Zen Noodle: Crispy Pork Gang and Grill

Small world… about a year ago I ran into one of my Thai friends eating at this place, she was having som tam, green papaya salad, which I have yet to try, but it looked great! Since then I had been meaning to sample this place, Crispy Pork Gang and Grill on Hollywood Blvd. Located in Thai Town, the menu is a lot more authentic than the generic Americanized Thai places I have been familiar with forever.


Today was the day and I took the train up to Hollywood. I ordered a Thai iced tea, which was yummy and cheap, and the first thing on the menu, a small bowl of pork and shrimp tom yum soup.

At $3.50 for a small, this was a deal! The waitress kindly asked me if I would like them to leave out the pork liver… I said ok. I didn’t want my first step into real Thai food to take me too far! The soup was delicious! The broth is slightly sour and very rich, rice noodles, bbq pork slices, small balls of ground pork, fish balls and small shrimp with green onion. I asked for mild, another capitulation to my American-ness, and it was tasty while bringing just a little heat.

The soup was enough food for me but I really wanted to try their specialty, crispy pork! I ordered Chinese broccoli over rice with crispy pork. $6.50 and really delicious, I couldn’t finish it and took the rest home for a snack.

Small world, because on the train ride home I ran into the same Thai friend who introduced me to the place! She was late and I wasn’t able to get the story out before she had to rush off, but thanks for the heads up on the real Thai, Patti!

PS: they are open 24 hours and they deliver.

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Simply spicy Korean pork BBQ

This dish is what drew me to Koreatown… sweet and spicy stir fried pork with rice and ban chan, Korean side dishes. I still don’t have a handle on the ban chan but serving it with rice and seaweed is quite tasty enough and so easy.

Spicy pork bulgogi:

1 lb prepared spicy pork
1/2 large onion
4 green onion
4 thai chilis
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs sesame oil

Slice the veggies to the desired size, I like them a little on the big side so you can differentiate the flavor and texture. Using this many onions makes the dish very sweet, and cooking the chilis thoroughly mellows them out a lot. For more of a kick, add some chilis at the end.

Heat the sesame oil to medium high, saute the the veggies and then add the pork and fry it up until it starts to caramelize. Serve with steamed rice and a pack of snack sized seaweed.

Sliced cabbage kimchi and a salad of beans sprouts and cucumber with lemon soy dressing goes great with this dish but tonight I kept it very simple.

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Pistachio crusted chicken cutlet sandwich

Jon’s Market has really cheap boneless chicken legs on sale regularly… I suppose I should hold out for organic, but $$$ count! I also recently came across ground pistachio at the Santa Monica farmers market, $6 a bag, excellent value as well for a really special ingredient.

Today I combined them into a fried chicken sandwich with lettuce and guacamole.

I cut the whole boneless legs (legs and thighs) into 4 pieces. For the breading I dredged them in egg, flour seasoned with salt and pepper, another wash of egg, and last a mix of half bread crumbs and half ground pistachio. I let them sit in the refrigerator for a few hours to help the coating bind to the chicken.

The guacamole was a simple recipe:

1 avocado
1/2 cup cilantro
1 thai chile
juice from 1 small key lime
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

Mince everything very fine and mix it up. I went very heavy on the cilantro and I really liked the results.

Shallow fry the chicken on medium heat for about 4-5 minutes per side, depending on thickness. Not too hot, the pistachio will burn easily. For the bread I used a Ralph’s market sandwich roll, I like their texture, soft in the middle and just a little crisp on the outside. A little mayo on one side, a nice amount of guac on the other side, and a few leaves of romaine lettuce.

The one thai chilie gave it just a touch of heat, it made for a pretty good sandwich! Maybe a little more salt…

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Mediterranean lamb breast

A visit to the local Armenian oriented supermarket (Jon’s Marketplace on N Vermont in Hollywood) revealed a couple pieces of lamb breast on sale. I am not familiar with this ingredient, they looked like racks of ribs to me. But they inspired me to give some Mediterranean flavors a try.

To prepare the ribs, I simply seasoned them with salt and pepper and laid them in a pan over a small insulating layer of sliced onion.

Cooking them was a guess on my part but they are very fatty and I knew they could take the heat. I cooked them covered at 400F for one hour, at which point the fat had rendered out nicely, then I left them uncovered for an hour at 325F to crisp the top. While they cooked I moved on to the sides, tzatziki and hummus.

I have made tzatziki (I always worry that what I make is not traditional enough to use traditional names, but this is my take on it) several times and this turned out tasty.

Tzatziki (cucumber dill yogurt sauce):

8 oz labni kefir cheese
1/3 cup cucumber
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 cup dill
1/2 lemon, juice from
1/2 tsp salt

Chop it all up, mix it all up.

The hummus was my first attempt, inspired by passing a can of garbanzo beans in the produce section. It turned out ok… it tastes good but it isn’t as good as really good hummus. I will have to try fresh instead of canned next time.


1 can garbanzo beans
1/2 lime, juice
1/2 lemon, juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Blend ingredients thoroughly.

I also bought pita bread and prepared grape leaves… what a great market! It was the first time I tried their grape leaves and they are really delicious, $2 for 10 or 12. Fantastic ingredients, great prices… that’s the kind of thing that gets me excited.

To prepare the pita I wrapped them in foil and put them in the oven for ten minutes.

Chop some green leaf lettuce, stuff a piece of pita with all the ingredients and be happy!

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