Thai Boom – Palms, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Thai Food Friday. One of my and Martin’s favorite food traditions. We try to cook at home as often as we can, but sometimes, after a long week, you just want to unwind and let someone else bring you some hot, delicious, ready-to-eat food. We used to live less than a block away from Thai Boom, a little hole-in-the-wall mom & pop restaurant located right on the busy Venice Boulevard thoroughfare, and luckily, our new place is still within the delivery radius. Thanks to its impressively extensive menu featuring typical Thai dishes (pad thai, pad see ew, rad na, and the like), more traditional Thai dishes (tod mun and fish maw soup, anyone?), and even pan-Asian cuisine such as Vietnamese hainan chicken, Chinese roasted char siu pork, and Japanese gyoza, we frequent Thai Boom so often that all three delivery guys recognize us and we are on first-name basis with the cashiers who take our phone-in orders. We’ll occasionally eat at the restaurant as well, hence the varied backgrounds and lighting for the photos below.

Kra Por Pla (Fish Maw Soup)

Kra Por Pla (Fish Maw Soup)

Martin and I are admittedly creatures of habit; when we find something we like on a menu, we’ll keep ordering it until we get sick of it (if that time ever comes). But even so, over the past three years, we have been able to sample a great variety of dishes. Arguably the most daring is the kra por pla — a thick soup filled with fish maw, crab meat, hard boiled quail eggs, congealed pork blood, and bamboo. Fish maw, a euphemism for the swim bladder, is the offal of the sea. With a soft and airy yet chewy texture, the essentially flavorless collagen takes on the bold flavors of the spicy broth. Another “unusual” ingredient is the congealed pork blood, known as huyết in Vietnamese cuisine, basically a steamed blood cake that resembles tofu or pudding in texture. Altogether perfect for a cold night, but not for the faint of heart.

Fried Tofu

Fried Tofu

Another starter we’ll order on occasion is the fried tofu. Super crispy, golden triangles that are silky smooth on the inside, dipped in a homemade sweet and sour sauce, these are a great splurge – worth every calorie. On other visits, we have also ordered the tod mun (fish cake patties) and som tum (papaya salad). The tod mun are crispy and fragrant with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. The som tum can be ordered extra spicy (“Thai spicy”) and arrives with finely julienned green papaya swimming in a fish sauce, chili, and dried shrimp dressing. Two traditional Thai favorites!

Tom Kha Gai with flat rice noodles

Tom Kha Gai with flat rice noodles

I love Thai soups. The trifecta of galangal (similar to ginger in appearance but with a much more potent flavor), kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass impart their aroma to create a broth unlike any other. Tom yum is a clear broth soup while tom kha gets its opaque creaminess from coconut milk. I make a Vietnamese spin on tom yum (actually tom khlong, which is tamarind-based instead of lime) at home so I like to order tom kha when dining out. Thin slices of chicken breast or cubes of fresh tofu serve as the proteins, and I order my soup with a side of flat rice noodles (the ones used for pad see ew) to add a carb element. This is my go-to dish here!

Pepper Assortment

Pepper Assortment

When we dine at the restaurant, the waitresses are always quick to bring us (well, me) this cute basket featuring pepper in many preparations. I always go straight to the sambal – a paste of ground Thai chilies, garlic, and vinegar.

Tom Yum with Tofu

Tom Yum with Tofu

Luckily I have my own stash of sambal at home, manufactured by the same lovely people who make Huy Fong Foods sriracha. It adds a tangy and spicy kick to the soup, tinting the broth a tinge of red. (In case you noticed, I had leftover vermicelli rice noodles after making spring rolls one night and I poured my tom yum soup over those instead.)

