The Food Column: It’s the Food You Eat When You’re Walking Down the Street

Pupusas and agua on the curb

Oh yes, what’s better than street food? And I’m not talking about food trucks, even though they probably offer a wider variety of eats I’m talking  someone cooking some homemade goodness in their front yard or under a pop-up tent right on the sidewalk with their truck or van parked in the street behind them.

I love walking down a street filled with folks cooking good food and the flavorful aromas of cooking meats. The camaraderie, bits of conversations and music as I wander from vendor to vendor down a street lined with everything I want to eat is heaven. There’s the fruta guy (my vegan husband Jeff’s only real option) with cucumbers, melons, mamey, jicama, pineapple, candied fruit (plums or cherries in a cup). There’s elote—roasted corn slathered in butter, cheese and chili powder. There are handmade tortillas stuffed with carnitas, birria, el pastor, lengua, barbacoa, grilled veggies, shrimp or, if in season, huitlacoche (a fungus that grows on corn). Don’t forget pupusas, huaraches, tamales, agua frescas, roasted nuts—the list goes on and on and on. 

Both of our most recent street food ventures were preceded by swap meets. A new one for us is the San Fernando Valley Swap Meet on Glenoaks Boulevard—boy oh boy, what fun we had! We started out with fresh pitayas, the fruit from a pipe organ cactus and one of my favorite fruits—super juicy with a mildly watermelon sweetness and tiny little seeds that are so fun to crunch. Then we scored fresh hot roasted peanuts in the shell and palanqueta de cacahuate (a Mexican peanut candy, kind of like peanut brittle). Then I got hungry, so out to the vendors on Glenoaks Boulevard we went. I chatted with a nice girl about her huarache and was convinced to get one for myself, so I did. It’s a large corn tortilla with beans cooked into it, covered with carnitas, spicy green salsa, cheese and more beans, and to drink I had a watermelon agua. Oh my gosh! It’s all so delicious, the crispy pork with tender bits of skin and melting fat. Jeff thought about getting tortillas until I pointed out they use the carnitas to grease the griddle… sorry, Charlie. 

Our next adventure was the Alpine Village Swap Meet in Torrance. We’ve been enjoying that one for years and always find treasures! This time, after spending our hard-earned dollars on things we didn’t need, we hit the street for lunch. Frutas for Jeff, tacos for me with a pineapple, lemon and cucumber agua to share. At first I thought I had ordered carnitas, but after seeing a small skull and bones in a pot, realized they were too dainty for a pig and looked up to see the sign for Birria! I was perfectly happy with that cause I love me some stewed goat and with lime, cilantro and salsa, I was in heaven. Dessert was a pupusa de chicharrones with crusado and salsa roja. It was a wonderful day. There is nothing I like better than picnicking at a bus stop bench while eating good food with the one I love!