Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Taste Through Ayara Thai Cuisine

Much like Chinese food, even though Thai food is popular and prevalent in the US, most people don't venture out of the usual order of tom yum, pad thai, etc (though LA residents are pretty good about venturing out). Granted, it's hard to do when faced with a menu of foreign words. That's why for me, having a tasting menu at a recent media dinner at Ayara Thai Cuisine was a good way to explore.

The first bite was something I haven't had before. It's called Miang Kham. The name literally means "one bite" and it's described as "6 flavors" wrapped in young Chinese broccoli leaves and eaten whole.

This is one of the royal dishes of Thailand and is rare to find here in the US. It's usually served on betel nut leaves and composed of shallots, onions, lime, peanut, chili, tamarind sauce. It's at once sweet, spicy, and bitter.
A typical Bangkok street food is Moo Ping (marinated pork skewers) & Sticky Rice. We had them with both the Tigers Cry sauce and roasted chili sauce.
The roasted chili sauce was quite spicy and the sticky rice really helped!

The next dish was something I would've associated with Chinese cuisine: Bitter Melon Soup.
The bitter melon has been stuffed with pork and slowly cooked for 2 days. It was very tender and not as bitter as usual because of the way it's cooked. Some people love it and some people hate it for the bitterness. Again, this is something for you to explore yourself and see where you stand.

Raw Pacific Oysters: with Ayara's chili-lime Seafood Sauce with cilantro and fried shallots, and a Ginger-Black Vinegar Mignonette with cracked black peppers
I know everyone loved the oyster with the chili lime sauce but it was too spicy for me! If you love spicy food you'd love this. Because regular mignonette sauce is boring.

Nam Prik Kapi: shrimp paste relish served with fried eggplants, steamed vegetables, and acacia omelet
Apparently this plate of vegetables is usually served with dinner on the side, to be taken as bites in between the many dishes. The owner said that the shrimp paste smell is usually so strong that the uninitiated customers would ask to switch tables when their neighbors order it!

My favorite dish was definitely the Baked Dungeness Crab in a claypot with glass noodles, garlic, cilantro roots, and black peppers
I just loved this dish! The crab was sweet and had a lot of meat, and the glass noodles had soaked up all the garlicky goodness. This is not always on the menu but you can always find a similar dish made with river prawns.

 Spicy Catfish: crispy catfish seasoned with red curry paste and herbs Jasmine Rice
This was actually not as spicy as the oysters, but very flavorful. Just perfect to be eaten with some white rice.

Ka-Pow Chicken with Thai sweet basil Chinese Broccoli: sautéed in a light soy base sauce 
For dessert we had Assorted Dumplings in Warm Coconut Cream (pumpkin, taro and pandan)
The "dumplings" are actually chewy rice balls. We have something similar in Indonesia called "ronde" which are sometimes stuffed inside with peanuts or beans.
And of course, we had to have the Mango Sticky Rice. The mango they used that night was particularly ripe and sweet.
Ayara is very close to LAX that before I went the first time I would've dismissed it as a "typical" Americanized Thai restaurant, but after giving it a try (when I had the lobster pad thai) I found that they actually have a pretty interesting menu and great food. Now it's not only a great pit stop en route to/from LAX but I would drive here for that crab in a claypot!

Ayara Thai Cuisine 
6245 W 87th St 
Westchester, CA 90045 
(310) 410-8848


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