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L.A.¿¿¿s global sandwich offerings

L.A.¿¿¿s global sandwich offerings
As soon as you place your order at Pita Pockets in Northridge, a cook slaps a soft round of dough onto the wall of a blazing tandoor-like oven. After a few moments, a bubbly disk of laffa, catacombed with air pockets and rich with yeasty char, is ready to be filled. Next a counterman slathers the chewy flatbread with lemony hummus, then loads it with grilled vegetables or juicy marinated kebabs.
The hefty hand-held feast -- just one culture''s take on the sandwich -- doesn''t quite fit the dictionary''s narrow definition: "food between slices of bread," but in L.A.''s sandwich universe this stuffed laffa has lots of delicious company.
Take pav bhaji, the Mumbai street vendor''s answer to burgers. The rich vegetable curry, mounded onto slider-style buns, draws droves of homesick expats to Little India''s snack shops. Mexico''s mighty pambazo, a chile-sauce-drenched roll heaped with chorizo and potato filling, then drizzled with crema, is finding its way onto more and more menus. And gua bao, a steamed round of flatbread folded over great slabs of juicy roasted pork -- the Chinese equivalent of a towering pastrami on rye -- was rarely found outside Taiwanese dives and Chinese bakeries until its recent appearance at Take a Bao in Century City, where the fillings run to spicy Thai peanut chicken and pomegranate glazed steak.

Chaat in Little India: Superb Street Snacks

Chaat in Little India: Superb Street Snacks
When it comes to street snack food, one can make a good argument that India’s chaat reigns supreme. When it came time to write about chaat, the LA food community’s consensus was that the chaat at Jay Bharat and Surati Farsan Mart, half a block away from each other, are the two to try.
Chaat varies by region. These two chaat places both concentrate on the Gujarati version. There is a wide variety of chaat, but the general idea is that dishes come with an array of chutney spices, like mint, curry, and coconut. The best thing about chaat? All these flavors can be mixed together.
Stepping in Jay Bharat feels like entering a ''50s diner, except everyone else there will inevitably be Indian. A lit up sign spelling “Sweets and Snacks” lies over the counter where you place your order. My first order was Pani Puri ($3.99), a common chaat dish that provides an explosion of flavor that will make your taste buds feel like they just survived Humans vs Zombies. Pani Puri, not to be confused with the other numerous puri-based chaat dishes, involves small crispy puffs of bread. You punch a hole in the bread with your finger, so it becomes a cup, and then load as much spice as physically possible in the sphere of goodness. You pop the entire cup in your mouth, and suddenly it’s Christmas. This venerable dish is spicy though, and at some places it can be really spicy. If you can’t manage to get all the spices in the five pieces of puri that are given to you, order another set of five for $1.50. (After debating briefly, I decided on a new set, and it ended up being a good life decision.)
Bhel Puri ($3.99) is a delicious cereal-like combination of crispy puri, puffed rice, beans, and potatoes. The ingredients are mixed with chutney spices and topped with onions and cilantro. I could spoon this stuff in my mouth for hours. Ragda Pettis ($3.99), a dish from the Bombay region, is similar, but does not involve puri and has potato in it. Perhaps the best dish of the day was the Kathi Roll ($5.49), a roti burrito filled with potatoes, peppers, and onions. Roti is an excellent type of bread made throughout much of Asia. The roll comes with a wonderful curry-flavored chutney.
Our last order at Jay Bharat was a dosa. Dosas, popular in southern India, are typically eaten during breakfast and are not considered chaat, but these giant, stuffed, rice crepes are certainly worth it. I got the Myodora Masala Dosa, which was filled with potatoes, peas, and spices. The correct way to eat it is to rip off a piece, twist it so it is in a spoon shape, and load the various chutneys that come with it.
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