Beyond Tom Yum

It is hard to exaggerate how happy—and justifiably so!—the Los Angeles Times seems in this story about the like-home regional Thai food suddenly being served in local restaurants. To wit: “Regional Thai cooking is returning to the fore, and the excitement is right there on the plate.” I’d say the excitement is on the page, personally, but that plate’s so full it might be hard to tell: The opening description of khao yam, a southern Thai dish, includes so many ingredients that I had to take a bathroom break in the middle of reading about it.

According to the Times, Thai restaurants across Los Angeles have stopped hiding their regional specialties from outsiders and a few are coming out as explicitly southern, northern, or Isaan, a region in the northeast. The story gets broadly cartographic about the differences: “rich spiced curries”—often without coconut milk—and sharply flavored Thai sausage in the north; fermented fish, wild boar, and freshwater shrimp in Isaan; and adjective-heavy fare—bold, spicy, pungent—in the south. The bounty has an unexpected cause:

The upswing has coincided with increased investment from Thailand after the collapse of the Thai currency in 1997, [restaurant owner] Alex [Sonbalee] says. More Thai money in town means more demand for the highest level of Thai cooking, and restaurateurs are responding.

If you do not live in Los Angeles, save thyself: Do not look at the accompanying photos. I fell hard for that link, and now I can’t get up for dinner.

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