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“An ethnographic eating tour of some off-the-grid spots serving the best Mexican and Central American food this side of the border” for $250 a person was offered as part our Kickstarter campaign back in August. Surprisingly, we got eight backers for it and found it to be a real success. Pictured above are Tejuinos in Boyle Heights — a sweet and salty fermented corn street drink.

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Kay, her husband Fred and the Sonic Trace team
Kay Plunkett-Hogge, the accomplished UK food writer and book author, happened to be one of our supporters. And over fluffy street pupusas revueltas and green mango slices covered in toasted pepita powder in Macarthur Park, we all bonded. The toasted pepita powder tastes like a raw vegan pipian sauce when mixed with lime, salt and chile powder, it is a snack popular in Central America and can be found daily in the streets surrounding Macarthur Park. That is, given that the police didn’t confiscate the street food from the vendors on that day.

“This city sings and you are the choir” said an elated Kay after our final stop of organic Oaxacan espresso and soft pan dulce at La Monarca Bakery in East Los Angeles. She grew up in the streets of Bangkok and walking around eating our hosted street food reminded her of being back in Thailand. Kay has written a few books as well as reported on Los Angeles’ local food scene. Currently, she is preparing to write a new book on chiles.


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Pupusas filled with beans, cheese and pork are grilled on the street by Zoila
Logan Clarke, a graduate student at UCLA’s Department of Ethnomusicology, was another backer. We met at Ricky’s Fish Tacos in Silver Lake for a street food breakfast of light, lard-fried fish tacos and an agua fresca of Jamaica. Then we made our way out to an area of downtown for a brunch of smokey lamb Barbacoa that is cooked underground overnight by Mundo and Marta, a couple from Mexico whose Barbacoa sells out by noon sometimes.


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Logan Clarke enjoys some Guadalajara-style Tacos de Canasta (basket-steamed tacos)
“[Sonic Trace took] me places I’d never been in my 8 years here in L.A.!” wrote Logan the following day on Sonic Trace’s facebook page. She sings and plays guitar for the UCLA Mariachi and her focus of study is a specific dance in Guatemala that is protected by UNESCO.


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Tender, smoked lamb Barbacoa in Los Angeles
More food tours are scheduled soon, stay tuned for more on LA’s ethnographic eats.

Don’t forget to stay updated on KCRW’s Sonic Trace Facebook page.

If you or your parents are from Mexico or Central America, come share your story with us at Guelaguetza Restaurant in Koreatown inside our mobile recording booth, La Burbuja.

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