Object of Desire: Kanom krok
If your weekends are anything like ours, you may occasionally find yourself driving up Coldwater Canyon Boulevard in the early afternoon, just in case something is jumping at Wat Thai, the golden-roofed Thai Buddhist temple at its northern end. The weekly overflow of Thai street-food stalls may be at an ebb right now, but you never know when you will run into a busy Sunday or a festival, and if you strike out, you can always console yourself with a plate of eggplant curry or a som tum with salted crab at Papaya Pok Pok across the street. The crispy rice salad with house-cured pork is pretty good too.
If you've timed things correctly, and I really can't give you any advice on this, you will be able to visit Mae Ting's LA Coconut Cake in a stall next to the restaurant, and this is where it starts to get good. Because the coconut cakes, kanom krok in Thai, may be the grail of Thai desserts in Los Angeles. You may have had batter cakes like these, cooked to order on an oiled cast-iron griddle dimpled with ping pong ball-size indentations. There are eggy Cantonese cakes cooked on a similar griddle; Japanese takoyaki too. But Mae Ting's kanom krok are special when you get them right off the fire: hemispheres of pure coconut essence that have magically developed a thin, crisp crust; crunchy, fragrant clouds. They don't so much melt in your mouth as vanish in a whiff of steam.
Sometimes you'll find Mae Ting's LA Coconut Cake next to Pok Pok Papaya, 8236 Coldwater Canyon Ave, North Hollywood; sometimes at LAX-C, 1100 N. Main St., downtown.
-- Jonathan Gold
Photo: Jonathan Gold/Los Angeles Times