Get Your Tentacles Off Me, You Damn Dirty Jellyfish. Rahd Nah Yen-Ta-Fo. Sanamluang Café. North Hollywood.
The only good jellyfish is a dead jellyfish.
Recently, between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, armies of Portuguese men-of-war rang in the holidays by giving the gift of a sting in the ass. These fiends mercilessly attacked 300 people who were visiting a Sao Paolo beach. Innocent people, including women and children, found themselves frolicking in perilous waters teeming with the evil, poisonous, oceanic blobs. By the time they recognized the horror it was too late. Many were hospitalized. Most were irreversibly traumatized. (Makes a lump of coal in the stocking seem pretty thoughtful, doesn’t it?)
These random acts of sea savagery have become more commonplace as jellyfish and their ilk propagate, overpopulate, invade new territories and spread their terror via venom. No longer are the jellyfish content with domination of Tuna and Turtle territories. Emboldened by their dwindling number of natural predators due to overfishing and global warming, the jellyfish twist and turn their toxic tentacles towards our direction.
This was one prophecy I wish didn’t come true, and it gives me no pleasure to gloat about such things. I hate to say “I told you so,” but damn it all, I told you so!
This is only the beginning. In the near future, as the temperature of the globe rises, the jellyfish will also have reached new heights in numbers, furthering their deadly expansion into all waters thereby making it safe for nothing and nobody. In this bleak future, going for a swim at the beach will be like navigating a minefield drifting with volatile jellyfish.
Fortunately, it’s not too late to turn the tide on the sinister Scyphozoa. We should all be grateful because on the frontline of this war against the jellies is a juggernaut in the Los Angeles Thai cuisine scene — Sanamluang Café. The great Sanamluang offers not one but two jellyfish plates.
039 or Yen-Ta-Fo is a hot and sour spicy noodle soup with squid, shrimp, jellyfish, fish ball, fish cake and spinach topped with fried wonton.
030B or Rahd Nah Yen-Ta-Fo is flat rice noodles with squid, shrimp, jellyfish, fish ball, fish cake and special gravy sauce.
I had 030B. The Rahd one. My 030B was drowned in a pink, soupy gravy. Very pink. Not a natural pink in the least. When I asked the server what the “special gravy sauce” was exactly, she responded, “It’s Chinese Mapo sauce.” I never in my life have seen pink Mapo sauce, but, more significantly, Mapo sauce is known to be painfully spicy. This sauce was as sweet as it was pink with a little touch of sour.
Underneath all the blushy goop hid a mélange of rubbery shrimp, squid, fish ball and fish cake. And underneath all the seafood was a gummy pile of lifeless noodles practically dyed hot pink like the neon lighting wrapped around the restaurant. All this time I thought pink was a happy color. Instead it was really starting to piss me off. I had to remind myself that I was doing this for the cause — the decimation of the vile though delicious jellyfish by mass consumption.
So far, so bad. Then I tasted the jellyfish. As luck would have it, the jellies turned out to be excellent. Sweet and crunchy with the texture of wood ear fungus. This particular jellyfish wasn’t sliced into strips like it’s typically presented for dim sum. It was more like an alien blossom, freakish yet lovely. And it was the best thing on the pathetic plate.
The jellyfish selections at Sanamluang need some work (and their “special gravy sauce” needs to be much less perplexing) but at least they’re in the fight. Right about now, I’m gonna call out all the restaurants in LA to do their part in this war on jellyfish. Drop your “locally sourced” scams. Be rid of your “slow food” folly. There’s something much more urgent at stake — the future of humanity. I've seen the enemy, and it's time to eat them. Pass the Sriracha.