Having heard the raves about Magic Wok in Artesia, Abby went to see just how authentic this Filipino joint is, and declares that it was like eating her (Filipina) mom’s cooking–good, homey food without any fusioney flourishes.
Chicken adobo is the perfect example of this–slow-cooked in soy sauce, vinegar, crushed garlic, bay leaf, and black peppercorns. The chicken is actually fried, but the dish isn’t greasy at all. Paksiw na lechon is pork slow-cooked in a mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, peppercorns, bay leaves, sugar, salt, and liver sauce. Here, it’s a little sweeter than at some other places, but this is just part of whole range of flavors, from tangy to a little salty to sweet.
Also delicious is the ordinary-sounding bistek, which is basically thinly sliced beef steak, marinated in soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic and then fried with onions. The sauce is great over rice. Fried bangus, or milkfish, is super-delicate and moist. Add some vinegar to experience it the Filipino way–sour. Sinigang soup, tamarind based, uses sour vegetables as well to enhance the tanginess. It’s a well-done classic.
There are some fruity drinks, which can be too sweet. But it’s worth trying the drink made with calamansi, a citrus fruit native to the Philippines. The flavor is tough to describe–it’s kind of like a mandarin orange crossed with a kumquat, and maybe a lemon too–sour and tangy, but with some sweetness to balance it out.
The restaurant isn’t fancy, just plain white walls with wood-straw-shell Filipino crafts hanging as decoration. But it’s bustling with Filipino families and couples, and there’s also a busy takeout business.
For dessert, nearby in Little India is Saffron Spot, an ice cream and snack shop. There’s regular ice cream in not-so-regular flavors like saffron, rose, mango, pistachio, lychee, and chikoo. Chikoo is made from an Indian fruit called sapota and tastes like prunes and licorice. There’s also kulfi–traditional Indian ice cream–in mango, saffron, rose, and plain flavors. The kulfi is extra dense, rich, and creamy.
Magic Wok Enterprises [Artesia-ish]
11869 Artesia Blvd., Artesia
Saffron Spot [Artesia-ish]
in the Little Indian Village center
18744 S. Pioneer Blvd., Artesia
Magic Wok and Saffron Spot in Artesia (review)