The Thai government is poking into what you eat — not to report you for ordering too much pad Thai and not enough khao kluk kapi but to suggest places where you'll get a decent version of each.
In the Thai Select program, authorized inspectors examine restaurants in an effort to upgrade Thai food overseas. Choose a Thai Select restaurant and it's likely you'll eat in an attractive, hospitable place with authentically prepared food.
This year's Western region certifications were announced Friday, Nov. 1, by Niwattamrong Boonsongpaisal, Thailand's minister of commerce and deputy prime minister.
The United States has about 5,500 Thai restaurants, or more than one-third of all that are outside Thailand, Boonsongpaisal said. Of these, 1,000 are in California. However, just six of the 10 chosen as Thai Select this year are in California, and only one of them, Isaan Station, is in Los Angeles.
The other more or less local awardees are Lum-Ka-Naad in Northridge, Banana Bay in Rowland Heights and Lucky Elephant Thai Cuisine in San Dimas. A little farther away are Blue Elephant Thai Cuisine in Bakersfield and Ocean Thai Cuisine in Oceanside, which won for two locations there.
Out-of-state restaurants honored were Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas; Bon Appe Thai in Jackson, Wyo.; Rice Fine Thai Cuisine in Bozeman, Mont., and Thai Cottage in Houston.
Those who attended the presentation at the Castaway in Burbank snacked on mangosteens and rambutans, sipped the liquid from young coconuts hacked open to order, looked at displays of Thai ingredients and sampled Thai drinks (Singha beer with coconut soda was a winner).
Both new and current Thai Select restaurants, among them Chan Dara, Thai Nakorn, Ruen Pair and Jitlada, dished up their specialties after the ceremony. These ranged from Chan Dara's mildly seasoned Thai lollipops (rack of lamb) to Lucky Elephant's zingy wild pork with Thai chili paste and Jitlada's tamarind dip, which was so hot that not all the Singha in the room could have wiped out the burn induced by merely looking at it.
Read more from Barbara Hansen at TableConversation.com, EatMx.com, @foodandwinegal and Facebook. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.