Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Exciting, Weekly Mexican Street Food Fair! (a.k.a., The Mouth-Watering Beef, Pork, Chicken and Goat of Breed Street!)

*** Update: The Breed Street vendors have been partially scattered (they now are along nearby streets, a few blocks from their original locations). The most current info on how to find them are via: http://twitter.com/breedstscene

Thanks to an excellent tip from streetgourmetla, I had the pleasure of one of the funnest culinary journeys I've had in a while, exploring the lovely street food of Breed Street. When streetgourmetla first mentioned Breed Street to me, I had visions of the Night Market and various Lu Bian Tan in Taipei that a Taiwanese Guide had shown me on a trip through Asia a few years ago. In Taipei there were vendors on the streets, setting up little carts and stands with various food and drink, and most of it was absolutely delicious! :)

I wasn't sure what to expect as I arrived on the corner of Cesar E Chavez Avenue and Breed Street, but what ensued was a wonderful evening exploring the street food of Mexico and beyond.


We parked in the Bank of America parking lot (right on the corner of Cesar Chavez and Breed Street), and as we stepped out, I could smell delicious aromas wafting into the air. There were small street vendors set up all along the block and off we went! (^_^)

Starting from the corner of Cesar Chavez and Breed Street and heading north, pretty much all the vendors and booths were set up along the east side of the street with one exception (the Birria Truck, more on this later). The first vendor was selling freshly-made Champurrado (Mexican "Hot Chocolate" made with masa harina, warm milk amongst other things), Tamales and freshly fried Platanos (Plantains). I didn't know what else was up ahead, so I held off on the Champurrado and Platanos (the Plantains looked absolutely delicious, as the lady had a bundle of fresh Plantains behind her and as people ordered them, she would peel one open and start sauteeing it in the open pan, on the spot).

We ordered one Tamal de Puerco Rojo (Steamed Corn Dough with Pork in Red Sauce) to sample. It arrived wrapped in Banana Leaf, and I eagerly took a bite: The Masa (Cornmeal Dough) was nice and moist, but the Puerco Rojo was disappointly (and surprisingly) dry. I figured it would've been a fattier cut of Pork, but when eaten with the rest of the Tamale, it was decent. And at $2.25 I wasn't complaining. (^_~) Next time, I'll try their Tamal de Pollo (Chicken Tamale) instead, in the hopes they use dark meat Chicken.

Rating: 6.0 (out of 10.0)



The second vendor heading north was selling fresh-made Pupusas, a really thick corn "tortilla" that's stuffed with your choice of filling. This popular Salvadorean creation is one of my favorites whenever I can find it, and I was happy to see a vendor selling them.


They offer a variety of Pupusas, from Queso (Cheese) to Frijoles Refrito (Refried Beans) and the one I ordered: Pupusa Revuelta (stuffed with Queso (Cheese), Frijoles (Beans) and Chicharron (Pork Rind)). You can request it to be topped with two types of sauces, one of them a spicy salsa-type sauce, and then a mild Tomato-based sauce that I requested. They also served it with the commonly found Curtido (Spicy Cabbage "Salad").


The Pupusa was cooked just right, with a fragrant crisp exterior. I appreciated the fact that this was a good thickness without burying the stuffing. The combination of the Queso, Frijoles and Chicharron were spot on, with a satisfying, heartiness to each bite, as bits of Pork Rind and the Tomato-based sauce blended nicely with the crunchiness of the Curtido. It may not be as good as Pupuseria San Sivar, but for a street vendor, at $1.50 per freshly-made Pupusa, this is wonderful.

Rating: 7.9 (out of 10.0)


The next cart was selling Tacos Al Vapor (Tacos with Steamed Meat). It was awesome watching this gentleman whipping open a small corner of the cart to get at the various sectioned-off meats as the orders were coming in. He was offering a variety of traditional meats from Carne Asada (Marinated (usually roasted) Beef), Cabeza (Cow's Head), Lengua (Beef Tongue), Carnitas (Pork), and Al Pastor (Marinated Pork).



