Eat

Trick or Feet – @ Jitlada

Chef Tui never learned to cook at a culinary school or from a teacher; everything he knows, he was taught by his family growing up in southern Thailand.

Story and Photos by Drew Bateman - Drewbateman1000@gmail.com
Photo © Drew Bateman

Photo © Drew Bateman

I was walking around East Hollywood—Scratch that—I was driving around East Hollywood… People who walk around Los Angeles usually push around shopping carts full of bedding and crackers… Anyway, I was driving around East Hollywood when it struck me. It’s the middle of fall, and Halloween is less than two weeks away. Where are the jack-o-lanterns? The fog machines? The mounds of red and orange leaves on the sidewalks? The happy Halloween signs and blowup monsters that are to be expected in such an enormous suburb as Los Angeles? When does anything ever change here?

Despite the absence of real holiday seasons here, some small pockets of people still try to celebrate in some creative and unusual ways, such as the good folks at Jitlada, a Thai joint on Hollywood Boulevard, and favorite of Matt Groening’s.

Photo © Drew Bateman

Photo © Drew Bateman

Tui and his daughter began to lay out the ingredients for the pork feet tom yum soup, a popular sour and spicy Thai soup made from a broth of lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal and lime juice. Tui showed me the pork feet which were to be used for the dish, freshly butchered, bought from the market and boiled for one hour to a perfect melt in your mouth consistency. He threw the pork feet into a boiling pot and began to toss in the spices, juices and vegetables with the deftness of someone who has been doing this since their childhood. The soup was finished surprisingly fast and was eaten up even faster.

Photo © Drew Bateman

Photo © Drew Bateman

Tui and Sugar then set up the ingredients for the next dish, a rooster foot jungle curry; basil, cilantro, garlic, lemongrass, turmeric, peppers, chicken feet and Chef Tui’s homemade southern curry that he makes a batch of every morning. Tui poured the fragrant curry into his wok and set it to a simmer, turning back to the chopping board and giving all the chicken feet a swift mani-pedi to remove the claws before being thrown in. Tui jetted off with utmost importance, and returned with some Thai eggplants and green beans to chop up and throw in, and added some final spices and peppers to finish up the strong, spicy smelling curry.

Photo © Drew Bateman

Photo © Drew Bateman

After that, we sat down and talked about the restaurant, and Chef Tui’s life growing up and learning to cook in southern Thailand, and his decision to ultimately relocate to Los Angeles work at Jitlada.

Chef Tui never learned to cook at a culinary school or from a teacher; everything he knows, he was taught by his family growing up in southern Thailand. Tui fell in love with food and continued to pursue cooking, eventually opening some of his own restaurants in Thailand.

Photo © Drew Bateman

Photo © Drew Bateman

Years down the line, Tui’s brother would come down with cancer, and would have to move to Los Angeles to undergo treatment. Tui and his daughter moved here temporarily to to look after him for a couple years. When it came time to go back to Thailand, Tui’s daughter wanted to stay, and so Tui began working at Jitlada, a restaurant that he would eventually inherit and pass on to his daughter, Sugar.

Photo © Drew Bateman

Photo © Drew Bateman

Ok, so maybe Jitlada isn’t the most frightening and bone-chilling place in L.A. If you want that, go to one of the vast, vacant 70’s office buildings downtown, or take a ride through Malibu, knowing the place burns to the ground every few years. What Jitlada is though, is one of the most friendly and welcoming restaurants in Los Angeles, a place where the customers keep coming back because of the legendary food and friendly faces. Oh, and the menu items that incorporate animal feet.

Photo © Drew Bateman

Photo © Drew Bateman

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