New York Chefs Discover Thai Food: Foofaraw, or Fact?

Awesome beef panang from OC's Thai palace, Thai Nakorn
Awesome beef panang from OC's Thai palace, Thai Nakorn

Few things are funnier than clueless reporters "discovering" a "trend" that flies in the face of reality, and that was my first reaction upon reading a story in Nation's Restaurant News yesterday declaring this is the year of Thai food in New York. It's a hoot to read writer Bret Thorn's description of Thai food we breathe here in Southern California, like tom kha gai and tom yam and larb. Larb! Ooo, that's so exotic!

Asked for comment, Village Voice editor (and Orange County native) Tony Ortega replied, "A few new Thai restaurants and suddenly NY has 'discovered' Thai food? That¹s pretty lame. I don't know why you'd waste your time ridiculing such an empty premise."

Maybe because it might be true?



Much is made of the culinary rivalry and differences between Southern California (mostly Los Angeles but also Orange County--more on that in a bit) and New York City, and I won't get much into the details because they bore me. But NYC does have a hilarious habit of being years late to Southern California hole-in-the-wall trends.

Last year, the New York Times

declared 2009 the year of the bánh mì, just about five years after the Vietnamese sandwiches entered the weekly dining habits of most Orange Countians. Mexican food has graced the pages of the Gray Lady's food section this year, just about, oh, 50 years after Southern California finally discovered tequila and a decade after mescal. And how much longer before Vietnamese-Cajun crab shacks become the hit of SoHo and Chelsea? I say two years.

Maybe Ortega is wrong and NRR is right: maybe New York doesn't know its Thai just yet. Southern California is the undisputed American capital of Thai cooking, and while the Big Apple might be getting their own Lotus of Siam soon, don't forget that they originally made a name for themselves in SoCal, cabrones. On the other hand, we still need a few good non-Horn of Africa African restaurants out here...


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