The alchemy that occurs when rice cooks against the heat of a hot pan breeds both crunch and obsession.
It creates the prized bottom layer of paella, the socarrat, in Spain, and tadig, the crunchy sheets of burnt rice loved by Persians. Yet these are but bits of coveted crunch. Which is why, when we’re craving the oral, aural fireworks of crisply cooked rice, we head for the 28-year-old Sri Siam Café in North Hollywood.
The restaurant is best known for its Crispy Rice Salad ($8), a mound of deep-fried rice laced with peanuts, slivers of ginger, chiles and chunks of Northern Thai-style sour sausage. A lime-based dressing imbues this starchy salad with a wonderfully bright edge, but without sacrificing texture. The rice is served with a stack of greenery--leaves of romaine and a thatch of cilantro and mint sprigs. A piece of lettuce curled around a scoop of rice, some torn herbs stuffed inside, is one of our favorite bites of Thai food in Los Angeles.
The other salads listed under “Chef Special” are equally delightful. The BBQ Eggplant Salad ($8) is a seemingly odd mixture of tender eggplant, ground chicken and shrimp. But one bite of this weird, warm dish will make you a fan.
Sri Siam Café, 12843 Vanowen St., North Hollywood; 818-982-6161 or srisiamcafe1.com