8.5
LA

Zam Zam Market

Perfect For: Casual Weeknight Dinner
PHOTOS: Jakob Layman

It’s never easy giving up control. Maybe you’re dropping off your sh*tty pomeranian at a new daycare, using Uber pool to get to work, or agreeing to a tandem bike ride on a first date. Putting your fate someone else’s hands is stressful. That said, no matter how much of a control freak you are, letting go from time to time can feel pretty good too.

That’s why we suggest having a meal at Zam Zam, a Pakistani market in Hawthorne. This glorified convenience store has no menu or waitstaff - it’s just a husband and wife who cook whatever they feel like cooking on any given day. If your control issues are already on alert, don’t worry. Your fate is in very good hands, and this food is fantastic.

Here are a few things you can expect from a meal at Zam Zam: you’ll walk into the bare bones space, you’ll ask what’s cooking today, and someone in the semi-open kitchen will rattle off a few things. They’re not asking you what you want - they’re telling you what you’re going to get. Sometimes it’s a giant platter of grilled meat and other times it’s a steady parade of la carte dishes until you’re full. No two meals are the same at Zam Zam, and even when you have a general idea of what’s going to hit the table, there are always a few surprises in store.

Jakob Layman

No matter what form it comes in, your meal at Zam Zam will be tremendous - especially the chicken biryani. This is one dish we’ve seen throughout multiple visits: a fragrant, spicy plate of basmati rice and perfectly-cooked tandoori chicken, with burnt cloves that make the whole thing taste like a warm pile of cinnamon. It’s a plate of rice you should travel across the city to eat, or come for immediately after landing at LAX (Zam Zam is only eight minutes away).

You’ll also eat kebabs, a curry or two, and a side of garlic naan - all of which are straightforward, but so packed with flavor, you’ll feel like you’re eating them for the first time. And the fact that you didn’t have to make any decisions during your meal makes it that much more incredible. Now go make sure your sh*tty pomeranian didn’t vanish during play time.

Food Rundown

Chicken Biyrani

This is one of the greatest dishes in Los Angeles. It’s fragrant, spicy, savory and one of the most complex plates of rice we’ve ever eaten. No matter what Zam Zam is cooking the day you go, make sure to ask if they have the biryani.

Jakob Layman
Beef Kebab

The meat itself rich, heavily seasoned, and requires very little chewing. This is the perfect complement to the giant plate of biryani rice that’s hopefully also sitting in front of you.

Garlic Naan

Not the absolute best naan in Los Angeles, but still pretty excellent. If your instinct isn’t to immediately load it with beef kebab and chutney sauce, we have nothing in common.

Karahi

This tomato-y stew isn’t as good as their other curries, but it is the best thing we’ve had here for naan dipping purposes. Please act accordingly.

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