds a bit of heat as does the smokey Sriracha aioli. While the drizzling of balsamic reduction incorporates just the right amount of sweet tang to the mix.

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The meaty sautéed baby portobello mushrooms in a balsamic vinegar with sweet onion and chives are beyond addicting and we could make an entire meal of these with a loaf of grainy bread.

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For comfort food, not much beats mac and cheese, which at Vegetable is made with Andean Dream gluten-free quinoa pasta shells, savory garlic cashew cheese sauce, baby tomatoes, and a garlic walnut crumble topping.  All we know is that it’s rich, creamy and satisfying. No cheese?  Really?

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We finished off with a crisp edged, gluten free blondie loaded with shredded coconut and a vegan peanut butter ice cream that simply must be tried to be believed. No dairy?  Tasted like the real deal to us.

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Thank you Zel and Reuben for the palate and mind-blowing introduction to Vegetable and the delights of a vegan diet. We’re on board with team vegan and are excited to make vegan and vegetarian cuisine a part of our health diet.

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Vegetable, 3711 Cahuenga Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604
Phone – 818-754-1149         web site – vegetablela.com

Impressive Asian Cuisine In West LA

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We returned to Asian Fusion to delve deeper into their Asian cuisine mix.  The Vietnamese owners have a way with not only Vietnamese food but also Chinese, Korean and Thai, no small feat.

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The dining room is pleasant with steaming soup bowls carved into the seat backs.

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The menu expresses the diversity available and we were beyond pleasantly surprised by the proficiency they have with all of it.

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We began with the Japanese favorite edamame, these lightly salted soy beans were tender and warm, getting us off to a great start.

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We couldn’t resist the hybrid cheese wonton appetizer of fried wonton wrappers stuffed with a dollop of herb infused cream cheese. Crispy skins erupt with creamy flavor that can be dipped in the sweet and sour sauce served alongside.

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The flakey egg rolls come 2 or 4 to an order depending on what is requested.

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Tender poultry mixed with greens fill the chicken dumplings that come with a ginger packed sweet chili sauce enhancing the mild crescents.

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We love their banh mi and again had to heed the call of soft French baguettes cradling grilled meats with pickled and fresh herbs and vegetables.

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The caramelized marinade is singed onto the edges of super tender chicken for a flavor pop that along with tangy radish and carrots, fresh cilantro and hit of jalapeño, meld in perfect unison inside freshly baked bread.

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The pork version is also warm, moist, juicy savory goodness against the cool vegetable toppings.

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The extensive menu covers 125 Asian dishes in all, plus sides and drinks.

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Pan fried noodles are crisped brown under a riot of sautéed vegetables and protein of customers choosing.

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While beef udon are extra thick, well cooked al dente soft noodles that can be served with succulent slices of beef and a flavor-filled array of onion and peppers.

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Large portions and lunch specials make Asian Fusion an affordable and honestly one of the best Asian/Chinese/Vietnamese restaurants we have on the westside of Los Angeles.  We will be visiting his hidden treasure often for a delightful taste of some of the most well loved Asian cuisines available in Los Angeles.

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Asian Fusion, 1710 South Robertson Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90035
Phone – 424-298-8247          web site – asianfusionla.com

Middle Eastern Market Extraordinaire

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Duarte is home to one of the most comprehensive Middle Eastern markets we have encountered.  The clean, bright, expansive space satisfies all our needs.

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Colorful produce and an abundance of herbs grace the stands.

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Armenian, Persian and other cultures of the region rely heavily on fresh radish, onion, scallion, mint and other greens which are an integral part of meals.

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Traditional and exotic fruits are also on display.

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Reasonable prices and a wide variety of hard to find beans and grains make this a must stop shop for ingredients essential to the Mediterranean diet.

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The dairy section is loaded with wonderful creamy offerings such a shallot yogurt dip, mascarpone and a multitude of yogurt and cheese products.

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Hibiscus flower, a challenging item to locate, is found along an entire wall devoted to dried herbs and spices.

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Appetizers from stuffed olives to sausage fill a refrigerated deli display.

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Nuts and seeds are piled high, a must at every Middle Eastern party and an integral part of the dining experience.

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We were intrigued by the colorful packaging and beautiful script.

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One entire wall is dedicated to their service deli.

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Smoked fish, deli meats and cheese are just the tip of the iceberg here.

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A butcher section makes life easy with seasoned meats and chicken for forming onto skewers when making kabob.

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We took home one of their famous basturma sandwiches and it re-toasted beautifully. The mild cheese poured out and had to be scooped back onto the thin slices of cured meat heavy laden with spice and garlic. Green pepper and tomato brought everything together in  heavenly unison on a crisp crusted, chewy, middle eastern flat bread.

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On top of the deli counter we found labneh in oil.  We chose the za’ atar spiked one which incorporates thyme and other dried spices into the thick yogurt balls. Spreading easily on crackers for a tart and exciting snack or incorporated into a sandwich, melted into an omelet, we love brainstorming all the options for this exciting yogurt product.

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At the check out counter we found cheese or spinach stuffed pastries called panos that remind us of Turkish borek.

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We have to say that Tropicana Market was one of our most pleasant, diverse and delicious Middle Eastern shopping experiences and that we recommend it to everyone we know and love for a journey deep into the savory and sweet secrets of Middle Eastern cooking and culture.

Tropicana Market, 1406 East Huntington Drive, Duarte, CA 91010
Phone – 626-357-4580        websitetropicanamarket.com