Our 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants issue came out recently, and we're highlighting a few categories drawing from the list. Today: Thai restaurants.
This is not a definitive list of the best Thai restaurants in L.A., but it is a sampling of five that we think are each essential in their own way.
There's hardly anywhere in the country that could give you a better education in Southern Thai food than siblings Sarintip “Jazz” Singsanong and Suthiporn “Tui” Sungkamee's Jitlada, tucked into the corner of a Hollywood strip mall. When the pair took over the restaurant in 2007, the real-deal, spice-laden food could be found only on a Thai-language menu of 40 items in the back of the regular menu. That section now has grown to hundreds of dishes, and it's what almost everyone comes for.
4. Krua Siri
Krua Siri, a small pillbox of a restaurant located in the eastern stretch of Thai Town, might be best known among locals as the place that delivers until 3 a.m. every day of the week. But we think of it as the place with a dynamite assemblage of Northern Thai menu items, including fragrant curries, four-day fermented sausage, and a potent laab salad made with crispy bits of duck skin and toasted rice.
Thai Town has its share of comforting, homey noodle joints, but few are as charming as Sapp Coffee Shop, where everyone seems to end up after a particularly long night out. This is where you go when the morning's headache demands something a little stronger, something a little funkier than a delicate bowl of pho or bún bò Hue — something like boat noodle soup.
You come to Pa-Ord for the extra-murky boat noodles, also known as kuay tiew rua, one of Thailand's most beloved street foods. Sure, the bowl is filled with scraps of offal you might not be able to identify: perforated squares of tripe, a slice of liver or spleen, a handful of crushed-up chicharron, a fish ball or two bobbing in the soup like pale caramel apples. But even those uninitiated into the powerful flavors of Thai cooking can appreciate the deftness with which Pa-Ord blends spicy, sour, sweet and salty.
Kris Yenbamroong is as much a cultural curator as he is a chef. At Night + Market, Yenbamroong presents the unadulterated, riotous flavors of Northern Thailand's street food in all their complexity. His menu on any given night is likely to include pig tails, white pepper frog legs, sour pork sausage and larb made with “dried herbs smuggled back from Chiang Rai in a suitcase.” The meal's stinky/salty/offal component actually is far less challenging than the intense heat levels of most dishes, but don't let any of this dissuade you. No, really: This is some of the most astonishing, delicious food available anywhere.
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