Los Angeles has a sweet tooth.
A worthy food destination in its own right, the city is also a prime place to explore the many uses of sugar. These days, chefs here are plumbing the sweeter traditions of the savory cooking in tropical climes and applying them to the bar, the plate and beyond.
Sunny Spot: Kogi chef Roy Choi is focused more on the beach than the streets of L.A. at his new Caribbean-inspired restaurant. But he hasn't forgotten his roots: Sunny Spot's short ribs, rubbed with brown sugar and incendiary Scotch bonnet peppers, are grilled rather than braised, à la Korean barbecue. Make them at home with easier-to-find jalapeños (click here to see the recipe).
Night + Market: Fish sauce and palm sugar are as integral to Thai cooking as salt and pepper. At chef Kris Yenbamroong's West Hollywood restaurant, he relies heavily on both in the pork stew Hanglay Hang Moo Teen Moo. The Chieng Rai-style stew is a heady mix of pork tails and trotters simmered in a funky sweet stock spiced with pickled garlic, shallots and lots of tamarind.
The Spice Table: Milk and cookies isn't what you'd expect to eat for dessert at a restaurant dedicated to the cuisines of Malaysian and Vietnam. However, in the palm-sugar-sweetened milk, thickened and spiced with ginger, and chewy coconut cookies, this updated take on a classic piece of Americana represents the diaspora in a fitting and delicious manner.
The Tasting Kitchen: The Japanese citrus yuzu is strongly aligned with the savory side of the kitchen. So it follows that Justin Pike matches a syrup made from California-grown yuzu with mezcal, that salty, earthy Oaxacan spirit.