Sweet, yes, but also salty, spicy, sour, crunchy, soft, squishy. Barely 20 people at a time can squeeze elbow-to-elbow into Such Thai’s tiny dining room.
It’s important to note that the kitchen here has been consistently inconsistent over the years. The one dish that seems immune to the kitchen’s wild mood swings is the appetizer listed as “panda leave” in which nuggets of dark meat chicken are marinated in sweet soy, wrapped in panda leaves and then grilled.
Although its origins are Chinese, duck noodle soup is inextricable from everyday life in Bangkok. Huntington Beach’s new Street Thai serves the area’s best Bangkok-Chinatown-style duck noodle soup.
Steam billows from the bowl, scenting the air with cinnamon and star anise. Fun fact: This is where the staff of Bangkok Avenue go for duck soup when they are off duty because their own restaurant doesn’t serve it.
Bangkok Chinatown style duck noodle soup at Street Thai in Huntington Beach. Touch these ribs to your lips and let the meat slide effortlessly off the bone.
Every bite reveals yet another layer of intrigue: garlic, pepper, clove, star anise … It’s hard to imagine a meal at Bangkok Avenue that doesn’t involve these ribs. Crispy pork spare ribs at Bangkok Avenue in Huntington Beach.
Just about every Thai restaurant serves a variation of salad with spicy lime dressing, topped either with beef or shrimp. No other kitchen does it better than Street Thai’s flag going, which is a beautiful composition of lettuce, lemongrass, chilies, onion, mint and shrimp.
The shrimp are marinated almost like ceviche in a bath of lime juice and chili paste, although they might be lightly cooked as well. Shrimp salad known as flag going, served at Street Thai in Huntington Beach.
Pork belly pad era pro at Chad Thai No matter how it gets translated it into English, every Thai restaurant serves a version of this stir-fry involving fresh green chilies, basil and meat.
Chad Thai taps into the pork belly trend and makes a variation with big, fat, crispy, deep-fried cubes of bacon. You’ll need the acidic heat of chilies to counteract the outrageous richness of the pork belly.
Pad era PAO with fried pork belly at Chad Thai in Garden Grove. Popular street food in Thailand, moo ping is marinated pork skewers.
Moo ping, or pork shoulder marinated in honey, at Silk Thai in Huntington Beach. They have revamped the dining room with gorgeous photos of Thailand, and they have completely overhauled the menu with their own family’s recipes.
This is now my favorite place to go for Padang curry, aggressively flavored with kaffir lime leaf and red chili paste. Padang curry at Hot and Spicy Thai in Huntington Beach.
The name to look for is simply Thai and Laos Market, which is the name they’ve officially registered with the health department. Pad see EW at Thai and Laos Market in Anaheim.
Although considered the national dish of Laos, the ground meat salad known as lab is equally popular in Thailand, especially in the north. If I have to pick a favorite lab from many strong contenders, I’ll tilt the scales in favor of Chad’s pork salad.
The ground meat is stir-fried with a generous handful of rice powder, then tossed with scallions, dried chilies, fresh chilies, red onion, mint and cilantro. Spicy pork lab at Chad Thai in Garden Grove.
The trick to ordering this dish is to make sure to clarify that you want it with a large river prawn, not the standard shrimp. The prawn is gorgeous and succulent, cooked to perfection in its shell and served with a unique house-made salsa that involves lime juice, fish sauce and green Thai chilies.
This salsa is key because the success of any pad Thai depends on that balance of sweet/sour/spicy/salty. Or douse the salsa directly on the noodles and eat the prawn separately.
Beef pad era pow with a fried egg served over rice at Thai and Laos Market in Anaheim. Rad Na is a ubiquitous dish made with wide rice noodles, Chinese kale and a somewhat colorless, sort of slimy Thai gravy.
In a unique twist, the chef here takes the rice noodles and forms them into patties, which he fries until crisp and slightly burnt around the edges but still squishy and slippery under the surface. This creates an exciting contrast of textures and a much deeper layering of flavors, something that I’ve always found missing from rad Na elsewhere.
Rad Na with crispy noodle cakes at Street Thai in Huntington Beach. Tom Khan Kai, or chicken soup with coconut milk, at Chad Thai in Garden Grove.
Green papaya salad at Bangkok Avenue in Huntington Beach. If you’ve never eaten pork neck, let this be your epiphany.
The meat is marinated in palm sugar and fish sauce (don’t worry, it doesn’t taste like fish) and grilled until it turns black around the edges. And it is absolutely fantastic, especially when dipped into a slurry of lime juice and chili flakes.
Nam and crispy rice salad at Thai and Laos Market in Anaheim. It is a thick, fragrant sauce that perfumes the air with coconut milk, chili paste and kaffir lime.
Come here and try this restaurant’s version of Thailand’s most famous soup (sometimes spelled tom yum going). They are big, fat, monstrous creatures with their heads and shells intact, split down the middle to make them easy to peel and eat.
As they gently boil, that goofy stuff from their carcasses comes loose and dissolves into the broth, adding a distinctive creaminess and umami that pushes this tom yum over the top. Tom yum Kong at Thai Avenue in Garden Grove.
Most places stick with a well-worn script, but the chef’s salad here is a glorious ad lib. It is an absolutely brilliant chopped salad made with ground chicken, sautéed shrimp, toasted coconut, spinach leaves and crisp green beans straight from the farmer’s market.
The dressing is a sweet/sour blend of tamarind, palm sugar, lime juice, red chili paste and coconut milk. Chef’s salad at Street Thai in Huntington Beach.
The deeply dark red-orange one is SAI OUA, a Chiang Mai-style sausage made with chicken and shrimp, plus kaffir lime and a generous amount of red chili paste. One of those, called name (or Nam), is a fermented pork sausage made with sticky rice, salt and garlic.
Sampler of three styles of Thai sausage at Bangkok Avenue in Huntington Beach. Nothing I’ve eaten in California reminds me more of eating in Thailand than the fish cakes at Chad Thai.
If you’ve tasted a fish cake at any other Thai restaurant locally, there’s a high likelihood that what you ate came from a frozen food distributor. Red chili fish cakes at Chad Thai in Garden Grove.