Mama Mae Ting’s Coconut Cakes

Out of all the Thai places we’ve eaten at in LA, Mama Mae Ting’s Coconut Cakes reminds us the most of eating street food in Thailand. Perhaps, it’s because of how this place is set up. Mama Mae Ting’s is under a tin roofed tent, with a station for making papaya salad, coconut cakes, and BBQ skewers. It smells amazing. There are also little Thai snacks everywhere.

Mama Mae Ting

Mama Mae runs the spot. You can tell because of her vibrant presence. She always welcomes you the moment you step foot into her make-shift restaurant. Plus, there’s a gigantic banner of her hung on the side of the tent!

Underneath the tent, there are two tables you can sit and eat at. There are also a few small tables in the sun, under some umbrellas, if you prefer some sun.

Location

Mama Mae Ting’s Coconut Cakes
1100 N. Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Directions

Mama Mae Ting's

This place is street vendor set-up in the parking lot of LAX-C, also know as the Thai Costco. This is where people go to get loads of ingredients and supplies for their restaurants. But unlike Costco, it doesn’t require a membership to get in and buy something. So you can definitely go in and explore, and maybe, buy 5 lbs of fresh lemongrass. It’s worth noting that there’s also a Thai fast-food place to eat inside LAX-C, but it’s never been that great the few times we’ve tried.

There are a few other Thai restaurants and Chimney Coffee House within the same enclosed area, sharing the parking lot.

The Dishes

Mama Mae Ting’s Coconut Cakes has a super-simple menu. They offer meat skewers (chicken and pork), papaya salad, sticky rice, Thai sausage, and coconut cakes, of course! But that’s it. We haven’t had a chance to try the E-saan sausage and papaya salad yet, but we’ll have to try it the next time we go.

Meat Skewers

These meat skewers, especially the pork ones, are a must-try when you come to Mama Mae Ting’s! You order what you want, and the guy with the cap that presides over the BBQ grill masterfully grills your meat orders to perfection. Most of the time, he’s got some on the grill, ready to serve already, which means you get your skewers very quickly. So good if you come hungry.

These skewers have been well-marinated, and taste delicious after it’s cooked over the grill and dripping in its own fats. The best are the pieces with little pieces of fats on them! You can eat this with a sticky rice to balance out the rich flavors.

meat skewers

Coconut Cakes

It’s in the name! These coconut cakes are what Mama Mae Ting’s is known for. They make it fresh.

Making coconut cakes

Coconut Cake detailCoconut cakes

Tips

  • Bring cash with you. It’s a cash-only place.
  • There is a parking lot, which you can park in for free. It’s an enclosed parking lot for LAX-C (the large supermarket), and other places to eat and grab a drink, but the lot has never been full when we’ve gone on the weekends.
  • If you take the Gold Line Metro-Rail, you can jump off the Chinatown stop, and get to it within a 5-10 minute walk. You’ll pass mostly industrial areas to get to it.
  • Opened on weekends only. Saturdays and Sundays 9:00am – 5:00pm.

Ras Noodle

On the morning of JP’s birthday, we drove out to visit the Wat Thai Temple—a peaceful, welcoming Thai Buddhist temple in the Valley. We spent the morning there. Meditating. Reflecting. Journaling. Receiving a blessing from the monks at noon. Chatting it up with a friendly Thai Grandma. It was beautiful.Wat Thai Temple
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By the time we were done, it was lunch time! Normally, we’d eat at the temple when we come on the weekends. (Eating here on the weekend is reminiscent of eating street food in Thailand! We’ll have to share more about the experience in another entry.) However, we were there on a Wednesday, so no food vendors.

We then remembered Ras Noodle—a good Thai place that we’ve been to once about a mile away.

Location

Ras Noodle
8205 Woodman Ave #104, Panorama City, CA 91402
Directions

It took us less than 5 minutes to drive over from Wat Thai Temple and find parking inside the little plaza.

We walked in, and Ras Noodle was as we’d remember…a small, Thai restaurant with no frills service and decor. We sat ourselves down at a table. We didn’t get menus right away, but the main decorations were photos of food from the menu. So we took a look at those until a waitress finally came by with two menus, which were nicely printed with a lot of professional photos. Same as the ones on the walls.

The Dishes

There were many dishes that looked delicious, and are cheap. We decided to go with the Boat Noodles and Catfish Curry this time.

Boat Noodles – $6.50 (large)

When you ordered boat noodles at Ras Noodle, you first select the type of noodles you want. There are four choices: egg noodles, flat noodles, pho rice noodles, and thin rice noodles. We chose thin rice noodles.

