You would never think this random strip mall Thai — though, what Thai restaurant in LA isn’t in a strip mall — in the middle of nowhere would have any kind of Issan food. It mostly doesn’t, and the boat noodles here aren’t that good. Most of the dishes are really meant for farangs (in this case, Koreans, Latinos and some actual white people), but one time, randomly, I sampled a keeper.
naem sod khao todd at Thai Cuisine Express
Sour ham with crunchy rice “salad” is one of my all time favorite dishes within the Northeast Thai/Laotian repertoire. There’s a hint of sourness within the mix, the sausage is made of mostly headcheese with a great sour flavor (though not too many factories still ferment the sausages naturally, most just use a certain blend of critic acids), and the fresh mint along with shallots, peanuts, and young ginger really turns up the texture party. It’s a dish that requires quite a bit of work. It’s a dish that demands beer, and attention. It’s a dish that’s appropriately touted as a token of authencity.
It so happened shortly after finding this crispy rice fermented sausage salad at Thai Cuisine Express, this Chow thread in the LA subforums was resurrected by a “Mr. Taster”. Mr. Taster was apparently headed to Las Vegas, and being sick and tired of chained cheffy food, he was looking for some ethnic bites. Someone then brought up Vientiane (in Westminster/Garden Grove) as a great source of naem khao tod. It’s been a bit since I’ve hit up Vientiane for the Laotian noodle soups, and I had to remind myself its flavors. The whole undertaking was more interesting because I’ve never had Vientiane’s version of nam khao tod, despite trying majority of this fried rice salad in North OC and South Los Angeles County.
The result was shocking, really. Vientiane’s rustic naem khao tod fell so short in complexity and overall balance compared to anything from the (562) powerhouses, despite it carrying a very labor-intensive prep for the khao tod (rice patty) as well as a tasty fermented sausage (which I was told was produced in-house). The Laotian dish — I’ve never never, this is purely from
research google — apparently also uses lime juice, fish sauce, and ginger, but these three specific ingredients were mostly amiss in Vientiane’s. Despite the ingredient short fall, Vientiane’s nam khao tod is still extremely popular. It’s been written up on OC Weekly & Register, and a few other news outlets. The success ought to be attributed to the textural play, not the taste.
Read it as you may, local Thais will agree Thai Cuisine Express’s naem sod khao tod is just far tastier.
Thai Cuisine Express
6098 Orangethorpe Ave
Buena Park, CA