Friday, June 17, 2005

Sunshine Thai

I don't know why there are so many Thai folks in L.A., but such is our good fortune that mediocre Thai restaurants here would be a destination in 99% of American cities. Nevertheless, as chowhounds it remains our duty to seek out the creme de la creme, and guided by a tip from a Thai student in a next door lab I headed out to Sunshine (13212 Sherman Way, North Hollywood 818-764-6989) tonight. Apparently the Thai name sounds a bit like "sunshine" and on a balmy summers night the airbrushed papaya "tree", fake flowers and extremely lightweight plastic balustrades inside provided a ersatz paradise for some killing Thai food as the sun set outside:

Ground pork and crispy rice salad with pig's ears: I neglected to note the Thai name for this outrageously tasty dish. The classic fish sauce, red onion and cabbage are served with ground pork and crispy rice like a familiar larb-style salad but the thinly sliced pig's ears add a novel touch. Fresh mint and purple thin-leaf Thai basil to shred on top add a wonderful freshness to the dish that equals the terrific salads I've had at Yai, Ruen Pair and the Wat Thai temple. Dried red chillies are included whole, allowing sensible diners to adjust their level of spiciness by picking 'em out. I ground them into the salad for an extra-spicy version - goodnight nurse!

Shallow Sea: Cryptic name - is it the same in Thai??? - for a delicious dish. Perfectly fried fish fillets with tender splayed-out squid and shrimp in a fish-sauce rich mixture, livened up with kaffir lime leaves and sliced fresh green chillies. The immaculately cooked seafood and tasty sauce made this a great choice. It has been brought to work as prizewinning leftovers but is even better served fresh.

Pork "jerky": Off menu deep fried pork slices, not exactly as dry as the jerky term would imply but with a crispy fried coating encasing moist meat. Served with a vinegary dried-red chilli sauce, a nice contrast with the other dishes we tried that had added some of the classic South-East Asian grilled/fried meat flair to the meal.

Sunshine is a Los Angeles peoples restaurant in the classic mould. Dirt-cheap prices, auto repair shops and storefront church for local colour, and best of all food that's tailored for Thai folks. I look forward to exploring further menu items.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Soon tofu (I don't speak Korean but think it is pronounced something like "soon du bu") is a revelatory Korean stew filled with silken tofu and the meat of one's choice; it is coloured various grades from plain to violent red depending on how spicy one requests it. Usually soon tofu is served in a ceramic bowl and bubbles away as one cracks an egg into it, remaining delightfully hot throughout the meal. Sokongdong (2716 W. Olympic Blvd #104, Koreatown 213-380-3737) has the best version I've tasted. The soft tofu is infused with the flavour of the stock and the mushroom version I tried had tender pork slices, shiitake and a bunch of enoki mushrooms floating on top, plus a sprinkling of salty nori flakes. "Very spicy" is not inedible, just about right to let one taste the rest of the flavours circulating in the dish. Rice also comes in a stone bowl. After the waitress extracts it she pours some hot water into the bowl, making a bland rice porridge that can soothe one's palate. Sea combination also recommended. Pan chan - the ubiquitous small dishes embodying Korean hospitality - are on the minimalist side but included toothsome fish cake.

Like a lot of my favourite restaurants, Sokongdong has a very brief menu, and everyone in the place - almost exclusively Korean peeps - was eating soon tofu. Chowhound Spoony Bard and I were both hungry and contemplated adding either mandoo or "spicy raw crab". The waitress tried to discourage us from ordering the latter - often a good sign - so we plunged in and we were rewarded with one of the tastiest crab dishes I've had in Los Angeles. A generous portion of fresh raw crab is chopped into manageable pieces and served cold in a bright red chilli paste similar to the one squirted into bibimbap. Bell pepper pieces and cucumber garnish are a mere sideshow for the sweet and meltingly soft crab meat spread through the deepest crevices of the animal. We worked hard at the dish and were quite euphoric after reducing it to a pile of shell pieces.

Big thanks to "Tiff" for recommending this one.