A swap meet in a strip mall may not seem like the best place for stellar cuisine, but fans of Kim Thai Food would beg to differ. Located inside the warehouse’s food court, this small stand serves up what many deem to be Los Angeles’ finest papaya salad.
The salad is a particular variation known as som tum Lao that’s popular in Isaan, a region in northeastern Thailand. This is the home of the eatery’s founder, Khanhthong “Kim” Siharath, who grew up in a town on the border with Laos. As such, the menu offers a unique blend of Thai and Laotian flavors. The star salad, for example, is served Laotian-style, which essentially means that the spicy-tangy mountain of shredded green papaya, chilies, lime juice, palm sugar, and peanuts gets coated in an especially pungent, dark fermented fish sauce.
Kim’s other signature dish, duck larb, is also an Isaan specialty with Laotian influences. The giant pile of ground meat consists of various duck parts (ranging from liver to kidney to gizzards) sautéed in lemongrass, garlic, and other herbs, then topped with duck skin cracklings and chilies. Those still hungry after their salad and entree can tack on another Isaan favorite: garlic-flavored sausages with a kick of sourness courtesy of a few days of fermentation.
Some reviewers have said that Kim Thai Food’s quality has been a little inconsistent since it came under new management, but the swap meet stand is still a favorite spot for anyone seeking the flavors of northeastern Thailand while shopping for a discounted t-shirt or two.
Know Before You Go
The stand is also known as Song Fung Khong.