Pad See Ew with Squid

Pad See Ew with Squid

Speaking of flat rice noodles, Thai Boom of course sells one of the most popular dishes — pad see ew, flat rice noodles pan fried with Chinese broccoli (gai lan), egg, and a “brown sauce” (oyster sauce and soy sauce based). All of the noodle dishes including pad thai (which is generous with the fish sauce and not too sweet here) and rad na (basically pad see ew but with a more saucy “gravy”) come with your choice of protein: chicken, beef, pork, tofu (fried or steamed), shrimp, squid, seafood, or vegetables. The sweet and savory noodles and crunchy greens are surprisingly not very greasy for having been pan fried. Martin’s favorite is the fried tofu; when you order it, they always ask if egg is OK as many tofu requests tend to come from vegetarians or vegans. I appreciate that extra bit of consideration.

Hainam Chicken

Hainam Chicken

Martin’s all-time favorite dish from Thai Boom has to be the Hainam chicken, a Southeast Asian specialty that is essentially chicken and rice. The chicken is steeped to create a stock which is then used to cook the rice and to serve as soup to accompany the final product. The chicken meat itself is shredded and piled on over the bed of rice. Sometimes simple is best.

But the sauce...

But the sauce…

But the dipping sauce… oh the dipping sauce. This is what really makes Thai Boom’s hainanese chicken stand out from the rest. Packed with minced garlic, chilies, muddled lime, and I have no idea what else, this sauce adds a huge burst of flavor. We would love to replicate it someday, but the layering of flavors is so complex that the task seems daunting.

Trout Fish

Trout Fish

Once in a while, we dare each other to branch out and order something new. Last night, for example, I opted for the crispy fried fillet of trout, served with a mango salad. Oh. My. Fish. One bite into the crunchy, crumbly fillet and I was immediately transported back to my childhood. You see, at the Asian grocery stores that are very prevalent in Orange County (but sadly absent in West LA), you can pick out a live or fresh-frozen fish and have the crew clean it, gut it, and deep fry it for a few extra bucks. Bring it home, drizzle with nuoc cham, and serve with mounds of steaming hot jasmine rice – I was a happy camper. The edges were especially satisfying to crunch into, and what luck – they left the tail! (When I was a kid, my mom and I would take turns letting each other have that prized piece.) The mango salad was similar to the som tum with the substitution of tart green mango. Marinated in fish sauce and chilies, this was a great punch of acid to cut through the grease of fried fish.

Mango Season!

Mango Season!

If we’re lucky, Thai Boom would have tracked down some extra ripe champagne mangoes, the narrow bright yellow kind. When we eat in the restaurant, we can do a quick recon for them by glancing over at the counter where they are always on display, but when ordering by phone, have no fear! They are brutally honest about the quality of their mangoes; I remember once I asked if they had mangoes in season and the girl replied that yes, they did, but they are not particularly ripe so she would not recommend it. I’m still thankful for her saving me from the disappointment.

Sticky Rice & Mango

Sticky Rice & Mango

But sometimes, luck is on our side and we get to finish our meal with one of these – a plate of coconut milk infused sticky rice, fresh slices of mango, and extra coconut milk for drizzling. And when the mangoes are just right, they are as sweet as candy. So good!

So if you’re in the mood for Thai food, or if you are feeling too lazy to cook and happen to live within a few miles of Venice and Overland (in which case, howdy neighbor!), be sure to check out Thai Boom. There’s something for everyone!

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Check out Thai Boom: thaiboomla.com

10863 Venice Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90034

See their Yelp reviews here!

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Soy Sauce Chicken and Sticky Rice Stuffing [Thanksgiving 2012]

Main Dishes, Recipes

Martin and I are both only children of Vietnamese parents who immigrated to America around the 1970s. I never had a so-called “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and all the trimmings (and neither has he) but I remember that as I was growing up, I would pester my mom about it. Her compromise? A roast chicken. Looks the same, tastes better, and size-appropriate for our humble family of three. Now that we’ve become a combined family unit of 6, a turkey still doesn’t feel quite right, so this year, we decided to do a roast chicken using one of my favorite recipes from Martin Yan’s cookbook. Yup, that’s right – I grew up watching Yan Can Cook. And if Yan can cook, so can you! (Sorry, I couldn’t help it.)

