Krua Thai: A spicy, cheap and delicious strip mall find

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BY JENNIFER EVANS GARDNER

Ow! It’s been an hour since I finished lunch at Krua Thai and my mouth is still on fire.

Don’t get me wrong. I really like this place; but you do have to take care when ordering “spicy” or even “mild-to-spicy” at this strip mall dive way out on Sherman Way. This was my second visit, and I was hesitant to deviate from the delicious dishes I ordered the first time. The good news is that it’s so inexpensive, I was able to order both the dishes I knew I loved, plus a few extras.

Pad Kee Mao, a luscious flat noodle that has been stir-fried with green chili, mint leaves and shrimp. Photos: Karen Young

 

Which brings me to the spice issue.

Unless you are a fire-eating dragon, you might think twice before ordering the Papaya Salad, shredded raw papaya in chilis and lime juice, served with either raw blue crab or shrimp. I pride myself on being someone who can withstand serious heat, but even I could not handle this dish. I didn’t even get to the shrimp. My mouth was burning so intensely after the first few bites that I had to cease and desist. I even paid dearly for allowing some of the papaya salad juice to seep into my other dishes. If you don’t believe me, by all means, ignore this warning and order away – I’d love to hear how you fare.

Tom Kha Kai soup— the classic coconut milk, lemon grass, lime and chili soup with mushrooms and chicken served in a flaming hot pot.

 

Still spicy, but much safer, and delicious, is the Tom Kha Kai soup — the classic coconut milk, lemon grass, lime and chili soup with mushrooms and chicken served in a flaming hot pot. By flaming I mean that flames are literally rising out of the middle of the pot, fueled by some kind of Sterno contraption within. It is both dramatic and delicious, except for the chicken, which is dark and a little funky for my taste (I prefer white meat). Ask for it with shrimp instead and you’re good to go.

My favorite dish, hands down, is the Pad Kee Mao, a luscious flat noodle that has been stir-fried with green chili, mint leaves and shrimp (you can choose beef or chicken if you prefer). It is perfect as far as Thai noodles go, and I will be back for more. Consider it a Thai comfort food.

Jonathan Gold of LA Weekly once called their Pad Thai “the best in town,” and while I couldn’t really confirm that (I haven’t ordered Pad Thai that much since the 80s), I will say that it’s quite good here. Thai rice sticks (noodles) have been gently fried with egg and adorned with shrimp, chicken, peanuts, tofu and bean sprouts in a flavorful tamarind juice spiced with hot chilis. Both the Pad Kee Mao and Pad Thai are addictive, which is just fine because the portions are enormous.

Papaya Salad - shredded raw papaya in chilis and lime juice, served with either raw blue crab or shrimp

 

Of course, there’s much more to this menu, too much to rattle off, but all the classics are here such as Satays, steamed mussels in Thai herbs, larb, curries, even catfish, trout and tilapia in various sauces, not to mention the Thai rice dishes. However, the stars of the show at this eatery are the noodles, which come pan-fried or in a number of soups and stews (I counted at least 25). There is no alcohol, but you can quench your thirst with Thai iced coffee or tea, young coconut juice, or tapioca iced tea or coffee, among other beverages.

Krua Thai may not have much curb appeal, but the prices are right (meaning cheap), portions are huge, and from what I have sampled, the food is authentic and good. An added bonus: it’s open daily until 3:30 a.m. in case you get a midnight craving. The service can be spotty, but when we told the server the Papaya Salad was too spicy, she graciously exchanged it for another dish free of charge.

Krua Thai 13130 Sherman Way North Hollywood, CA (818) 759-7998

Jennifer Evans Gardner is a food and travel writer, cookbook author, and owner of the Little Feet in the Kitchen cooking school. Formerly Editor-in-Chief for PeterGreenberg.com, Jennifer has also written for huffingtonpost.com, ePregnancy, Eating, Santa Barbara, and Kiwi, among other publications. www.jenevansgardner.com

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

  • anateresa

    Is white chicken substitute an option here? I am definitely not a dark meat fan and I don’t eat seafood (well, not cooked that is) BUT I am big on the spicy. Asian beef tends to be undercooked, for my stomach. So hopefully white chicken substitute is an option. : )

  • http://www.jenevansgardner.com Jennifer

    I would skip the chicken altogether, the broth is so good with the mushrooms, etc., you don’t need it!

  • Victor Orly

    Delicious food, but very slow service… It took 15 minutes to get a menu. I almost took a nap sitting at the table.

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