I placed an order for 3 types of meats and awaited these Tacos Al Vapor. :) They arrived quickly, and they offered a variety of condiments on the side, from fresh diced Onions, to Cilantro and 2 types of Salsa, as well as Radish and Lime. The Carnitas Taco (Steamed Pork Taco) was slightly burnt in flavor (surprising), and was a bit too dry for my tastes. However, the Lengua Taco (Beef Tongue Taco) was delicious, soft and tender, with a good beefy flavor in every bite. The Al Pastor Taco was surprisingly good for being steamed, with a good complexity of spices. Not the best Al Pastor at all, but tasty! And at $1 per Taco, this was great! :)

Rating: 7.0 (out of 10.0)



Right next to the Tacos Al Vapor vendor was a cart selling Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dogs (with grilled Onions and Bell Peppers). This was from Nina's (a vendor streetgourmetla recommended), and it was from this cart that I found out about the other half of Breed Street (more on this later).


Continuing north, the next vendor was selling freshly-cooked Tripas (Small Intestines), Chorizo (Spicy Pork Sausage) and Carne Asada (Marinated Beef). The kind, older lady had two giant sautee pans cooking all three meats with her homemade recipe. And it smelled *absolutely* delicious! I couldn't wait and we quickly placed an order.




Our order of Tripas Taco (Grilled Small Intestine), Carne Asada Taco (Marinated Beef Skirt Steak), and Chorizo Taco (Spicy Pork Sausage) arrived just as her first batch in the two sautee pans were deemed ready by the vigilant cook.


Taking a bite, the Tripas was fantastic! Probably the best Tripas I've had yet: It was nice and soft, tender and buttery and velvety! Some people may prefer their Tripas crispy, but this abuela's version was great.


The Carne Asada (Marinated Beef Skirt Steak) that she cooked up had such a beautiful aroma before I even tasted it. And after one bite, I could tell that this was another special dish: Fragrant, extremely savory (without being salty), with notes of Cumin, Oregano, Paprika, Garlic, the tang of Vinegar amongst other spices. Normally pretty straightforward, this Carne Asada was so much better than the usual taqueria or taco truck offering. In addition, she cooked it just right, with a nice tenderness to the Beef! (^_^)


The final offering from this amazing stand was even better than the first two and was the best of the three: The Chorizo (Spicy Pork Sausage) was beautifully spicy, with an initial heat that continued to burn throughout each bite, but not in an overpowering way. It was made up of a chunkier Pork, different from the more commonly found thinner, more finely-minced version. Like the Asada (she cooked both of them in the same pan), the sauce that she cooked them in only added more depth of flavor with the fragrant Garlic, Paprika, Oregano, etc. This was the best Chorizo Taco I've had in L.A. so far. And the fact that it cost only $1 to sample each of the homemade, fresh-cooked meats is even more amazing. :)

Rating: 8.8 (out of 10.0)


Right behind the previous vendor, was a taco truck, Antojitos Carmen, which sold a variety of different items. I was more interested in trying some of the basics before exploring their other offerings, so I ordered their Al Pastor and Lengua.




Unfortunately, out of all the vendors tonight, this taco truck was the worst: Antojitos Carmen's Al Pastor Taco (Marinated Pork) was cold (not lukewarm, just ice cold). It was disconcerting; but besides that, it lacked the depth of flavor from a great Al Pastor from the Trompo (Metal Spit-Grilled version). In addition the Lengua Taco (Beef Tongue) was also sadly, cold with the outer portion of it just barely warmed, as if it was refrigerated and thrown on the grill for not enough time. It was also dried out. At $1 per taco, it's not a big loss but I'll be skipping this vendor next time.

Rating: 3.0 (out of 10.0)




At this point, it was time to try the only other taco truck in this outdoor "block party": Birrieria El Gordo. It was also the only food vendor set up across the street (on the west side of Breed Street North), but still very convenient. With the name like "Birrieria" I was hoping this would be a vendor specializing in Birria de Chivo (Goat)...


And when we got closer, sure enough, the logo answered my wishes! :)


Birrieria El Gordo specializes in only 1 type of meat: Chivo (Goat). They only serve "100% Chivo" as they proudly state on their business card. I placed our order and soon the Tacos de Birria (Chivo) (Goat Stew Tacos) arrived ($1.50 each).


I've been lucky enough to find some great Chivo dishes around town recently (e.g., Monte Alban's Chivo Taco), and Birrieria El Gordo did not disappoint: A wonderful, deep Goat flavor, meaty, but very tender, with a lingering spice that recalled multiple types of peppers. It's different in style and taste than Monte Alban's or La Morenita's, but it was very good, nonetheless. :)

Rating: 8.0 (out of 10.0)


The last vendor I visited on Breed Street North was right next to the first taco truck, Antojitos Carmen: A pair of affable women selling homemade Tamales and Aguas Frescas (literally "Fresh Waters," usually a variety of fresh fruit and vegetable juices).