Voila -- roast chicken with sticky rice stuffing

Voila — roast chicken with sticky rice stuffing!

All of the credit goes to my mom, and to Martin Yan for the inspiration. After a few years of following the recipe, then tweaking and tweaking again, she finally settled on a fantastic marinade this year that blew me away. It was really that good. No, I’m not biased at all – why would you say that?

Without further ado, here goes the recipe for preparing your own soy sauce and garlic marinated roast chicken with sticky rice stuffing, a Nom Nom Cat Thanksgiving.

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken (3-5 lbs)

Marinade

4 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons thick soy sauce (it comes in a jar, not the liquid-y kind in the bottle)

5-7 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Sticky Rice Stuffing

1 tablespoon oil

2 links of lap xuong (Chinese sausage), diced

1 cup of dried shiitake mushrooms, diced

3 tablespoons dried shrimp, whole

1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, chopped

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce (or more, to taste)

1 teaspoon brown sugar

3/4 cup glutinous rice (gạo nếp)

1/4 cup green onions, chopped

1) Game plan – the night before you plan to serve the meal: prepare the marinade, let the chicken do its thing, and soak the sticky rice. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the ingredients for the marinade. Muddle the garlic a bit with the back of your spoon to really get the flavors out. Evenly drizzle over your cleaned and prepped chicken. I like to peel back the skin on the breasts and make sure some marinade soaks into the meat underneath. Let the marinade work its magic overnight in the refrigerator. In a large bowl, soak the sticky rice in enough warm water to cover the rice by at least an inch.

Marinated and ready for the oven!

Marinated and ready for the oven!

2) Game plan – 4 hours before dinner time: Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in a bowl of warm water and the dried shrimp in a separate bowl of warm water. Let soak for 1 hour.

3) Game plan – 3 hours before dinner time: Prep the sticky rice stuffing. Drain the soaked mushrooms and shrimp; chop the mushrooms. In a large sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil on medium-high heat. Toss in the garlic and Chinese sausage. Fry until the cubes look toasty. Then add the mushrooms, shrimp, and seasonings. Stir to combine and add pepper to taste, keeping in mind that the rice will “dilute” the overall flavor. Drain the rice and add to the pan, cooking until the rice starts to turn brown and roasty-toasty. Mix in the green onions. At this stage, add one tablespoon of water and continue to cook on low heat until the rice becomes somewhat softened. Take the stuffing off the heat and let cool for a few minutes.

Sticky rice stuffing

Sticky rice stuffing

4) Game plan – 2 hours before dinner time: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. A 4.5 lb chicken will take at least 1.5 hours to cook, possibly 2 hours. Stuff the sticky rice stuffing into the chicken’s cavity. Truss the cavity closed using long skewers, turkey trussing skewers, or put your arts & crafts skills to work with a little twine and stitching. Drizzle the remaining marinade over the top of the chicken.

If you don't have fancy trussing tools, you could try toothpicks and hope it doesn't explode too much!

If you don’t have fancy trussing tools, you could try toothpicks and hope it doesn’t explode too much!

Bake at 375 degrees for 1.5 to 2 hours, or until the dark meat juices run clear. Keep a watchful eye on the chicken and if it starts to darken too quickly, create a foil “tent” and loosely cover.

Cookie keeping a watchful eye on the chicken.

Cookie keeping a watchful eye on the chicken.

We hope you’ll enjoy our recipe for an Asian fusion holiday dinner. You can easily scale down the marinade (or follow the recipe and save the leftovers in a jar or reduce in a saucepan to drizzle over as a glaze) to accommodate smaller chickens, chicken parts (like boneless skinless chicken breast, if that’s your thing), cornish hens, etc. This meal always reminds me of Thanksgiving but the hearty, family-style nature of the roasted poultry is appropriate for any of the winter holidays (hint: just 5 days until Christmas!) or any time of the year really!

