Market Tours: BhanKanomThai, Thai Dessert and Snack Capital of Los Angeles
Amidst the handful of savory regional noodle shops off Hollywood Boulevard in Thaitown, lies BhanKanomThai, an unassuming Thai dessert and goody market in one of the small community's main strip malls. Literally translated, it means "Thai Sweet House."
It's a tiny place. But the crammed racks heavy with imported Thai crackers, cookies, and other goods reveal just the beginning of its epic selection of Thai snacks and sweets. Their colorful signage boasts "The Original Thai Dessert," rightfully so, since the store has been open everyday since 1998.
You kind of want to buy and taste everything in sight as soon as you walk in. Especially after you get whiff of the caramelized coconut sugars in just about every other item in the store. In particular, look for their "Pangchi," a warm, sweet, chewy hash brown of sorts that's composed of griddled taro, corn, and freshly grated coconut; it's one of their best sellers and it's made multiple times a day.
By the cashier there is a clever mountain of see-through plastic clamshell containers filled with multi-colored desserts of all shapes and sizes. The first one that catches your eye will probably be the Luk Chup, tiny works of handmade edible art made from sweetened mung bean paste. This assortment contains replicas of iconic American produce such as chile peppers, peaches and tomatoes but if we were in Thailand, they would probably be Mangosteens, Mangos and Durian.
Also available? The familiar Thai dish of Mango with sticky rice ($6.) But don't worry, it'll be the best one you'll ever have—the perfectly al dente, coconutty sticky rice is meant to be mixed up with its salty, slightly sour coconut milk sauce and a whole Mexican ripe-as-hell Manila mango and a half.
A nurse next to me who had just gotten out of work was giddy with excitement. She admitted to coming here every single Friday but only limiting herself to approximately two items a week; no exceptions. A young guy was buying at least a dozen of their imported various seafood flavored Thai crackers. "It's just some Thai snacks," he tells me, "but they are really hard to find outside of this shop."
Next to the cashier, the young manager Alvin Petcha (who is part of the family that originally opened the place and still own it) was teaching his eager employees how to make Roti Sai Mai, tracing paper-thin wheat flour chewy crepes on the griddle. The pancakes are used to wrap Thai-style (string shaped) cotton candy, and are eaten like a sweet taquito. That's another big seller.
As you keep on walking, you can't help but pick up a few snacks off the shelves and inspect them. There is everything from fried Thai fish fillets that are eaten like chips to instant porridge to mooncakes from the prestigious but hard to find brand SMP. There is a Thai shaved ice bar where you can get items like sweetened gelatinous basil seeds to top your icy treat, plus Thai ice cream with flavors like green tea and lichee. If you're still not full, check out the hot dessert bar, with its warm coconut milk-based desserts.
At the end of the only aisle of the store, when you've thought you've seen it all, you spot an entire fridge door lined with custards. A Pandan custard to be exact, made with real pandan leaves instead of extract and extra, extra creamy thanks to the use of full fat coconut milk. Oh yeah, and only for $3.50. They are open until 2 a.m. everyday and ship out anything you'd like too. Enjoy.