One Night in Bangkok (Dinner & Dessert in Hollywood’s Thai Town)

The end-of-the-day meal is a funny thing. For people who spend their days away from home, working in offices or out in the field, nothing’s more appealing, after a hard day’s work, than returning to the place where you live, lured in by the smell of a chicken roasting in the oven or the prospect of a crisp glass of white wine waiting for you on the kitchen counter.

Then there are those of us who work from home. If, like me, you spend your days at your computer, occasionally popping into the kitchen to cut yourself a slice of cake, when the end of the day comes, you’ve got a hankering to leave and to experience the world. And that’s a healthy thing except when your partner fits Category A, and there you are in Category B, that can spell trouble.

And so it was that last week, after spending a frustrating day here trying to build furniture from CB2 (let’s not talk about that), I had an intense desire to go out. But then Craig returned home having had his own frustrating day and he had an intense desire to stay home. We butted heads. Things turned ugly. And then, calmly, I said: “Well, ya know what, I’m just gonna go out by myself.” It wasn’t really a threat, just a simple realization; if he wanted A and I wanted B, the best choice was to let him get his own A while I got my own B.

So there I was, in my car, and I had to figure out where I was going. Then I remembered advice Zach and Matt gave me about where to eat in Thai Town; a place called Ruen Pair.

Ruen Pair is in a strip mall that really feels like a taste of Thailand. Here’s the view out the window:


That could be the real thing, right?

As I sat and studied the menu, I remember Zach and Matt telling me about Thai Boat Noodles; a traditional dish, famous in these parts, involving lots of organs floating in a soup thickened with pork blood. I contemplated ordering it–it would certainly make for a good post!–but then I reconsidered. Did I really want that? No I didn’t, at least not now. And so I ordered the most obnoxiously boring dish a person can order in a Thai restaurant because it was what I was craving. Pad Thai:


I figured if this was a real deal Thai restaurant, their Pad Thai should be more authentic than the bad stuff I used to get delivered in N.Y.C. And, sure enough, this was really excellent Pad Thai. The flavors were fresh and bright and there was this great heat to everything that kind of snuck up on you. It went great with the Chang beer I drank along with it.

Now if the story ended there, this would be a really boring post. Man has fight with domestic partner; man leaves apartment; man eats Pad Thai. The end.

No: the story gets better because after I finished my dinner, I spied, across the parking lot, another exciting Thai destination; Bhan Kanom Thai, home of “the original Thai dessert”:


I’d read something about Thai desserts in Jonathan Gold’s book and so I knew this was something worth exploring.

Sure enough, the place was filled with very curious treats. There were all different kinds of jellies:


These were presented as toppings, perhaps for the ice cream they sold alongside it?

There were Chinese doughnuts:


I didn’t try them, but they looked intriguing. As did these crispy crepes:


And grilled sticky rice with taro:


There were packages of sweets to take home:


And a crispy flower to put in a crispy vase:


Mostly, though, I turned my attention to the items in the refrigerated case. I almost bought this dessert called Ruammit, which seemed to be a custard with fruit set inside:


Only, when I lifted it, that custard turned out to be a glass of milk with stuff floating in it. That seemed far less appealing.

There was also grass jelly in syrup, which piqued my curiosity:


But not enough to get me to buy it.

No, the dessert that I settled on was towards the bottom; it was a simple pandan custard:


Pandan is an ingredient that’s actually mentioned in the cookbook that I’ve been working on; it’s a leaf that has a uniquely grassy flavor and you can use it to infuse things like custard. Which is why this custard made a lot of sense to me–it sounded simple and appealing and, sure enough, it was. Like a sweet pudding made of leaves found in a rain forest. Sounds weird, but it makes sense when you eat it.

And so, having given myself the night out I’d been craving, I returned home to find Craig very satisfied having given himself the night in he’d been craving. While I had a Thai Town adventure, he sat on the couch, ate a sandwich and watched TV. And we were both very happy.

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