Our bowl of boat noodles came out smelling so savory and sweet. The broth was dark brown (almost a little muddy) because it had some cow and/or pigs blood, which is traditionally the base of this soup. It may sound weird, but the taste of this soup with the noodles, meat, and herbs is delicious!  At first bite, all I can say is “Yum!” The taste is so good; primarily salty and spicy with a little sweet- and sour-ness.

Ingredients: liver, pork balls, tripe, pork, been sprouts, cilantro, green onions, chili powder

Boat Noodles

The name of this soup comes from its origins of being served from boats in the canals of Bangkok, Thailand. Boat noodles are traditionally served in a small bowl, but there are usually small and large sizes of this soup available at most Thai restaurants in LA.

Boat Noodles close-up

 Catfish Curry – $9.00

This dish is cooked in a “dry” curry style with no coconut milk (similar to Pad Prik King). It has slices of catfish, bone-in, mixed in this rich and oily curry, with various herbs. Super flavorful. This catfish curry tastes spicy, sweet, and salty all at once! It’s available with or without rice. We recommend eating it with rice, so you can give your palette a break from the intense flavors every few bites.

Ingredients: green peppercorns, chilies, basil, galangal, a few red and green peppers, curry paste, palm sugar, fish sauce

Catfish Curry

Catfish Curry closeup

Tips

  • Bring cash with you. It’s a cash-only place, but there’s an ATM near the register.
  • There are free parking spots in the plaza lot, albeit limited. Otherwise, you’ll have to look for street parking.
  • Opened daily from 9:30am -9:00pm.

Spicy BBQ

Terrible name. Great food.

Spicy BBQ has got to be one of the most generic names for a Thai restaurant, but that’s the actual name of this amazing, hole-in-the-wall place we’re about to tell you about! Located in the Little Armenia neighborhood of East Hollywood, this restaurant specializes in traditional Northern Thai cuisine from the Chiang Mai region, and serves some of the best Thai dishes we’ve had in LA.

Location

Spicy BBQ
5101 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90029
Directions

Monica Plaza

The restaurant is easy to miss and located in the small, two-story outdoor Monica Plaza, with other businesses, ranging from medical offices to a market and falafel place. Spicy BBQ is on the bottom floor, closest to the Santa Monica Boulevard side. There’s a sign above the restaurant door with “Thai Food” in bold, bright green letters. It has red window curtains that are always closed, which makes it seem like the restaurant is closed from the exterior, but don’t be fooled!Thai Food

Walk into Spicy BBQ, and you will find yourself in a little Thai restaurant that has seating for 18 people max. There are only six tables, decorated each with its own Thailand tourism poster under a glass pane.  Its staff is also very modest. There’s only one Thai waitress and a couple of older Thai women in the kitchen. Surprisingly, there’s rarely a wait for a table.

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The Dishes

The dishes at Spicy BBQ are fairly cheap with very big portions. For this visit, we ordered three of the best dishes this restaurant has to offer: Gang Hang Lae (aka Chaing Mai Curry), Jack Fruit Salad, and Khao Soi (aka Chiang Mai Noodles)

Gang Hang Lae – $12.95

The best in Los Angeles! Gang Hang Lae, also known as Chiang Mai Curry, is a hard dish to find. The waitress at Spicy BBQ said this restaurant is the only one in LA that serves it, but now Pok Pok and Night+Market do too.  We’ve tried the dish at these three places, and this one truly stands out.

At Spicy BBQ, the Gang Hang Lae is oily, fragrant, and slightly sweet with large chunks of perfectly cooked pork. Occasionally, you may get a large piece of pure pork fat which isn’t very pleasant but overall, this dish has complex flavors that mix so well together! It’s delicious.

Ingredients: pork, curry paste, onions, lots of ginger, pickled garlic, peanuts, star anise

Gang Hang Lae

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Jackfruit Salad – $10.95

This Jackfruit Salad is one of our favorite Spicy BBQ dishes and one of the best Thai dishes in LA! What makes this dish unique is how similar the texture of the jackfruit is to the shredded pork. You can’t really tell the difference when you take a bite. It’s just all very tasty! The dish also has a nice balance of oiliness and spiciness. The flavor of the lime leaves, which is an essential ingredient in Thai cooking, and herbs all come together and enhance how yummy this dish is.

Ingredients: jackfruit, pork, crispy pork, lime leaves, cilantro, green onions, onions, garlic, tomatoes, fish sauce, shrimp paste(?)

Jack Fruit Salad 1

DSC_2837

Khao Soi – $9.95

Khao Sio, also known as Chiang Mai Noodles, is a curry noodle soup that you actually eat with chopsticks and an Asian soup spoon. This is the best one we’ve have had in LA so far as well.