Their Tamal de Pollo (Chicken Tamale) arrived in a corn husk, and revealed a nicely-cooked Masa interior with tender chunks of Chicken and a spicy Green Salsa. It was good and nicely made, but nothing earth-shattering. But at $1 per Tamale, for the quality it was just fine. :)



It was quite chilly in Southern California this weekend, and while perusing their Aguas Frescas (they had the ubiquitous Horchata (Sweet Rice Drink), Naranja (Fresh Orange Juice), amongst a few other choices), a chatty woman sipping on a drink enthusiastically recommended to me their Atole de Guayaba. I had never had an Atole before, and the vendor happily poured me a sample.

An uncontrolled smile came over me. I quickly placed our order.

Their Atole de Guayaba (Hot Masa Drink with Guava) was *the* perfect remedy for this chilly evening: Made with Masa (Cornmeal), Milk, Cinnamon and *fresh* Guava, this may sound overhyped, but this was truly nectar from the gods! The thick, hot Masa and Milk, the notes of Cinnamon, and pulp and depth of wonderfully fresh Guava fruit was truly soul-warming. I would easily take this fresh, homemade Atole de Guayaba over any other beverage I've ever consumed, save Water. (^_~) And to think that this cost only $1 as well, is absurd; even if it was 500% of this price, I would've found it fair. Simply Outstanding! (^_^)

Rating: (Atole drink only) 9.5 (out of 10.0)


So, as previously mentioned, I remembered streetgourmetla's recommendation to try Nina's, a vendor who supposedly made a pretty mean Huarache (a sandal-shaped piece of fried Masa with your choice of toppings). Luckily I saw a woman setting up the Hot Dog cart wearing a Nina's T-Shirt, so I asked her about Nina's. She said that Nina's moved to the south side of Breed Street, only "2 blocks south" of where we were. Thanks to that tip, I found out about the *other half* of this amazing Breed Street food fair. :)

We ended up driving the two blocks south, and sure enough, on the corner of Breed Street and 1st Street, we found Nina's, but not only that, but a few more vendors also! While "Breed Street North" had more vendors, Breed Street South had some great surprises as well!


Breed Street South is contained in a single block on the corner of Breed & 1st Street. I'll try to describe each vendor in geographical order, starting from the west-most vendor. The 1st vendor we tried at Breed Street South was a street cart with an Al Pastor Trompo! (Marinated Pork on a Metal Spit, grilled like a Shawarma.) This is my favorite way to have Al Pastor and most places that serve it don't have access to the Trompo.



Al Pastor is my favorite type of meat for a Taco (besides Chivo :), so I anxiously awaited the order. This was the best $1.25 I've spent for an Al Pastor Taco since El Pique. (^_~) Lightly vinegary, a nice mixture of multiple chiles (a bit of Ancho Chile as well), with a touch of sweetness, this was a *great* Al Pastor, from the Metal Spit! :)

Rating: 8.4 (out of 10.0)


The second vendor next to the Trompo cart was an ever-smiling, kind-hearted woman standing in front of 2 giant Soup Pots. I saw a line of people waiting for this, so I quickly got in line to see what the excitement was about. She was selling fresh, homemade Pozole (Hominy Soup), in two types: Pozole Blanco (Clear, Mild Pozole Soup), and Pozole Rojo (Spicy Pozole Soup).


I asked about both versions, and she and her daughter(?) quickly let me sample both soups. Amazing! We ordered a combination of both the Pozole Rojo and Pozole Blanco. As we ordered, she would tear up some fresh-cooked Puerco (Pork Shoulder) and put it into our Soup Order.



As you can see here, this is what she had left (it was full when she started at 7 p.m.) and it was only about 1.5 hours later!



Back to the Pozole. One *gigantic* serving of their Pozole Soup with fresh Pork Shoulder was $6, a fair price for a soup that was piping hot, and *so* clean and fragrant, and *so* pure in its intent, that I could drink this soup for a month straight and not be tired of it. With the complementary fresh Cabbage, dried Oregano, some Radish, Onions and a squeeze of Lime this was the best Pozole I've ever had (not kidding). There were families lined up for this Pozole, and I witnessed one mother bringing her own Soup Pot from home, and asking them to fill it up so she could take it back home. Beautiful!

