Having a favorite Thai restaurant in LA is like having a half-baked movie concept buried deep in your notes app—almost everybody’s got one. But unlike those Pre-K dramedies and sci-fi viking sagas, everybody believes their Thai spot is the best. Arguments about jade noodles, crab curry, and whether or not you should even order pad thai are everyday occurrences—and that’s not a bad thing. But sometimes you just want to eat some bubbling jungle curry in peace, without worrying if you’re ordering correctly or calculating whether or not this is one of the best Thai restaurants in the city.
If you’re in need of such a place, check out ours: Prael Thai.
Right off the 101 in the Melrose Hill neighborhood, this family-run operation has been open for over 20 years, and yet, remains a relative unknown outside its core regulars. You could drive past it 100 times and never clock it. Maybe it’s the chaotic parking situation or its location on one of the most traffic-clogged stretches of East Hollywood (and possibly Earth), but every time we walk into Prael’s charming, spacious dining room, we breathe a sigh of relief. Portraits of Thai royalty and muay thai posters adorn the walls, and outside of top 40 radio playing softly in the background, the only sound you’ll hear is the cooks tinkering in the kitchen. There are no lines or waitlists. At Prael, it’s just you and the excellent food headed your way.
Similarly to the well-known Thai legend Jitlada, Prael has a massive menu filled with all kinds of dishes you can find on menus across town. Also similarly, you want to order the dishes that you can’t find on menus across town. Take the gang pah, an herbaceous, clear broth curry packed with bamboo, eggplant, and chili, or the kanom jeen numya, a vermicelli noodle dish topped with a sweet, bright yellow fish curry we’d argue is one of the best curries in town. We also love the earthy, gelatinous gravy on the lard na, and the fried shrimp rolls, which have a perfectly crunchy exterior, yet spongy insides that pop with each bite.
Prael’s food is complex, spicy, and overtly herbaceous. It’s the kind of end-of-week reward meal we start thinking about on Tuesday morning. Time for you to start thinking about heading over, too.
Fried Shrimp Rolls
Whether you’re alone on a weekday or getting takeout with a bunch of friends, make sure this appetizer is part of the order. These large, cylindrical rolls have been perfectly deep-fried with a crunchy exterior and a spongy interior filled with ground pork, shrimp, and crabmeat.
Ka Nom Jeen Num Ya
This is our favorite dish at Prael. It’s a sweet, bright yellow fish curry popular in Southern Thailand, but often difficult to find on LA menus. Prael’s version comes with a side of pickled vegetables that provide a nice acidic balance and a bed of vermicelli rice noodles so soft that chewing almost feels nonsensical.
You can find jungle curry fairly easily around town, but we’d be hard pressed to name a version as spicy and herbaceous as this one. Filled to the brim with bamboo, eggplant, chili, green beans, and basil leaves, this clear-broth curry is a must-order—particularly on those chilly LA days where the outside temperature refuses to hold up its end of the bargain.
Egg Noodle Lard Na
While the gelatinous texture of the gravy can sometimes congeal (particularly when doing takeout), if you order this dish hot in the restaurant, it’s a standout. The wide egg noodles are hearty and spongy, and the sweet-saltiness of the gravy is a nice balance against some of the spicier dishes on the table.
Mango Sticky Rice
Amongst the posters and portraits on Prael’s walls is a taped piece of standard printer paper that reads, “Mango Sticky Rice Is Now Available.” It’s less of an announcement and more a reminder that if you come here and don’t order some, you really messed up.