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Los Angeles: Sanamluang Cafe in Thai Town [Pics]

Los Angeles: Sanamluang Cafe in Thai Town [Pics]
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  • Los Angeles: Sanamluang Cafe in Thai Town [Pics]

    Post #1 - June 14th, 2005, 8:01 pm
    Post #1 - June 14th, 2005, 8:01 pm Post #1 - June 14th, 2005, 8:01 pm
    Were there ever to be a popularity contest amongst the establishments in L.A.’s Thai Town, Sanamluang Café would surely win. Situated at the crux of a bustling shopping plaza, and offering al fresco dining and great people watching, eighteen hours a day, Sanamluang’s popularity goes well beyond the food. But, rest assured that the food itself is reason enough to visit, and I highly recommend Sanamluang Café to Thais and Westerners alike.

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    #39 -- the legendary “general’s noodle”

    kũay tĩaw pèt pa low “yaowarach”

    kũay tĩaw pèt pa low - up close

    the details

    Sanamluang Café is renowned for its noodle dishes, and probably none more so than #39, or “General’s Noodle.” While this egg noodle dish is well-recommended by the waitstaff, and while it is as good a place as any to start chipping away at Sanamluang’s lengthy menu, I generally encourage first-timers to press on.*

    During my recent trip to Los Angeles I paid a couple of visits to Sanamluang. And, as I alluded elsewhere, one of my visits was expressly for the purpose of feasting on Sanamluang’s brilliant rendition of kũay tĩaw pèt pa low, or "flat rice noodle soup with duck stew."

    The fundamentals of the classic Thai "stew," pa low, originated with the Chinese, who developed a special technique for braising fatty cuts of meat that involves thick, sweetened soy sauce and a blend of both dried and fresh aromatics. The principal aromatic ingredient, and the one which lends to the distinctive sweet aroma and taste of pa low, is star-anise.** Other hallmark ingredients for a proper pa low "stew" include ginger, garlic, kecap manis, cassia bark, peppercorns, and coriander roots or seeds.

    Shortcuts*** are often used in the preparation of this dish, but that is clearly not the case at Sanamluang. The seasoned duck is slowly simmered in a high-quality stock**** with an assortment of chopped herbs and whole aromatic spices. The resultant "stew" has a profoundly deep, rich flavour, and an exceptional balance of sweet, salty, and savoury notes.

    Along with the sômtam puu dawng at Ganda, this dish turned out to be one of the best items of my entire L.A. stay.

    I also recommend the following items from the Sanamluang menu:

    “special rahd nah [râat nâa … baang rák] – s/f rice noodles with special gravy sauce”
    “kai kua [kũay tĩaw kài khûa …] – rice noodles scrambled with chicken and egg”
    “yen-ta-fo [yen ta fo …] – hot and sour spicy noodle soup with seafood”
    “indian curry noodle soup [kũay tĩaw khàek …] – indian curry noodle soup with beef”
    “beef tendon and stew noodle [kũay tĩaw néua … ehn tûun] – rice noodle with tendon”
    “sen yai neau sub [kũay tĩaw néua sàp khài daeng …] – rice noodle with gravy and egg”
    “spicy mint leaves fried rice [khâo phàt tháleh tâi] - fried rice with seafood, Thai curry sauce, and mint leaves"
    “rice soup [khâo tôm mũu – kài] – rice soup with pork or chicken”
    “sauteed eggplant [phàt mákhẽua yao] – sautéed eggplant with spicy sauce and c/o/m”
    “kai tou jeaw [kài tâo jîaw] – steamed chicken with hot and sour sauce” [fermented bean]
    “chicken indian curry rice [khâo mòk kài …] – rice cooked with curry chicken” [≈ biryani]

    Erik M.

    * While the menu linked is that of the independently-managed Sanamluang Café in North Hollywood, CA, it is is virtually indistinguishable from that of the Sanamluang Café in Hollywood, CA.

    ** The star-anise “pods” used in kitchen cookery are the desiccated fruiting bodies of a tree in the magnolia family (Magnoliaceae).

    *** These include the use of pre-ground mixes, commercially-prepared stocks or soup bases, commercially-prepared ducks, etc.

    **** I have discussed the significance of a properly made Thai stock at some length, here.
  • Post #2 - June 15th, 2005, 12:03 am
    Post #2 - June 15th, 2005, 12:03 am Post #2 - June 15th, 2005, 12:03 am
    I like the first picture in this thread a lot, and I would like to add that, even though I have nothing to add to this whole, impressive series of LA posts, I greatly appreciate them. Thanks, Erik.