Thai eatery Chao Kung removes Chinese dishes in favor of traditional Thai flavors

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At Chao Krung, Chinese dishes like chow mein and egg foo young have been replaced by Thai dishes such as khao soi noodles. Photo courtesy of Chao Krung.

Katy Noochlaor and her sister, chef Amanda Maneesilassan, operate three Thai restaurants. It's the family business. After their parents immigrated to Los Angeles from Bangkok in 1970, they opened Chao Krung. It was one of the first Thai restaurants in the East Hollywood neighborhood now known as Thai Town. Noochlaor and Maneesilassan soon followed their mother and father to the United States. As Noochlaor explains, their parents didn't have restaurant experience, but her mother knew her way around a kitchen because their grandmother had cooked in the Thai royal palace. 

The first Chao Krung location replicated their grandmother's recipes, but since many of the traditional Thai ingredients weren't readily available, the couple learned to make their own curry paste from scratch using herbs from their garden. As word of mouth spread among Thai customers, the couple opened a second location on Fairfax across from the Original Farmer's Market. 

Chao Krung on Fairfax serves many of the Thai dishes served at its original location in East Hollywood. Photo courtesy of Chao Krung.

Struggling to attract new business, the couple added familiar Chinese dishes such as egg rolls, fried rice, and chow mein to the menu. Once people came through the door, they introduced customers to Thai dishes like pad thai, curries, and stir fry. 

In 2017, Noochlaor and Maneesilassan took over the business when their parents were ready to retire and return to Thailand. They brought back the original Hollywood menu, removing the Chinese dishes and replacing them with fish cakes, beef jerky, and catfish. Chao Krung is the focus of this edition of "In the Weeds."

Katy Noochlaor (left) and Amanda Maneesilassan took the reins of their family's restaurant in 2017. Photo courtesy of Chao Krung.