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Wat Thai - Review

The Menu:
- Sausage on a stick
- Papaya salad
- A fish thing in a banana leaf
- Mint chicken
- Chicken and peanut dumplings in tapioca wrapper
- Mango with sticky rice
- Durian with sticky rice
- Those coconut half-moon things.

I was super excited to go to Wat Thai after reading all the links a fellow Chowie had emailed me. So three of us got together and headed out with a fairly high degree of anticipation.

So when we changed 40 bucks and came across a single row of stalls, I have to say we were slightly under in the whelmed department. I was picturing something much bigger, but we still bought as much food as we could carry before sitting down.

After taking a few bites of everything, none of us wanted to be the first to say that we were disappointed. It's not that the food was bad exactly, it just didn't seem to match the levels of hype that I've seen.

The food, except for the fish thing (anyone know the name for that?) and perhaps the sausage on a stick, was lacking a certain subtlety I expect from Thai food, the sort of curious co-mingling of flavors that made it a staple for me growing up.

A far more preferable use of durian than ingesting it would be to drop it a great height on on enemy or three. I understand many people like it; I could never be friends with any of them.

The mango was under ripe but sweet; what held the most promise were the coconut half-moon things. I wasn't an enormous fan of the flavor, but the consistency of the crunchy exterior with the inside was a revelation; I think something really interesting could be done with the fryer the woman was using to make these.

I'm willing to give it another shot, if anyone's willing to give me a list of what dishes make this place so worthy of adoration.

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  1. I have to admit that I wouldn't describe Thai food as subtle, so I'm not sure of your previous experience.

    Papaya salad from the place with the ridiculous line... wow. Pumpkin with coconut pudding from the dessert place on the east end.

    I've never had my kanom krok (the coconut half moon thing) be crunchy on the outside. Chewy, yes, with a pudding-like centre. I get them without the onions -- somehow onions ruin it for me.

    It isn't mango season, hence the weird quality of the mangos.

    Your thing in the banana leaf was sour curry.

    I wrote a lengthy disquisition on the Wat Thai within the last two weeks or so -- you can find it. Half of it is the experience -- where else do you get to eat like in Thailand, with random vendors dishing up only a few specialities? What would make it even more authentic would be to have it run at night, but that doesn't make sense in this context.

    1. I'm thai, but I don't go to wat thai to eat all that much. I just stop in on weekend mornings to pick up a few things (usually a few dessert things). The grilled pork and chicken sticks aren't very good these days because they fry them (they can't grill them fast enough these days with all the visitors). The rice dishes etc are not that great. There are exceptions, of course, like the som tum (papaya salad), the rice porridge (usually only served every other weekend) and the dessert stands.

      But if I want actual thai dishes, I will just go to a restaurant (which restaurant depends on the dish). but yes, the experience is very unique and the menu quite varied despite what one may think of the quality of the food.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jackt

        do you recommend any places on the west side, jackt?

        1. re: epop

          can't say i know of any good thai restaurants on the west side. your best bets are thaitown (hollywood blvd near western) and the row of thai restaurants in north hollywood on sherman way.

      2. Hello... Firstly, sorry to hear that you were underwhelmed. Remember, these stalls aren't (to my knowledge) hosted by professional restauranteurs looking to sway you toward their flagship restaurants the way, say, 'Taste of ***' events try to do. Hence, no admission charge). These are members of the extended thai community contributing their time and efforts on behalf of supporting the temple and the monks. Regular neighbors preparing homemade street food... What I personally find so rave-worthy is the pricing. A good 2+ ounces of garlicky sausage for $1. A pile of fiery papaya salad with brined crab for $3. A couple dozen kanom krok for the same price. Jeez, for a dollar or three, you get to sample many different types of street food (and here's the special part, if one has an ounce of spirituality in one's constitution) with *soul* and *good will*. Food (to me) tastes BETTER when it's prepared (and thus, imbued) with good will. Ever have a hotdog or taco or burger prepared by an angry grill cook? Ever have the same, prepared by a cook whose motivations are above the fray of money-making and profit alone? There's a difference, if one looks for it. I'll gladly return again and again to the Wat Thai experience, because the community there cooks with *soul* and reverance for the spiritual community it is supporting, one dollar at a time. If my grandmothers were alive, I'd take them there, because that's how they ran their kitchens. Food, in service to more than just bodily hunger...

        1. I've always enjoyed some the satays/moo ping.
          A few sticks, some khao neow, and I'm good!
          I really hope they haven't gone to frying them.

          I've had some decent larb from there.

          If we drove up for the food, it might be a disappointment.
          But for us, the food's just an added benefit.

          1. My friends and I are driving up to LA from OC this saturday just for the wat thai temple. None of us is thai so we don't know what to expect.

            First of all, is it open on saturday? Where exactly is it located and what are the must-do's and must-eats when we get there?

            We also plan to take in a thai massage.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ml22

              The temple is open most times for religious reasons; the food booths (on the north side) are open 11 AM to 3 PM on Saturday and Sunday.

              It is located at 8225 Coldwater Canyon Avenue, North Hollywood 91605, at Cantara Street, one block south of Roscoe Boulevard. The nearest freeway exit is the Roscoe (West) exit from the 170.

              1. re: ml22

                Definitely try the Papaya Salad. Watch out, becuase it can be very spicy!

                1. re: maybelle

                  When they say its spicy....its spicy! Don't be embarassed or shy to ask for it "not spicy". Was sitting next to a Thai family and they returned their salad because it was too spicy for them. What ends up happening is they toss all the salads in the same bowl and even though you may say not spicy, the remnants of heat left in the bowl from the salad they prepared before are still there.