Saturday, 2/18/06, 1:30PM
Wat time is it? Thai food time at Wat Thai Temple's weekly food fair, of course!
This is an "only in LA" type of experience: a gorgeous Thai temple located off the 170 freeway, across the street from an auto repair shop and an abandoned/barred-up church. Wat Thai Temple is the largest Thai Theravada Buddhist Temple in the United States, and the grounds truly are an oasis in the center of not-so-scenic North Hollywood. When we arrived around 1:30PM, they were holding a service in the main temple, with several dozen pairs of shoes parked at the base of the temple stairs.
Every weekend from 8AM - 6PM, the temple hosts a food court, with about 10 or more booths (depending on the season) cooking up all sorts of yummy dishes.
Since all the food stands are "tokens only," the first step is to change your cash into tokens: the tokens come in denominations of $2 (red) , $1 (green), and $0.50 (yellow). Brian and I cashed in $15 total, which was plenty for the two of us. Those with bigger appetites may want to bring about $10-15 per person (or more, as all of the stands offer carry-out, so you can eat there and take more home).
They have picnic tables set up in front of the food stands, where everyone eats.
We had a late night on Friday at Soot Bull Jeep, so our first stop was COFFEE! I tried a Thai Iced Coffee for $1, which was very sweet, a little too sweet for my taste. The regular hot coffee, also $1, was perfect. It had a interesting flavor and reminded me a lot of Thai Iced Coffee, minus the condensed milk, and, well, hot. We walked around and checked out all the booths while waiting for the caffeine buzz to kick in.
Our first food stop was the satay and sausage stand. They had chicken, pork and beef satay at $1 each, and various sausages for the same price. We chose two chicken satays, one beef satay, and one pork sausage: total $4.
We came late in the day, and the meat had been sitting out for a while and was a little cold, but still good. The chicken satays were our favorite: delicious chicken that was perfectly charred on the outside, moist and savory inside. The pork sausage had an interesting texture: it was really soft, not at all chewy like traditional Italian-style sausage. The beef satay was OK... if it had been piping hot, I bet it would've been great. Next time, we'll get there earlier to get them right off the grill!
Next, we tried Pho. They had several varieties, including chicken, duck, beef, and beef ball (beef ball means meatballs, not that kind of beef balls). We chose one bowl of beef: $3.
This was down-home delicious, with a spicy broth and lots of rice noodles. My only complaint: no limes (I love lime juice in my pho).
Earlier, I had spotted a fried food stand that looked quite decadent: fried banana, fried potato, and fried sweet potato balls. You could have a big bag of one, two, or all three for $2. Of course, we chose all three!
The fried bananas were hot, crispy, crunchy and sweet: so delicious! The fried potatoes were just as good, perfect if you're looking for something a little less sweet than the bananas. The sweet potato balls had a nice gelatinous chew to them - they reminded me of the sesame balls at Empress Pavillion's dim sum. This stand was a big winner and a must have.
Finally, I had read all about the amazing mangoes, so we finished with a small mango and sticky rice: $3.
Wow. No really, WOW! This quite possibly just made the list of 10 Best Things I Have Ever Tasted in My Whole Life (a future post). Mango season is approx. May-September, so how in the world did they have the freshest, sweetest, most fragrant and flavorful mangoes I have ever tasted... in February? I don't know... but next time, I'm going to ask.
They come with a sweet sticky rice that is seasoned with coconut milk, and a generous container of coconut cream. Pour the cream all over the rice, scoop it up along with a piece of mango: total heaven.
Definitely be sure to visit Lita's mango booth. Go crazy, get the $5 large one... I wish I had!
Here they are carving up more delicious mango.
After the mango, we didn't want to taste anything else for fear of forgetting that perfect moment. But this table looked interesting: and how can you go wrong with heart-shaped jello?
We passed on the jello, grabbed one more coffee and took a walk around the grounds. It's a serene and beautiful place and a great way to pass a lazy Saturday afternoon.
Here's the main temple:
And one of several shrines:
Wat Thai Temple
8225 ColdwaterCanyon Ave.
North Hollywood, CA
Hours: 8AM-6PM Saturday and Sunday
Looking for more articles on Wat Thai?
Check out these other food blogs:
MMM-YOSO: Wat Thai Temple Part I
MMM-YOSO: Wat Thai Temple Part II
Professor Salt: Songkran Festival
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Saturday, 2/18/06, 1:30PM