Our humble family

Our humble family

From our home to yours, we want to wish you all a very happy holiday and many good things to come in 2013!

Che Bap – Vietnamese Sweet Corn Dessert

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

The other night I had a monster craving for some of my mom’s good ol’ chè bắp. Of all of the sticky rice and coconut milk desserts in the Vietnamese dessert repertoire, I think this corn rendition has to be my favorite. You can serve it cold, but nothing beats having a nice warm bowl of this sweet and satisfying dessert on a cool night. It requires a few relatively exotic ingredients, but they all keep very well so you can stock up for the rainy day when you just might crave a bowl of chè.

A hefty serving of Vietnamese Sweet Corn Dessert (chè bắp)

NomCat Tips for the Ingredients:

1. The Sticky rice (aka glutinous rice or gạo nếp): Ever had sticky rice and mango at your local Thai restaurant? That’s the kind we need. You cannot substitute long-grain jasmine rice or even the Japanese round variety used for sushi. It just won’t be the same (in fact, I don’t recommend even attempting to make chè with those types of rice!) Glutinous rice contains high amounts of a particular type of starch that gives it an incredibly sticky texture when cooked. The bag I used (Three Ladies Brand) refers to it as gạo nếp thơm, fragrant sticky rice. You should be able to find manageable 5lb bags, unlike jasmine rice which is usually sold in massive 25lb sacks. Store unused rice the way you store flour or other grains – in an airtight container to prevent weevil infestations (not a pretty sight).

2. The Coconut Milk (nước dừa): One potentially confusing tidbit – nước dừa in Vietnamese can refer to both the creamy white coconut milk (again, think sticky rice and mango) and the clear, young coconut water (like ONE or Zico). In this case, we need the former, which conveniently comes in cans or cardboard tetrapaks and can be stored at room temperature in your pantry. Please note that I have not tried using the new coconut milk from Silk (the makers of soymilk and almond milk), but I have a feeling you won’t get the same flavor or consistency with it.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sticky rice (uncooked)

2 cups water

1/4 cup coconut milk

1 cup sweet corn kernels *

3 teaspoons sugar

Pinch of salt

Optional: Pandan (lá dứa) leaves or extract

* I used frozen corn, but you could also use fresh corn shaved off the cob or 1 drained can of corn

Rinse the rice in cold water a few times. Add to a small saucepan and pour in the water. Sprinkle in a tiny pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and let it simmer uncovered for 5-6 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid burning.

Bubble bubble, toil and.. sticky rice!

In the meantime, prepare your corn. If using frozen corn like I did, you’ll want to rinse the kernels under cool water to let them thaw a bit. Fresh corn will need to be shaved off the cob, and canned corn will need to be opened and drained. At this point, you have a few options. You could leave the kernels whole like I did in the photo, or you can coarsely chop the kernels to break them up. You can also use the side of a large flat blade to flatten or squish the kernels. Your choice here will not really affect the taste of your final product, but it’s up to you how texturally congruous (or not) you like your desserts.

Whole kernels of frozen corn

Now that your rice is well on its way to becoming a delicious dessert, it’s time to add the coconut milk. This step will impart fragrance and flavor during the final cooking stages of the rice. If you are using pandan (lá dứa), this is the time to add it. Cook for about 5 more minutes so that the rice absorbs the liquid. Stir in your corn and sugar. Continue cooking for a few more minutes (just 1-2 minutes if using frozen or canned, a little longer for fresh), adding coconut milk as needed to achieve the right consistency.

I love the contrast between the bright yellow corn and pearly white rice!

Serve warm and refrigerate any leftovers (which you can then eat cold straight out of the fridge or warmed by microwave). This recipe serves 4.

The aroma of the sticky rice and coconut milk boiling in the kitchen immediately makes me feel nostalgic and a teeny bit homesick. Memories aside, this is also just a darn good dessert and the warm, sticky texture always leaves me feeling full and satisfied! Many thanks to my mom for sharing her recipe.