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What's the Story, Morning Glory?

Sometimes it's late and the cocktails have started to creep up on you and a double-chili-cheese at Tommy's is the thing. But for us, slightly more often, a hard seat and an order of fried morning glory are just what we need after a night of serious drinking. Nobody knows why morning glory is a vegetable that is at its most alluring after midnight, but it really seems to be. Cantonese call it ong choy, and after the bars are closed, you can find it at Full House in Chinatown, sautéed either with garlic or with fermented bean curd. In Malaysia, it's kangkong, and it's found at places like the Belacan Grill in the South Bay, quick-fried with the strong-smelling fermented shrimp paste after which the restaurant was named.

crispy morning glory salad at Jitlada
crispy morning glory salad at Jitlada
Flickr/My Last Bite

But it is in Thai Town, where the hollow-stemmed water vegetable is usually translated as "morning glory," that it seems the most compelling - possibly because of the slight buzz we imagined we were getting when we thought it was the kind of morning glory that caused mild hallucinations, and possibly because it was there we learned the plant was classified as a Federal Noxious Weed. It is always a treat to come across a plate of Jitlada's tempura-fried morning glory salad in its tart-sweet vinaigrette. But at two in the morning, after the bars have closed and the Tommy's drive-thru croons its siren song, that the morning glory flash-fried with black beans at Ruen Pair becomes most compelling, a dish that has been one of the Sure Things in Hollywood for more than 20 years. Drink up!

Ruen Pair Thai: 5257 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 466-0153.