Craig Taubman: Pico Union Project, Nourishment and Spicy Asian Noodles

Taste Buds with Deb - Episode 64
July 10, 2024

Singer and composer Craig Taubman is known for his Jewish liturgical, as well as popular contemporary, music. The founder of the Pico Union Project in downtown Los Angeles, Taubman is also passionate about food and nourishing the community.

  • “Food is deep: it’s cultural, it’s philosophical, it’s spiritual, it’s nourishing,” Taubman told the Journal. “It’s powerful [and you] can use food to build community, to build relationships [and] to feed people’s minds, hearts and souls.”

The Pico Union Project is a multi-faith cultural arts center located in the oldest synagogue in Southern California. It is dedicated to the Jewish principle to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

“We distribute a lot of food at the Pico Union Project,” he said. “But one of the most important things that we do is break bread every day [with] whoever is here.”

According to Taubman, every week they distribute fresh produce that would have been thrown away otherwise. PUP provides 19 people in the community with jobs. They offer cooking, nutrition and mental health classes, health services and more.

“The food’s great; the conversation is invaluable,” Taubman said. “Each time that we break bread together, we discover something new about each other, something powerful … we give the community the opportunity to flourish, and it’s usually around food.”

When asked about his earliest food memory, Taubman said he remembers the chicken livers his mom made when he was a kid. It was actually a topic of conversation during the Father’s Day meal, when Taubman, his brother and their wives took out his 90-year-old dad and 88-year-old mom to celebrate.

“I said to my mom, ‘Not only did I love [your chicken livers], but I remember the smell,” Taubman said. “I’m 66  years old; I remember the smell from more than 50, 55 years ago.”

That’s the power of food: the taste, smell, textures and of course the memories.

Taubman doesn’t just like to eat and feed people, he loves to cook. It’s another creative outlet.

“The people in my band that work with me, they say, ‘Craig, you never do the same thing once,” he said. That also applies to cooking.

“I don’t follow a recipe; I just taste it,” he said. One of Taubman’s favorites is cold Szechuan noodles. He actually has a recipe for it, which is below.

The secret, he said, is in the sauce. It’s basically sesame oil, peanut butter, salsa, chili oil, red peppers and garlic.

“Put it into a blender and you mix it up, and then you have to taste it,” he said.

Sometimes you need a little vinegar, sometimes you need a little bit of sugar.

“Blend it all together until it’s a little salty, a little sweet, a little smooth and a little tangy,” Taubman said. “Bathe all of the noodles inside [the sauce], so they’re all coated and it’s yummy.”

Learn more about Craig Taubman at PicoUnionProject.org and Craignco.com. Note: Those in LA can come and volunteer at PUP every Friday, and help distribute produce and food to about 400 families in the Pico Union area.

For the full conversation, including Taubman singing a food song, listen to the podcast:

Craig’s Cold Spicy Luckshun

WS photography/Getty Images

Cold Spicy Luckshun (Yiddish for noodles) is a simple and simply yummy dish. In 20 minutes, you will have a healthy and hearty meal that never disappoints! If possible, visit a local Asian market or the specialty section of your grocery store to pick up the spices and sauces.


Package of Asian noodles

1/2 tbsp. sesame oil

3 tsp. sugar

2 tsp. vinegar

1/2 tbsp. sesame paste

Spoonful of creamy peanut butter

a small pinch of salt

1 tbsp. light soy sauce

1 tbsp. Szechuan chili oil

2 garlic cloves finely chopped

Chopped scallions

Cucumber peeled and shredded

Bean sprouts

Thai basil

Smashed peanuts


Cook noodles per instruction on the package.

Transfer noodles to cold water and mix with tablespoon sesame oil.

When noodles have cooled down, add cucumber and all the seasonings.

Mix well and, if possible, and let it sit in the refrigerator for an hour.

Take it out of the fridge, add some chili oil, and garnish with green onions, bean sprouts, basil and peanuts.

If you have some leftover chicken, you can slice in strips and add to the garnish.

Chī Chī Chī. Enjoy. B’tayavon. Bon Appetit. Buon Appetito.

Debra Eckerling is a writer for the Jewish Journal and the host of “Taste Buds with Deb.Subscribe on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform. Email Debra: tastebuds@jewishjournal.com.

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