Rating: 8.7 (out of 10.0)


Next up, I finally found Nina's! This was a favorite for streetgourmetla, so I was excited to try it! :) They offered a variety of toppings, and when I forgot what "Tinga" was, one mother and child sitting down and eating next to Nina's stand shouted out the answer. :) It was this kind of joviality that made the evening that much more fun for me. (^_^)


After placing the order, I watched as Nina's cook was furiously making everyone's order. It was fun to watch, and smelling each dish cooking was wonderful.


After a few minutes, our order was ready: Huarache Flor de Calabaza (Squash Blossom atop Fried Masa). They topped it with fresh Lettuce and Cotija Cheese. I had them hold off on the Mexican Sour Cream as we were getting beyond full at this point. :) This Huarache was different from the excellent version I had at El Huarache Azteca, it was even better! While Nina's didn't have the amazing Adobada topping that El Huarache Azteca has, their fresh-made Huarache was crispy, light, and they gave ample amounts of Flor de Calabaza (Squash Blossoms). The freshness of the Lettuce and fragrant Cotija Cheese capped off an excellent dish! ($2.50 per Huarache.)

Rating: 8.1 (out of 10.0)


Finally, on the East-most end was another vendor selling Tacos Al Vapor, but this one only specialized in Cabeza (Cow's Head) and Lengua (Beef Tongue), at $1.25 per Taco. I placed an order for a Lengua Taco to compare it to the other versions.


The Lengua was moist but was pretty bland, lacking any seasoning or spice. Most Lenguas I've tried have been straightforward also, but this one literally tasted like it was just steamed without any salt or any other seasoning. It wasn't bad, but nothing special.

Rating: 6.0 (out of 10.0)


Breed Street at Cesar Chavez Avenue and 1st Street is as much a celebration of down-to-earth Street Food as it is a big cultural get-together with family and friends. As I was sitting / walking around this wonderful celebration, I saw families bringing their kids and having them run around the parking lot and sidewalks playing tag and various other games. Men and women were gathered around and chatting away as they partook of the freshly-made food and drink. I was happy just soaking in the atmosphere and experiencing so many dishes made right on the street, but then factoring in eating the best Huarache I've ever had, one of the best Al Pastor Tacos I've ever had, and the legendary Atole de Guayaba drink, I'm thankful that this Breed Street "Food Fair" is available to us every weekend, throughout the year. (^_^)

Breed Street North "Food Fair"
Corner of North Breed Street and East Cesar E Chavez Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90033
(Google Map Link)

Breed Street South "Food Fair"
Corner of North Breed Street and East 1st Street
Los Angeles, CA 90033
(Google Map Link)

* CASH ONLY *

Hours: (There are a few vendors that stated that they were there on a Monday as well, but for the sake of simplicity, all the vendors are there on these days - )
Friday, Saturday, Sunday, 7:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m.
(The Birrieria El Gordo taco truck is there 7 days a week)

28 comments:

Eileen said...

What a feast! I HAVE TO go down there and try the pupusa, tripa, lengua, chivo.... I actually took notes from your post. haha.... which vendor and what to get. So much food. I don't think I can eat everything I want in 1 trip. Great price, too! Thank you so much for this post. I know where I am going next Saturday night. ^^

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Eileen,

Thanks! :) I hope you enjoy your visit, and definitely try out the Atole drink if you go. :)

Food, she thought. said...

While I am still full from all the tacos I have eaten in the last week, your post still makes me want more. That looks like the perfect thing to do on a fall evening. I feel myself heading in that direction sometime soon.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Food, she thought,

If you end up going, let me know your thoughts on the experience. Hope you have fun. :)

Layne said...

This is really a stellar piece of investigation. Beautifully done. I hope it will get folks over to great part of town that's well worth exploring. Many Thanks!

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Layne,

Thank so much. :) I owe it all to streetgourmetla. I was blown away by Breed Street and can't wait to go back again soon. :)

Charlie Fu said...

*drool*

teenage glutster said...

wow, nice full review.

you will definitely love the rare breed Memela from that one truck.

let me know how it turns out.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Teenage glutster,

Thanks! :) I can't wait to try that out next time. Stay tuned. :)

g said...

Wow, what an amazing post. I have to go there!

Tell me about the chicharrons in the pupusa - are they crunchy, like we eat fried bacon, or are they soft?

The atole sounds marvelous.

I think I would have gone back for the plantains - I love them.

