Coming to LA is daunting for any international student. I was worried about the social life but my mother was definitely more worried about the food. We didn't know what to expect when I first came here. I thought that all the stereotypes were true. I was convinced that LA was full of hipster foods that looked good and tasted bad, and that I was being dropped off in the land of rainbow mac and cheese and unicorn frappuccinos.

I was wrong. LA's food culture is much more than just hipster and aesthetics. There are so many of its aspects that have made me fall in love with the food here. 

LA is a cultural melting pot; this is reflected not only in its social scene but also in its cuisine. Some of the dominant types of food I have noticed in my first few months in LA include healthy food along with fast food, Mexican food and Tex-Mex, and Hawaiian cuisine and Korean BBQ.

The Healthy Lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle is quintessentially Californian. Despite the American stereotype, California is known to harbour health junkies and green food. I have recently been acquainted with the current trend of açai bowls. If you don't know what these are, they are smoothie bowls made with açai berries—which are really healthy and filled with antioxidants—found in the Amazon.

I read this Spoon University article that named Backyard Bowls as the best açai bowl place in California. Therefore, I decided to try it out and it was one of the best things I've eaten. I have always been a smoothie enthusiast but now I realize açai bowls are better.

Açai bowls have recently gained a lot of attention on social media and in pop culture as they are healthy and tasty (a combination that is hard to find). If you haven't tried these very 'LA' bowls, make a trip to Santa Monica (or their other locations) to eat these bowls of fruit whilst sitting on the beach.

Mexican Food VS. Tex-Mex

If you think of LA’s food, you can’t ignore the large proportion of Mexican influence on it. One of my first trips outside campus was to Westwood. I was scouting places to eat when I came across Pinches Tacos. I was impressed by the pricing and immensely satisfied with the quality of the food.

The restaurant pulled me in with its slogan: "Real Mexican Food by Real Mexicans." This is definitely calling out Tex-Mex food, which is a hybrid of Mexican food and American Food. Their co-existence must be difficult for both sides, because arguably, Tex-Mex is cheap but conventionally unhealthy. On the other hand, Mexican food is costly yet healthy.

Both types of food have developed because California has the largest Mexican population. Many Mexicans open eateries as a source of income. Additionally, California used to be a Mexican territory in the early-to-mid 1800s, and this led to a hybrid of the two cuisines being born. 

Fast Food

Caroline Safran

Fast food is very popular in LA. Despite the importance of healthy food, LA's hustle-and-bustle lifestyle encourages the presence of fast food chains. Historically, LA has always have a large car culture, which has proliferated drive-thrus and chains such as In-N-Out, McDonald's and Panda Express.

Although it isn't a major part of LA's cuisine, fast food restaurants made a significant impact on me as someone who was surprised by the large fast food culture.

Hawaiian Cuisine 

Hawaiian cuisine has often been exclusive to the Islands; however, in the past year, Hawaiian cuisine has permeated the West Coast and the rest of the US. I have never seen so many Pokè bowl places and I didn't even know what spam musubi was before coming to LA.

This surge of fresh Hawaiian food has been bred by the new trend of embracing one's roots. Many restaurant owners have embraced their childhood Hawaiian food and introduced their culture to the West very successfully. 

Korean BBQ

Korean barbecue is the treasure chest buried under all the preconceptions about LA's iconic foods; it is an underdog in LA's food life. Korean barbecue was life-changing for me as I've never really eaten meat like this before. It was a very social way of eating Korean food. My friends took me to Meat Love in Koreatown, which was unlike any other eating experience I'd ever had.

Most East Asian cuisines were introduced as a result of migration spikes. However, the Korean migration spike only led to more Korean 'club-like' eateries that were catered exclusively to Koreans. In the past few years, as Koreatown's crime rates plummeted, it became more accessible to the rest of LA's residents and Korean food made its debut in LA.

The most special thing about Korean Food is that it never tried to cater to the masses. It never attempted to entice the average American eater. Thai cuisine created pad thai, which is unconventionally sweeter than other traditional dishes. On the other hand, Koreans never did that, which is a part of why they took so long to become a part of LA's food culture.

I have much to learn about LA's food. There are many experiences that will change my opinion on LA's food culture as it adapts to new trends. I am looking forward to what LA has to offer me.