A Community Grows

Armenian food has become a staple for Angelenos of any background.

Jennifer Emerling

Émigres from Armenia, the largely Orthodox Christian nation in the Caucasus, have been an influential presence in the Los Angeles area since the late 1800s. But recent waves of immigration—spurred in part by the fall of the Soviet Union, in 1991, and by political upheaval in the region later on—have swelled Southern California's Armenian-born population, which is now the biggest in the world outside the former Eastern Bloc. In enclaves like Glendale, north of downtown LA, and Hollywood's Little Armenia, markets carry the full panoply of Armenia's cuisine: braids of mild string cheese; basturma, or spiced, air-cured beef; flat breads like lavash and leavened ones like sweet matnakash; salads of cracked wheat or lentils; shredded-phyllo pastries such as kadaif; and so on. What's more, Armenian foods like these have become staples for Angelenos of any background. —Litty Mathew, founder of Modern Spirits, an artisanal-beverage company