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Hometown Heroes East Los Musubi Featured on HBO and Jimmy Kimmel In Same Week

Doreen Nakama and Adam Martinez have been quietly selling musubi in the streets of L.A. the way that Nakama’s Japanese-Hawaiian grandfather taught her for seven years now under East Los Musubi. Throughout the years, the couple has added their own spin to the time-honored dish born out of World War II rations in Hawaii, like adding crushed Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to musubi and offering katsu and tofu versions as well.  

Last week they made their national TV debut by being featured on Lisa Ling’s new food culture show on HBO Max, Take Out. And last night, their barrio-rooted musubi was enjoyed by Jimmy Kimmel and Guillermo as Kimmer interviewed Ling about her new show. 

Of all the dishes Ling featured in her series, she chose East Los Musubi to showcase, proudly telling Kimmel and Guillermo about Nakama’s backstory and the history of Boyle Heights. “So this is Mexican, Japanese, and stoner food?” Kimmel responded, jokingly, before taking a big bite of the musubi and proclaiming that it was tasty. The moment, although short, was a significant moment in representation for L.A.’s real eastside. It reflected the vast foodways of the AAPI, Mexican, and mixed family communities of the working-class neighborhood that so many try to homogenize constantly. 

“We are honored every day with getting to represent the history of the city where my Japanese family found a community to live in after WW2,” Nakama posted on her personal Instagram, where she also sells highly decorated cakes to order. Her grandfather served in the famous 442nd Regiment and ironically enough, Ling's team found out about East Los Musubi after a volunteer organization posted about Nakama and Martinez feeding volunteers cleaning up the gravesites of the 442nd Japanese Soldiers at Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights.

“These segments are dedicated to our friends and family raising proud mixed families; we see you. We are here to represent those who never felt enough of one culture or race being mixed,” Adam Martinez tells L.A TACO. 

East Los Musubi’s next pop-up is at Shop Mi Vida in Highland Park on February 20th. Check out the rest of their schedule here

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