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Culinary SOS: Jitlada's Thai tea

Culinary SOS: Jitlada's Thai tea
Thai tea. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Sarintip "Jazz" Singsanong is standing over a pot of tea, watching the water take on a burnt ocher color as the mixture gently simmers. "Careful you don't overcook," she says, "or the tea will be bitter." The owner of Jitlada, the beloved Hollywood southern Thai restaurant and a mainstay on Jonathan Gold's 101 Best Restaurants List, is in The Times' Test Kitchen demonstrating the restaurant's Thai tea.

The method is straightforward: Bring water to a boil, add tea (Singsanong uses a green tea blend found in many Thai markets) and simmer for about five minutes before straining. The ratio of tea to water will vary to taste; Singsanong prefers about 2 cups of tea to 5 cups of water. When the liquid is fragrant, she strains the tea using a Thai filter: a long cotton sleeve attached to a thick wire handle. Singsanong serves the tea in typical southern Thai style, over thick, sweetened condensed milk, carefully pouring the tea over the milk so the liquids remain separate. It's a simple but striking presentation, and the tea — part beverage and part dessert — is just rich and sweet enough to counter even the spiciest food at Jitlada.

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JITLADA'S THAI TEA

20 minutes. Serves 4 to 6

5 cups water

2 cups, or to taste, Thai tea (often sold as a mix in Thai markets)

1½ cups, or to taste, condensed milk

1. In a heavy saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Stir in the tea and gently simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and strain.

2. Fill glasses ¼ to 1/3 full of condensed milk. Slowly pour the tea over the milk, careful so the liquids remain separate and distinct. Serve immediately, with long spoons for stirring.

Each of 6 servings: Calories 246; Protein 6 grams; Carbohydrates 42 grams; Fiber 0; Fat 7 grams; Saturated fat 4 grams; Cholesterol 26 mg; Sugar 42 grams; Sodium 99 mg

Note: Adapted from a recipe by Sarintip "Jazz" Singsanong of Jitlada Restaurant in Hollywood. Thai tea and strainers can be found at Thai markets and well-stocked Asian markets, as well as online. To make Thai iced tea, sweeten the tea to taste with sugar before straining, and stir in both evaporated and condensed milk to taste. Pour the tea over ice, and top with cream or half-and-half before serving.

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