LONG BEACH, Calif. —Jitlada is a local Thai restaurant that has gained world-wide notoriety for its authentic and delicious cuisine.
The family business was first recognized by legendary Los Angeles food critic Jonathan Gold, and the rest was history.
What You Need To Know
- Jitlada is a local Thai restaurant that has gained world-wide notoriety
- Owner Chef Tiu passed away in 2017
- Tiu's daughter, Chef Sugar Sungkamee, hopes to continue his legacy at Jitlada and beyond
- Every dish at Sungkamee's Long Beach restaurant, Spicy Sugar, is made to order
Owner Chef Tiu passed away in 2017, and now his daughter, Chef Sugar Sungkamee, hopes to continue his legacy at Jitlada and beyond.
Every dish at Chef Sugar’s Long Beach restaurant, Spicy Sugar, is made to order, but it only takes a few minutes to prepare.
"We have the best of both worlds: fast and fresh," said Sungkamee.
However, just because Sungkamee is able to whip up a Thai curry quickly, that doesn’t mean it’s lacking flavor. Everything is a little bit spicy and a little sweet, hence the name Spicy Sugar.
"I think curry is mostly like blended spices from your country," she said. "That’s what it is. Indian style and Thai style are different."
Along with the curry, the menu is full of noodle and rice dishes, soup and seafood, but it's much smaller than her family’s other restaurant’s expansive 300-item menu.
“It’s the one thing that made me want to learn," Sungkamee said. "It’s not just five menu items that’s boring. It’s like you are always learning something new and you can create your own dishes."
The family’s other restaurant is the iconic Jitlada, and Tiu has fed everyone from local legend Jonathan Gold to celebrities such as Mindy Kaling and Drew Barrymore. Matt Groening, creator of "The Simpsons," even made Tiu into his very own cartoon.
"Most of the time, we couldn’t believe it, the lines out the door, how many people from different walks of life come into our restaurant," Sungkamee said. "It’s been crazy but really inspiring."
Sungkamee learned everything from her father at Jitlada. He even helped her open up the Long Beach restaurant that she could call her own. Sadly, his passing in 2017 left a hole in the Thai restaurant scene.
“The one special moment I had with my dad here is that we were cooking together," said Sungkamee. "It was really hard. I think about that, and he’s not here anymore. When I turn to either side of me, my dad’s not here cooking beside me. It's a special moment, but at the same time I really miss it. It’s a hard time."
Sungkamee took that difficult memory and now uses it as motivation to continue her father's legacy. She is a partner in Jitlada with her aunt and helps manage the popular Thai spot. Sungkamee still wants to forge her own path with Spicy Sugar, even though she almost shut it all down.
“I was so overwhelmed," she said. "I didn’t know what to do. I felt completely lost. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I kept going."
Sungkamee keeps it going by cooking her favorite recipes like pad Thai, a staple in Thai restaurants. Some may say it has become an American fad.
"I used to think it was for Americans, too," said Sungkamee with a laugh. "There are different traditional Thai-style ways to make pad Thai. I noticed that Thai people do like pad Thai."
Sungkamee will continue to cook her dad’s recipes for the community in his honor.
"I feel like my dad wants me to keep it," she said. "I have the little feeling."
Spicy Sugar is located at 1538 E Broadway in Long Beach.