When Night + Market Song opened, people were excited for all sorts of reasons: The idea you could get Kris Yenbamroong's cooking in Silver Lake; the idea that one of our most individualistic and talented chefs was successful enough to open a second location; the sense that this place would have a vibe all its own. But the thing that got the most attention was his Luu Suk: blood and MSG soup.
The very existence of blood and MSG soup on a menu seemed like shock value for the sake of shock value, even though it has a solid foundation in Thai cooking. It was the one dish every critic wrote about in reviews (including me), and the dish Yenbamroong was asked to cook for the cameras in his "Chef's Night Out" video for Vice's Munchies. People order the chicken sandwich more than any other dish, but they talk about the blood soup.
Today, Yenbamroong sent out an email saying he'll no longer serve the dish, providing a long explanation of where the dish comes from and claiming that it was never meant for shock value. "Luu [blood soup] for me is a way to experience those spices and a way to get people into the act of dipping and sharing the same plate of food amongst friends," he writes. "It was never a gross-out item, or an exoticism thing. It was something I had a personal connection with and a real love for."
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He also goes into detail about how this version of this dish (and the name, Luu Suk) is something he invented. And then says he's taking it off the menu, in part, it seems, because "there’s a restaurant somewhere between WeHo and Song that pretty much lifted my entire menu, word for word."
"So if you’re craving it," he says, "go check them out." He doesn't specify what restaurant he's talking about, though.
You can read his entire note below.
Luu is a dish found in parts of northern Thailand. The main component is fresh raw blood (commonly pork), which is then seasoned with what I like to think of as an all-purpose "Northern Thai spice trifecta" consisting of makwaen, malaep and deeplee. Mixed in different proportions, these are the spices that would season Northern-style Larb and soups like Yum Gai. You add to the blood a pinch of salt and MSG, then top it with some rough chopped raw herbs, crispy noodles and fried intestine and/or pork skin cracklings. It is often served with a sweet sauce on the side, which some (myself included) tend to ignore. Though it is served in a bowl in a portion large enough to pick up and slurp like miso soup, my favorite way to eat it is by using a ball of sticky rice to soak up the blood, then scooping up some herbs and fried stuff. The most important ingredient isn’t even mixed into the dish. It’s the alcohol that you are undoubtedly consuming if you’re eating Luu. You see, Luu is really only eaten by derelict, sometimes alcoholic, fun-loving, old-timey Northern guys—guys like my uncle Laa. The word Laa is sort of like saying "to avoid." Laa pai, laa ma is a phrase which might translate to something like “you’re here, you’re there, but you’re never where you need to be.” This is the type of guy who eats Luu. When we opened Song, March of last year, I told people I wanted us to be a sort of neighborhood diner, where instead of a club sandwich, you could drop in and have some Luu and a cold beer and maybe a plate of Sai Uah. The tricky thing is, I obviously couldn’t serve raw blood. So I had to invent something. I had to come up with a way to create the same sensation you get when you’re eating raw blood, only with cooked blood. It was a workaround. It was something I made up. It’s not something that existed in Thailand. To me, the experience revolved around the awesome spice mix, which tastes and smells uniquely of Northern Thailand. It’s something that I literally haul back to the U.S. in suitcases. Luu, for me, is a way to experience those spices, and a way to get people into the act of dipping and sharing the same plate of food amongst friends. It was never a gross-out item, or an exoticism thing. It was something I had a personal connection with and a real love for. Anyhow, when you serve something cooked, in Thai you call it ‘suk.’ Larb dip is raw. Larb suk is cooked. Those two things actually exist. There is such a thing as ordering your Larb raw vs. cooked at a Larb shack. There is no such thing as ordering “cooked Luu.” Therefore, whenever you see Luu Suk, you can be pretty confident where that came from. 'Cause it didn’t come from the Motherland. With that, I think I’ll be retiring the dish for the time being. There’s a restaurant somewhere between WeHo and Song that pretty much lifted my entire menu, word for word, so if you’re craving it, go check them out.
We will be adding some awesome new dishes to the menus at both restaurants in the coming weeks.
Every dish on our menu comes from a real personal place. NIGHT+MARKET is about me sharing my experiences as a Thai-American and, at its core, is about putting a face to the culture.