Eat What Bourdain Just Ate: Sausage, Noodles, Curry and Social Unrest
No Reservations was in Thailand this week, and while Mr. Bourdain certainly did a lot of eating, the food was not the focus of the episode. The show's filming wound up corresponding with a clash between rioters and police that lasted for days in the city of Bangkok. Luckily, no one on the crew was hurt, and Bourdain did post some interesting behind-the-scenes thoughts about the experience on his blog.
Yet just when you thought Los Angeles was such a great city for Thai cuisine, No Reservations showed us just how different things can be. We don't have excellent food vendors serving inexpensive fare out of canoes, nor do we seem to have whole grilled snakehead fish (one of the most destructive fish on the planet). We're also probably not going to find an equitable version of yum ruam mitr (translated roughly as "mixed everything salad"), which on No Reservations, included all kinds of fish, shrimp, barbecued pork, vegetables, cockles and even hot dogs. That being said, L.A. is still probably as good as it gets for Thai food in the Western world.
You can get an all seafood version of yum ruam mitr at Renu Nakorn in Norwalk (minus the cockles), as well as both northern and southern style Thai sausages. On the show, before watching a Muay Thai fight, Bourdain and one of the combatants sat down to some gai yang (barbecued chicken). To get the best feel for that, try the excellent Thai boxing chicken, a dish traditionally served from smoking street carts outside of boxing stadiums, at slightly upscale restaurant Talésai. They also have a great version of the green papaya salad with crab that Bourdain seemed to thoroughly enjoy.
If it's jok you're interested in, the Thai varietal of rice porridge which is enjoyed in various incarnations throughout much of Asia, Saladang Song in Pasadena has it available for breakfast. For massaman curry, you'll do well at Jitlada, where it comes with lamb shank. Then, to satisfy all your Thai noodle needs, you'd be hard pressed to walk out of Krua Thai unsatisfied. But if you've been craving tod mung goong (fried shrimp cakes), Sanamluang Cafe has got a version for you.
However, to get an overall experience most similar to a journey through Thailand, you'll probably just want to park you car in the middle of Thai Town and walk around a bit, letting your eyes, and most importantly your nose, guide you from one place to the next. But finally, if you really, really want to recreate Tony's experience, replete with rioters fighting police officers, closed-off streets and public buses engulfed in flames--you just might have to wait until the Lakers win another championship.
5233 1/2 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Krua Thai Restaurant
13130 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, CA 91605
363 S Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105
Renu Nakorn Restaurant
13019 Rosecrans Ave, Norwalk, CA 90650
9043 W Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069
The best papaya salad (som tum) with raw blue crab was at the Wat, but is now probably at Krua.
For great BBQ chicken, served in an almost cart-like ambience, try Thai 'n' I in Encino. (The BBQ ribs also are great.)
And Krua Thai has a great fried shrimp cake.
Thai 'N I
17544 Ventura Blvd, Encino, CA
Nice! Great report. :) I was hoping you'd bust out a water gun like Bourdain did and try and soak people around town to see if you could recreate that part of the show. (^_~)
Wow, Talesai has the Thai BBQ Chicken similar to what Anthony Bourdain had before the Muay Thai match?? Very cool. I'm going to have to try this - it looked *so* good on the show. :) Thanks.
The dish itself is fairly different-- but it's similar in concept at least, thanks to the fighting tie-in. A lot of places have their own versions of gai yang (including Renu Nakorn, though when I had it there it was a tad over cooked and under seasoned), but the boxing chicken at Talesai, though different, is really good.