For many Korean-Americans and Southern Californians alike, Roy Choi is a hero. His empire of taco trucks, called Kogi, were innovators in their use of social media. Who would have thought Twitter could bring 150 hungry people to a supermarket parking lot? Choi invented that. Ever eaten a Korean short rib taco, an appealing mashup of Asian and Mexican culinary common sense? Choi invented that. Here’s a quick fried rice recipe from the chef’s great new memoir L.A. SonRead: Roy Choi Is No One-Taco Wonder

I’ve always had this thing for Italians. And in a way they’ve had their thing for me, too. I went to Italy for a little bit after my dark days of gambling and replenished my soul in Genoa, Milano and Venice. Then, during culinary school, I had the good fortune of hanging with many friends from the Italian neighborhoods Bensonhurst and Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, and Howard Beach, Bayside and Middle Village in Queens, and even in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Imagine this: a semi-tall Korean kid from L.A. in his mid-to-late twenties getting weird looks, then immediate hugs from grandmas and mamas. I’d be thrust into the kitchen with “Oh, you go to culinary school with my girl/boy? Let me show you a thing or two.” Then they’d have me cook. This was my icebreaker, ’cause a Korean kid in Howard Beach walking a girl home ain’t that easy, son.

Once I cooked, even in my early days, it was magic. Big fat kisses from grandma as she let me stir the pot of tomatoes.

So here you go, my $4 spaghetti. Tastes almost as good as the $24 one.

Reprinted with permission from L.A. Son