For months, rumors have been rocketing around Tweetertown about the phenomenon referred to obliquely as a "Thai hamburger,'' a gooey, off-menu marvel available only to certain Jitlada cognoscenti. Personally, I've never found it necessary to stray from the regular menu at Jitlada, or at least from the novel-length typed menu of Southern Thai specials at the back - unless, of course, the proper leaf for miang kam is in season, at which time, every man for himself. There are more than 400 things on the menu at the moment, and as hard as you try, you'll never work your way through them all. The second you discover the acacia leaf omelet in a lemon curry broth - and I urge you to drop everything and try it this instant - you realize that you are forsaking the bottle gourd soup, the black pepper crab, or the new, possibly coma-inducing, section of "dynamite'' dishes, whose Scoville rating is probably well into the millions.
But the proprietor, Jazz Singnasong, often talks about her home-cooked boat noodles, an off-menu version that is without the ground blood or the organ meats but has a beautiful soprano-sax top note of chile heat. Put it in your boat noodle Rolodex alongside Sapp, Noodle Thai Town and Pa-Ord. And the off-menu Thai hamburger, based on something that Singnasong put into her girls' lunchboxes a couple of days a week, is just beautiful: minced beef marinated in a mixture of palm sugar and garlic and a few other things she isn't telling me about, formed into a patty and grilled to a slight but definite crunch. The Thai hamburger is served in what In-N-Out devotees will recognize as "Protein Style'' - painted with sweet sauce, topped with a tomato slice and wrapped in leaves of crunchy iceberg lettuce.
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It's apparently kind of a pain to make. Don't tell Jazz that you heard about it from me...