The bowl comes topped with crispy noodles, cilantro, and a generous amount of coconut cream. On the side is a small dish of pickled cabbage, red shallots, and lime. (If it doesn’t come with this side dish, it’s not authentic Khao Soi!) To begin, you mix all these ingredients together in the bowl. So good!

Ingredients: Lots of coconut milk, curry paste, egg noodles, chicken, crispy noodles

Khao Soi

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Tips

  • Bring cash with you. It’s a cash-only place, but there’s an ATM right by the entrance.
  • Use the bathroom before you come eat! There’s no bathroom inside restaurant. If you need to use it, you have to get a key, walk outside, upstairs and down a sketchy hallway locked by a metal gate. Not fun, especially at night.
  • If you’re lucky, you can snag one of the limited free parking spots in the small plaza lot. Otherwise, you’ll have to look for free or metered street parking.
  • If you’re using public transit, the restaurant is 8 blocks from the Metro Red Line’s Vermont/Santa Monica station. Metro Lines 206 and 704, and Metro Bus 4 also have stops right on the corner of Normandie/Santa Monica, where Thai Spicy BBQ is located.
  • It’s closed on Wednesdays. Opened all other days from 11:00am -9:30pm.

Kim Thai Food

For our first stop, we drove out to the Valley in search of a place called Kim Thai Food. We hadn’t been before, but we heard from a few friends that it had some great dishes, especially a delicious papaya salad. We decided to give it a try!

 

Location, Location, Location

Address: 12727 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, CA 91605

It took us a few tries before finding Kim Thai Food because of its hidden location. We knew that it was in a shopping plaza off Sherman Way, but there were so many shopping plazas in that area! We even used Waze to navigate there but ended up walking around the wrong plaza. After driving into the second plaza, we decideLa Fiesta Swap Meetd to walk into “La Fiesta Swap Meet.”

We had no idea what was inside, but it showed promise because of a small sign that said “Food Court: Comida Internaccional.” Luckily, both of us understand a bit of Spanish. No outside signage for Kim Thai Food but our instincts told us it was in there.

We walked in and saw aisles  full of small toy and clothing shops, left and right. No indication of food though; at least not until we walked all the way to the back…

shopsAnd then…BINGO! There it was. Kim Thai Food—a small, unpretentious, hole-in-the-wall with a neon sign and delicious looking Thai food. We were so happy to find it.

Kim Thai Food

Kim Thai Food

The Dishes

We ordered three dishes: grilled pork, duck larb, and papaya salad.

Grilled Pork – $10

All the dishes were delicious, but this one stood out. We’d definitely come back and order this again. The meat was well cooked and still tender.

grilled pork 1

The sauce that came with the grilled pork was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Imagine concentrating all the Thai flavors into one small bowl and that’s what it tasted like. Raw garlic, chilies, lime juice, fish sauce and who knows what else. While our tastebuds were in heaven, anyone within breathing distance from us for the rest of the day was not.

grill pork sauce
Duck Larb – $15

We had seen this dish on their Yelp page and decided to try it despite it’s unusually high price tag. From what we could tell, the Duck Larb consisted of ground duck meat, liver, kidney, crispy chicharones (fried pork skin), dried chilies and fresh herbs. Mint, lemongrass, lime leaves, garlic and cilantro all gave it a really fresh and flavorful taste.

duck larb
Papaya Salad – $6

This was the dish we came specifically for. We heard from a friend that it might be the best papaya salad in L.A. There were a few minor things we would have done differently (like using cherry tomatoes and dried shrimp) but all in all, it was a very authentic and flavorful papaya salad with just the right amount of fish sauce, lime juice and palm sugar dressing. Peanuts, chilies, long beans and cabbage completed the dish.

Proportion was good for two people, but it can easily feed three, especially if you’re all sharing another dish or two.

We’re not sure if it beats the papaya salad at Ruen Pair but it’s definitely in our top three.

papaya salad

Environment

The Environment was definitely interesting. One of the views, while we were eating, was of a woman getting her eyebrows professionally threaded.

Another view was of Kim Thai Food staff making papaya salad and handling orders behind the counter.

Kim Thai Food Environment

 

We really enjoyed Kim Thai Food not only for it’s authentic Thai food, but also for the experience of hunting it down. Eating amazing Thai food in a mall full of random shops is definitely an authentic Thai experience, which made it even more nostalgic for us.

Tips

  • Bring cash with you. It’s a cash-only place.
  • Parking is free and easily available in the shopping plaza lot.
  • It’s closed on Tuesdays.
  • Check out other dishes to order: Kim Thai Food on Yelp.
Photography by JP Candelier.