Off Menu: An education in Thai food with Jitlada’s Jazz Singsanong

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In the first episode of “Off Menu,” Food columnist Lucas Kwan Peterson and Jazz Singsanong, longtime proprietor of the Thai Town restaurant Jitlada, head to LAX-C, a vast, warehouse-like grocery store that’s sometimes known by its informal nickname, Thai Costco. Full of shrimp pastes, Asian vegetables and fish sauces you can’t find at a Ralphs or Vons, LAX-C is a godsend for any chef with an interest in Thai or Southeast Asian cooking. The two of them go shopping, Jazz educating Lucas on selecting produce and how to pick a high-quality fish to bring home. They then return to the Jitlada kitchen where Jazz shows Lucas how to make a few dishes that aren’t on the regular menu.

Jazz immigrated to the United States from Thailand in 1979. At that time, Jitlada existed as a Northern Thai restaurant, under different management; Jazz herself would eat there as a diner. It wasn’t until 2006 that Jazz and her brother, the late Tui Sungkamee, bought the restaurant and began turning it into what it is today: possibly the most-loved restaurant in all of Thai Town. Famous for its searing-hot mango salads and volcanic curries, Jitlada became a favorite of the late Times critic Jonathan Gold. Following the death of her brother, Jazz continues to run the restaurant with her niece, Sugar.

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A funky, salty and fiery dip from Jazz
Jazz Singsanong of Jitlada restaurant gives us her recipe for nam prik goong, a funky, salty dipping sauce for raw vegetables made with shrimp and shrimp paste.

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