Make sure to mark Saturday mornings on your schedule, as a makeshift market in front of Nuad Royal Thai Spa on Hollywood Blvd. in Thai Town has become a hot spot as of last two weekends. With the vendors at Wat Thai of Los Angeles still on pause, it is somehow refreshing to see outdoor cooking and hawking back in the Thai community.
The difference between this market and others is that they attempt to keep the prices of everything down to $5 or less, making it possible to grab a bunch of different items in one visit without being parted with all your money. And furthermore, not one item grabbed over this past weekend was even just average. It was all delicious.
The market is a constant buzz while open, as vendors are continuously unloading more goods from their trunks. On a recent visit, two buckets of sticky rice and catering trays of fried sweet bananas showed up, creating a bit of a stir and a line of hungry customers. The reason for all of the attention and buzz is of course because all of the product seems to be top notch.
This past weekend, the vendor seen in the foreground above had a khao kang southern-style setup which let you choose from one of many items cooked fresh at home and brought here in catering trays. Most of the offerings were also southern-style, including the two dishes at the top of the photo below in round containers: a very spicy kua kling-style pork spare ribs (ซี่โครงอ่อนผัดเครื่องแกงใต้) and a sour and savory pickled cabbage with pork soup (ต้มผักกาดดอง) that pairs quite well to calm your burning mouth down.
There are other vendors making fresh som tum (ส้มตำ), a grill full of pork skewers (หมูปิ้ง) and Isaan sausage (ไส้กรอกอีสาน, both below), stir-fried noodles (ผัดหมี่) with fresh fried shrimp cakes (ทอดมันกุ้ง) that are delicious, fried bananas (กล้วยทอด), grilled chicken (ไก่ย่าง), and sticky rice with mango (ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง).
At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lot of warranted fear for the future of restaurants and eating out. Many of the worst scenarios have come true. But on the bright side every single human still needs to eat and we are seeing so many new ways for the food of talented cooks to get into the hands of the hungry public. Silver linings can be delicious, especially when priced at $5.