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Photo by Hannah Khan, courtesy Tuk Tuk Thai

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An Ultimate Guide to L.A. Thai Food (With Help From the Sisters at Tuk Tuk Thai)

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​In a city​ blessed with a world-class Thai scene (Los Angeles County is, after all, home to the largest number of Thais outside of Thailand), sisters Katy Noochlaor and chef Amanda Kuntee are nothing short of Thai restaurant royalty.
Their parents, Boon and Supa Kuntee, opened Chao Krung in East Hollywood in 1969, before relocating it to its current home on Fairfax in 1976. Tuk Tuk Thai, meanwhile, was situated on Pico Boulevard for 23 years before moving to Sawtelle last year, with an updated menu of casual Thai street food favorites.
Today, Noochlaor and Kuntee oversee both (Noochlaor also runs Same Same in Silver Lake), making widening quality Thai cuisine’s presence in neighborhoods across Los Angeles the family’s continuing legacy.

Although it’s impossible to distill the wealth of Thai food in L.A. into a single guide, we figured these Thai restaurant industry insiders would serve as excellent guides. Since the two run multiple restaurants together, they tend to be very discerning about their Thai food shopping and eating. ​​We asked the sisters for their go-to spots, and their answers were in concert. ”We go to the same restaurants, just at different times, because Katy goes out and runs errands during the day and I’m left with weekends, which are my days off,” says Kuntee.

Here, then, are the Thai markets and restaurants they love most in L.A. And because the suggestions really could be endless, we’ve supplied a few of our own favorites for good measure.

Sisters Katy Noochlaor and Amanda Kuntee. Photo by Hannah Khan.
Sisters Katy Noochlaor and Amanda Kuntee. Photo by Hannah Khan.

Markets & Groceries: LAX-C, Bangluck Market and Silom Supermarket

The sisters do their shopping at three different markets, and consider LAX-C the crown jewel of bulk Thai restaurant supply. “LAX-C is the major one for restaurants because it’s wholesale,” explains Noochlaor. “You might do a quick pick-up from Bangluck or Silom market because you can’t get to LAX-C [in Chinatown] all the time,” she adds. “Bangluck tends to be the most traditional, and they have a wide array of ingredients considering they’re a small market.”

A shopping trip for the sisters wouldn’t be complete, however, without visiting all of them. “Sometimes we have to go to all three,” says Kuntee. “Maybe LAX-C won’t have this brand of something, so we have to go to Silom. Or Silom doesn’t have this brand, so we have to go to Bangluck. You can never find everything [you want] in one place.”

 

Breakfast & Late Night: Siam Sunset & Ruen Pair 

Jok, or Thai rice porridge (also known as khao tom), is a morning dish Noochlaor and Kuntee enjoy at Siam Sunset before the start of a market run. “I love getting pork intestines, organs, and a raw egg in there; then you mix it with the rice,” says Kuntee. “That’s Anthony Bourdain’s favorite breakfast dish,” adds Noochlaor. Since it’s a daytime pit stop only open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Hollywood restaurant is the perfect first stop.

For porridge at night, after a shift or on weekend days off, they like to head to Ruen Pair, which is open until 11 p.m. “Usually Thai people will eat it late at night, you know, after a club or drinking,” says Noochlaor. “We [like to add] the fermented cabbage in spicy sauce, mixed with ginger and salty thousand year-old eggs. You can add the morning glory on the side as well, and the omelette with chai po [sweet radish], too,” she says. “Basically, we order stuff we don’t usually serve at our restaurant,” says Noochlaor.

Noodle Soup: Rodded

For kuay teaw ped toon, or duck noodle soup, the pair sing the praises of Rodded in East Hollywood, a longstanding purveyor for this speciality dish. “The same family has always run it, and I always see the same people there. They’re consistent and their noodles are as good as [in] Thailand,” explains Noochlaor. “The owners are still serving,” adds Kuntee. “I mean, she’s in her seventies and is still in the kitchen. That’s pretty awesome to see.”

 

Snacks: Kun Dang

For finger-friendly northeastern and eastern Thai food, the two like to go to Kun Dang in North Hollywood. Eastern Thai food tends to be spicier, snackier, and incorporates more rice powder, they say, while northern Thai food features more sticky rice. “At Kun Dang they have great beef jerky, papaya salad, and beef intestines,” says Noochlaor.

 

Desserts: Bhan Kanom Thai & Wat Thai

And while Noochlaor and Kuntee don’t profess a strong love of sweets, they point to Thai Town’s Bhan Kanom Thai for cornering the dessert market. “When I go there, I tend to look for frozen packages that come from Thailand,” says Noochlaor. “I get cold desserts like grass jelly and then put it over ice. They also have good sticky rice and mango, and the traditional sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves with taro or banana inside that’s not too sweet.”

There is one dessert, however, that Kuntee does enjoy: fried bananas. “I get the best ones at Wat Thai,” she says, North Hollywood’s Thai temple, which features a street food market outside on weekends, for a final taste of something sweet. 

The full spread at Night + Market. Photo courtesy Night + Market
The full spread at Night + Market. Photo courtesy Night + Market
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But there’s more …

As we mentioned, L.A.’s Thai restaurant scene is overwhelming in its strengths, and the markets and restaurants above represent but the tip of the iceberg.

Here are some of our own choices​ of other top Thai restaurants in town.