What do you think about when you hear the phrase “Thai food?”
Most Americans are exposed mainly to Central Thai cuisine, a fusion between Thai and Chinese- indicative only to that region, but the reality is that as you travel within each distinct part of Thailand the culinary focus shifts significantly.
For example in Southern Thailand–where coconut groves grow–dishes are driven by spicy coconut curries and seafood. In the Northeastern part of Thailand you can find sticky rice and the iconic papaya salad as everyday staples while Northern Thai cuisine traditionally leans towards more broth focused dishes with steaming and boiling used as dominate preparation techniques.
The nice thing about living in Los Angeles is that we’ve got an expansive selection of Thai options for eaters to choose from, including some truly exceptional restaurants.
That in mind, I wanted to share a list of some of my favorite (in no particular order) Thai spots in the city of angels, whether you’re looking for a solid Pad Thai, Tom Yum soup, or something you’ve never heard of before (but will love it once you try it!).
1. Isaan Station
Located inside a tiny strip mall in Koreatown, Isaan Station serves traditional street food from the Northeastern part of Thailand. Charcoal-grilled meats, beef jerky fried rice and several impressive larb and som dtum selections, make up the bulk of the menu. The most popular dish to order at Issan is the som dtum aka papaya salad. Originating from the Issan region you will find seven variations of som dtum, including a pickled blue crab version for the adventurous. Vibrant and spicy, the flavor profile of the som dtum represents a lot of what makes a Thai dish distinct.
2. Sapp Coffee Shop
The boat noodles at Sapp gained an endorsement from Jonathan Gold and have since become the most talked about noodles in Hollywood. Thickened with pork blood and made murky by the organ beefy broth, the boat noodles at Sapp is probably the most authentic Thai noodle experience you can get in Los Angeles. If the thought of organs and blood don’t excite you, the Jade noodles- bright green noodles tossed with BBQ pork, duck and shredded crab meat are just as notorious. Order a homemade drink too- Thai tea, iced coffee and a rare Pandanus iced tea, it will make an excellent companion to your meal. As a disclaimer this place is cash only and a meal will cost you around $10 with a drink.
3. Ruen Pair
Located in the heart of Thai town Ruen Pair is known for serving delicious food into the wee hours of the night, 1:00am to be exact. A popular choice for purveyors of late night eats this post bar/club/concert recovery spot whips up solid dishes including sautéed morning glory, crispy pork with Chinese broccoli and some tasty pad thai. This is a cash only establishment.
Hollywood’s most celebrated Thai restaurant is probably the spiciest in all of California. The front menu offers traditional thai dishes like papaya salad and curries. The white menu located in the back offers rare Southern Thai cuisine rarely seen outside of Southern Thailand. Essential dishes to order: the crying tiger (beef or pork), whole fried sea bass with mango, morning glory salad and steamed mussels. Line’s often forming around dinner time so come early.
5. Bhan Kanom
Bhan Kanom specializes in authentic Thai desserts, from slush ice topped with jewel colored jellies and exotic fruit to a very delicious crispy mini crepe, Bhan Kanom’s sweet treats are simply divine. The panchi made up of sticky rice, taro, steamed and wrapped in a banana leaf is a favorite amongst patrons. For those looking to stock up on Thai snacks- this is the place! Shrimp crackers, satay flavored Lay’s potato chips and Kanom krok a fried coconut milk is just a brief list of items stocked in the mini mart.
Rodded has an extremely popular duck noodle soup, served with tender slices of boneless duck and egg noodles in a sweet savory broth. This corner joint on Hollywood Boulevard also makes a killer fried plantain dish and the Thai tea is one of the best in town. It’s safe to say, Rodded is indeed like its name in Thai states “delicious food.” Cash only here, so be sure to stop by the ATM beforehand.
7. Sticky Rice
Dave Tewasart’s Sticky Rice inside Grand Central Market serves Thai “comfort food” with an emphasis on organic, free-range and locally sourced seasonal ingredients. A notable dish include the gai yang a BBQ chicken that’s prepared sous vide before being placed on a grill and served with a salad and sticky rice. Place your order at the counter and don’t forget the mango with sticky rice, a tasty way to end a good meal.
8. Araya’s Place
Araya’s Place is a vegan Thai restaurant and bar with locations in Seattle and Los Angeles. Established in the late 80’s the first location became the first vegan-Thai restaurant in the northwest. The drunken mushroom noodles is a popular dish, topped with seitan, asparagus and three types of mushrooms- it’s an unforgettable plate of noodles, you have to try. If curry is more your thing, the avocado curry is a unique refreshing take on a thai classic, served with seitan, soft and fried tofu, bell peppers and basil in a avocado curry, very Californian!
9. The Original Hoy-Ka Hollywood
Hoy-Ka gets a ton of Yelp love and it’s well deserved. A good place for Thai noodle dishes, a stand out is their signature noodle soup loaded with veggies, minced meat and bbq pork- it’s straight up Asian noodle comfort food. The boat noodles, stir fired pad see ew and pad thai are all solid too. Not in the mood for noodles? Order the Chinese broccoli and add crispy pork to everything you get because it’s Thai pork belly!
10. Night + Market Song
Night + Market Song in Silver Lake, the sister restaurant to Night + Market, has established itself as one of the best and busiest Thai restaurants in the city. Based on snack-style street food piping hot bowls of khao soi, a coconut curry based noodle soup is a must try and the pork toro- a marinated, fat-lined jowl meat- grilled to the point where it becomes pork candy, can be seen at every table.
11. Pailin Thai Cuisine
Pailin cooks up fiery Northern Thai specialties from the region of Chiang Mai. Their khao soi is often proclaimed as the best in town by food experts and local patrons. It has the perfect amount of spice that balance well with the creamy broth. Order the spicy shrimp balls or house-fermented sausage to share with the table, both make a great start to your meal.
Here are a few other choice Thai options that didn’t quite make the top tier, but I thought were worth mentioning:
So where you do like eating Thai food in Los Angeles? Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!