The red posole sounds amazing, and I really want to try the huarache with flor de calabaza.

Such temptations!! What a great adventure.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi g,

Thanks. :) The Chicharron was soft. I preferred the Pupusas I had in Pupuseria San Sivar in Costa Mesa, but this was fun getting some right on the street (and it'd been a while since I last had Pupusas). :)

If you end up going, I'd love to hear about your visit as well. :)

Bigmouth said...

Another mouth-watering report! You are fast becoming one of my favorite food bloggers. Keep up the good work!

a&w

Exile Kiss said...

Hi a&w,

Thanks so much for your kind words! :)

Secret Asian Man said...

Exile Kiss,

I've really loved your writing on Chowhound. This one takes the cake. What a great adventure! It was so motivating that we went down tonight, only to find that the fair is not on Fridays (at least this Friday!). We'll keep trying!

Thanks much in any case.

Secret Asian Man
www.TheDigestiveTract.com

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Secret Asian Man,

Thanks. (^_^; Regarding Friday, what?? That is surprising. Let me think...

Tomorrow (Sat) is the 1st Annual East L.A. Dia De Los Muertos Festival. Perhaps many of the vendors decided to take the night off in honor of the big day tomorrow?

Very strange (all the vendors I spoke with said they were there at least Friday, Saturday and Sunday for sure). Give them another try sometime, you won't regret it. :)

Secret Asian Man said...

Ah. That could be it. Of course, we'll keep trying! ^_^

It would be fun to compile a list of experiences like these.

edjusted said...

So this goes on *every* weekend? Awesome!! Thanks for the detailed report! I'm with you on the lu bian tans in Taiwan, and this looks fantastic too!

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Edjusted,

Yes, this is generally every weekend (although SAM said this past Friday it wasn't there, but I think it's because of the holiday / Dia De Los Muertos event going on that weekend).

Enjoy~ :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this exilekiss.

I am from NY, was visiting LA over the weekend and stopped by the food fair on Saturday night. Got a container of the pozole rojo....was excellent. Just ordered a asada taco from another vendor when the police showed up and everyone started dispersing, this was around 8:45. Everyone just started packing up and leaving. Perhaps this food fair will not be around much longer.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Anon,

Thanks for the update. That's unfortunate, but what's weird is that when I went, there was a Police car that drove through Breed Street and even waved at some of the vendors (no issues at all; no one flinched). They just waved and drove on.

I heard that there was an issue with some complaints (maybe too much noise?) and the vendors closed one weekend a few months ago. I'm hopeful it's just a random event once in a while (like neighbors complaining about music being too loud) and that they're back soon.

Thanks.

Exile Kiss said...

UPDATE: Just a quick update for those that are following the comments section - I just got a report back (via e-mail) that the little hiccup mentioned by Anon was only that night. Another visitor went Sunday and everyone was back making their delicious food! :) /joy

Anonymous said...

BEST food from The cesar Chavez and breed street vending has to be a sope de anything from Nina's. You have to get the works and have the spiciest salsa that makes you sweat for hours. BTW the vendors that were on 1st and Breed have moved back to their original spot on Cesar Chavez and Breed.

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Anon,

Thanks. Yes, I love Nina's! :) Can't wait to go back (and thanks for the 411 that all the vendors are grouped back on CC now instead of 1st).

Secret Asian Man said...

So...are we confirmed that this still is happening Fri-Sat-Sun?

I can't wait to go back!

SAM

Exile Kiss said...

Hi SAM,

I haven't been back in a while, but a friend of mine just went... 3 weeks ago or so IIRC, and they said that it was still there. They went on a Saturday.

If I get a chance I'll be happy to swing by again (love Breed Street! :), and I'll reply back here w/ any updates.

Secret Asian Man said...

Hi E,

Super to know. Thanks very much.

I'm arranging an outing for my school's Foodie Club. (I'm the faculty advisor, hahahaha!)

If you're interested, we can post you an invite.

all best,

SAM

Charlie Fu said...

just wanted to let everyone know, this is "gone" now. There are still a few places around but it's not like it was before. (read it on J. Gold's LA article).

But there's still a great taco cart on north Breed street... huge lines with big lights. 80cents a taco

Exile Kiss said...

Hi Charlie,

Thanks for the update. :( I'm still holding out hope that the vendors regroup (they've been dispersed before a few times in the past). But if not, it'll be a sad loss. Thanks.

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