With the dawning of another beautiful sunny weekend here in Southern California, we had our hearts set on one thing: what new and exciting foodie adventure does the City of Angels have in store for us? To that end, the 2013 Thai Food Festival seemed like the perfect opportunity to explore a different cuisine and learn new, unique flavor and texture combinations.
This 1st annual Thai Food Festival was much more than a food tasting event as it was put on by Thailand’s Department of International Trade Promotion ministry. The festival was to highlight not only the cuisine, but also Thai produced products, services and their rich culture.
Guests in attendance were first greeted by the fine security folks at Paramount Pictures as the event was held at their Melrose Ave headquarters and studios. After checking in, the scene was set by a red carpet at the entrance (we are in Hollywood after all), complete with a backdrop signboard with key sponsors. The tree shaded areas around the food tents were setup with traditional Thai arts and crafts exhibits including intricate umbrella painting, fruit carving, folk dancing and even a Muay Thai martial arts demonstration. You definitely felt like you were getting a crash course in Thai culture. We got a sample of the sights, sounds and of course, the smell and taste of all the food that help shape Thai culture.
Now on to the food since this is a food blog! We found that describing Thai food may be our most challenging task to date. Thai food is by design a combination sweet, sour, bitter, salty and spicy. Sometimes all in the same bite!
We learned that Thai food has several variations depending on geographic location. Each chef’s food tent had a sign noting whether their offering was north, northeast, central or south. In the same way that Italian cuisine varies from North to south and from the mountains to the ocean, so does Thai food. For example, you will find stronger Chinese influences in the north and more Malaysian techniques and flavors in the south. No matter how you slice it, the flavors and combinations were always good and taste bud provoking.
Some of the noteworthy dishes that we had an opportunity to sample were:
Kajsa Alger Street’s Khao Gee which translated to foodie is a savory sticky rice fritter stuffed with curry chicken was very good with a nice crunchy exterior and a mild satisfying curry chicken filling with just a hint of white pepper spice afterwards. This type of dish would be an excellent party platter item.
Lukshon’s Reimagined Thai Beef Salad was both light and delicate while still packing a nice crunch with compressed cucumbers. The smoked beef tongue possessed a rich salted and smokey flavor. It was covered with a bright green lettuce soup and finished with a paper thin slice of crispy tomato.
Pok Pok’s Suki Haeng dish (Thai stir-fried glass noodles with Napa, Sprouts, Carrot, Water Spinach, Chinese Celery, Tofu & Eggs, with a Chili-Beancurd Sukiyaki) was really enjoyable. The glass noodles were soft and light while the crunchy vegetables added a nice crunch. The flavors were well balanced with heat being kept to a minimum. This was the type of dish that not only did you want to have more, but you could easily eat a full serving and not feel weighed down or too full.
Manhattan Beach Post / Fishing with Dynamite’s Blue Crab & Sweet Corn Green Curry was very interesting with the blue crab and sweet corn green curry over sticky rice. It had all the makings of a rich hearty seafood based Thai comfort meal and it delivered with flying colors! If Fall’s chill ever arrives–we want a bowl or two of this while sitting beachside.
Ayara Thai’s Miang Khan is the perfect example of what we all love about Thai food while also illustrating why it’s so hard to quantify what an individual dish tastes like. This dish is a take on a common street vendor offering and consists of a crab and vegetable mixture wrapped in a leaf. That’s the simple description, but the actual description of ingredients are as follows: “On Fresh Betel Leaves – Miang Kham combines savory crabmeat and poached prawns, with fragrant and spicy garnishes of kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, shallots, ginger roasted coconuts, peanuts, and Thai Chili. It is topped with a few pieces of cold grapefruit, segmented by liquid nitrogen. And dressed with a complex palm syrup sauce. A perfect Miang Kham has contrasting textures, and embodies 6-flavors – bitter, salty, sour, sweet, spicy and umami!” Wow! Our take? Delicious and provoking as it was seemingly able to hit every taste bud with a slightly different flavor note. Not easily accomplished and we can see why this kind of dish is popular for those looking for a quick street corner bite.
Again, this is just a sample of the many great dishes as others stood out as well, including Khao Soi Noodles with Chicken from Thai Society, Braised Beef Curry Noodles from Jet Tila’s Asian Kitchen and Ruen Pair Thai Cuisine’s Green Papaya Salad & Grilled Pork among others.
Review By: Daniel Miller
Photos By: Kathleen Capalla