>> E-san Rod-Sap | Eat the World Los Angeles

Monday 21 October 2019

E-san Rod-Sap

๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ญ THAILAND / ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ฆ LAOS

EDITOR'S NOTE: An updated version of this article (22 December 2023) is available as part of the Historical section of our Substack page. Check that out here:
The restaurant connected to the Thai Laos Market in Anaheim is the type of place that will be circulated as hidden or some sort of secret, but the name is right there in the front window. The only people it hides from are the folks that do not read Thai language. That being said, the old script on the old strip mall facade of the market itself (see last photo below) is more than enough for the curious passerby to wander in and check out what is happening inside.

With its own door to the parking lot, but also connected to the market inside is E-san Rod-Sap, named for the food it focuses on from the province of E-san in northeast Thailand. Often compared to Lao food, E-san food can be Lao food and Lao food can be E-san food in many cases. The region after all has more Lao people than Laos itself, a sparsely populated country.

No matter which method of entry you choose, you will arrive in front of the scene above. The smells from the steam table will hit your nose as the many handwritten options all compete for your attention. Pick up a paper menu and the overwhelming feeling deepens. Maybe you should sit down for a bit.

While there are many delicious options for both Thai and Lao dishes available ร  la carte, it is that steam table that should take your focus on a weekday lunch. The "lunch/dinner combo express" is available all day and includes jasmine rice and either two options for $6.50 or three for $7.50. Extra items on top of this are only $2.

An amazing lunch for $7.50.

This way of eating, or type of establishment is often referred to as khao rad kang, literally meaning "curry over rice" but signifying here that you get rice as well as some other choices. The plate above would never be found in Thailand because it includes dishes from Laos and southern Thailand that would not be cooked by the same folks. But they do it all here, and so far to pretty good effect.

The green Lao bamboo vegetable soup (above left) somehow tastes like Laos and brings back vivid memories of the country. It is quite simple, but the way its smells hit your nose is just perfect. One bowl was not enough and a refill was required. Despite the statement above about similarities between E-san food, this is one of the very unique Lao dishes that is kept within its own borders and differentiates itself.

Always available in these type of places serving many spicy options is some type of pla tod (above front), fried fish chosen to mellow out the other flavors and provide some relief. Usually fish this small are first sun dried and then fried during preparation, making them extra crispy and good.

The extra dish added to the three was another to help mellow any potential heat overdoses. Moo dad deaw (above), is pork that has also been sundried before frying. The marinade of soy sauce and palm sugar makes it sweet as well for extra calming potential between bites of curry.

The yellow curry bamboo (below) would have never been possible to exist with the Lao soup in any khao rad kang in Thailand, but they seem meant for each other and offer competing flavor profiles. The version of the southern Thai favorite here is certainly not as spicy as you can find it on occasion, but it is very good.

After adding one dish and asking for a refill of the Lao bamboo vegetable soup, the total bill came to $11.50. Throw a five in the tip jar and you still have a very economical lunch hack for two people to split. The Thai person present at this particular meal for two kept making really nice faces and saying it made her feel like home. It might be hard to beat this type of approval.

If you are rather in the mood for noodle soups, they have excellent versions of Thai nam tok (boat noodles) and Lao kao piek (chicken noodle soup) as well as plenty of other spicy and/or sour options.

The next door market is good for a wander, and filling up your pantry if you cook Thai and/or Lao foods at home. Check out their collection of bamboo sticky rice containers, from single serving to giant vats the size of your torso. It is the best selection outside of a specialized shop back in Thailand or Laos.


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