Rejoice, starving hipsters: your days of instant ramen are over. Cast your eyes toward the Thai instant noodles at the THAI AND LAOS MARKET in Anaheim.
The Thai instant noodles section at this grocer takes up just one aisle, and a tiny aisle at that. But the owners squeeze in more than 40 varieties, four for a buck. You'll find the noodles you eat for lunch at least once a week—pad Thai, silver noodles, pad see ewe; crunchy mee krob yellow egg noodles; noodles with pork, chicken, beef, squid, shrimp and even cartilage flavor. There are instant soups accompanied by a bowl, hot sauce and spoon—coconut milk soup, tom kah, tom yum, even a couple of phos. Most of the noodles are Mama brand—the Campbell's soup of Thailand—and most feature colorful packaging with cell phones or women sticking out their tongues.
I spent most of last week eating as many as possible. The tom kah is oily, redolent of lemongrass and as orange as a faded Kmart photo—an ideal tom kah. The pad Thai is sweeter than usual, but the accompanying packet of chile powder aptly counters the sugary peanut oil. Minced pork soeng kreung flavor is earthy and salty, while the fat pad see ewe soup seems never to end. All the noodles contain actual meat and veggie chunks that taste the way God intended—none of that crunchy freeze-dried bullshit. The only disappointments are the instant curries; they smell like creamy onions when you open the can, and while each possesses the requisite interplay of spicy and sweet (and crispy shoots, despite months in a can), they have a strange, unpleasant aftertaste . . . of creamy onions. Still, better instant curry than a mayo sandwich.
You can live off Thai and Laos Market's Thai instant noodle aisle for months, but make sure to visit the other sections of the county's most comprehensive Thai produce shop as well. Every ingredient you need for a Thai life is here, from fish sauce in foot-tall bottles to seasonings for at least eight curries. At the front of the store are Thai pastries and desserts—and videos; look for the fresh fish, meats and veggies in the back freezer. Thai detergent, deodorant and soap share shelf space with votive candles. And buy a Thai tamale before you leave: it's a sticky brick of bliss.
THAI AND LAOS MARKET, 1721 W. LA PALMA AVE., ANAHEIM, (714) 535-2656.