question: You’ve written more than once about the
southern Thai cooking at Satang, in Panorama City. But when I drove there last
week, it looked to be geared just for takeout, and the person behind the counter
denied any knowledge of southern Thai dishes at all.

—Christine, Valley Village

answer: Satang is indeed one of many, many Thai
restaurants near North Hollywood’s big Buddhist temple, and it does look like
any other mini-mall place, with a bunch of neighborhood dudes pounding cashew
chicken and beer. And to look at the menu, you might never guess that there
was a minor subspecialty in the ultra-exotic cuisine of southern Thailand. The
section of the menu listing southern dishes, for example, is completely untranslated.
But if you ask around, somebody will walk you through the four or five southern
dishes that happen to be on hand at the moment — perhaps a peppery vegetable
soup flavored with dried shrimp, or an awesomely hot curry of fish and fresh
bamboo shoots that is completely delicious but smells a little like somebody
forgot to take out the trash.

My favorite is a sort of sweet salad of rice, fresh vegetables, toasted coconut
and dried shrimp that you toss together yourself with a bit of dark, sweet soy.
But you’ve got to try the sautéed sataw beans, a heaping helping, with ground
meat and lots of red chile. Sataw, the fabled Thai stinky bean, may smell like
a bad day at the morgue, but it tastes like the sort of lima beans that God
probably had in mind. 8247 Woodman Ave., Van Nuys, (818) 989-5637.

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