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BKK 2 LAX: Best of the Inaugural Thai Food Fest

Ayara Thai's "Miang Kham" betel leaf wrap.

Ayara Thai’s “Miang Kham” betel leaf wrap. (Photo by Jo Stougaard)

The BKK 2 LAX: Inaugural Thai Food Fest debuted at Paramount Pictures Studios on Sunday to a crowd hungry for tastes of Thai and fest host Jet Tila did not disappoint. The Culinary Thai Ambassador’s curated collection of SoCal restaurants featured faves from all four of Thailand’s culinary regions.

Chef Tila’s own Braised Beef Curry Noodle exemplified Chiang Mai cooking in northern Thailand while Jitlada’s scorch-your-mouth Dry Chicken Curry represented the south. Legendary chef Andy Ricker of Portland’s Pok Pok offered central Thai fare: Stir-Fried Noodles with vegetables, tofu, eggs, and chili-bean curd sukiyaki sauce.

Tila chose innovative eateries as well as traditional restaurants.  Night + Market’s Chef Kris Yenbamroong’s Koi Tuna Ceviche with fermented fish sauce was an edgy take on Isaan (northeastern region) cuisine. Chef Sang Yoon from Lukshon offered “Reimagined Thai Beef Salad”: a playful, composed small plate of lettuce soup, crispy tomato, and deliciously chewy cow tongue.

The showiest preparation was for Ayara Thai’s Miang Kham, which translates as “eating many things in one bite”.  Crowds gathered to watch Chef Anna Asapahu’s daughter Vanda separate pomelo with liquid nitrogen, which chilled the fruit and made it easier to pull apart.  The citrus was mixed with crab meat, prawns, and thinly sliced Thai herbs, dressed with palm syrup, and wrapped in betel leaves for a perfect bite that exemplified street food at its most elegantly delicious.

The booth-lined concourse was hot and overcrowded at times but tree-shaded tables on the adjacent lawn provided cool spots to get out of the sun and eat some heat.

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