Kris Yenbamroong

Kris Yenbamroong. Photographed at NIGHT+MARKET SONG in LA by Austin Hargrave.

At his popular L.A. restaurants, NIGHT+MARKET and NIGHT+MARKET SONG, Kris Yenbamroong serves critically-lauded Thai street food in charmingly motley settings filled with dayglo decor, family oil portraits and the odd vintage Cindy Crawford pinup. So it's not surprising to learn that his digital tastes run similarly eclectic. Below, the busy chef/entrepreneur takes a break from preparing the opening of his new Venice outpost to tell us about Instagram cooking tutorials for sea cucumbers, Tom Ford espadrilles and his go-to Postmates order.

Hi Kris! We love that you post food from other restaurants on the NIGHT+MARKET Instagram account. Is there a strategy there or is that just you being a fan?

The NIGHT+MARKET Instagram and my personal Instagram are one and the same because the restaurant is really an extension of who I am.

Everything we post, even, or perhaps especially if it is not ours, is part of the NIGHT+MARKET universe in that it’s something that informs our vision, inspires us, speaks to the same sensibilities—or maybe it’s just something we want to help get the word out about since we have a platform, even if it’s a modest one.

Who are your favorite chefs/restaurants to follow?

Whenever someone asks me where to eat in Thailand, I’ll usually refer them to the Instagrams of my friends Andy Ricker and Austin Bush (@pawkrua and @bushaustin). These guys spend most of the year in Thailand (Austin lives there full time) and are completely in sync with things out there. They are the only people I want to eat with when I’m out there.

What are your thoughts on #foodporn culture?

I’ll admit, I don’t love it but I’ve certainly been guilty of it to a degree. I think where it crosses the line from harmless to detrimental is when it goes from being something that you’re just so in love with and enthusiastic about (for me, certain sushi, Tex Mex queso, steak…) to something that you’ve heard is really hyped and you just want to check it off your list and show the world that you ate it. It’s food for sport, and that’s lame!

Can a person learn to cook solely from watching Youtube tutorials and reading recipe blogs?

In my 20s, I was a luddite and very concerned and worked up over doing everything “old school." But as I’ve gotten older, I’m a little more about the content than the form. Get it done by any means possible—that’s sort of my life philosophy. So if you’re a kid in Iowa and heard about NIGHT+MARKET on the internet and something about what we do speaks to you, you can go access to Thai ingredients online, download our cookbook on Kindle and watch video tutorials. And if you really put your mind to it, you can achieve great things. Nothing will ever substitute human interaction, learning from Grandma, etc. That’s priceless. But to posture and sort of “be mad” at technology is just silly.

Kris Yenbamroong Night Market finals0481

“(Foodporn) is food for sport, and that’s lame!”
Kris Yenbamroong Night Market finals0437

How has the internet been good for Thai food?

The internet is about access. It puts the world at your fingertips. Like I said above, certain things you cannot replace. The experience of traveling through Thailand is something that has to be done in real life, not just virtually. But to see a photo or video, with a really vivid description, can certainly create a pretty great fantasy in your mind. There are times when I see a photo of a dish and read the description. And it’s something I’ve never experienced (Thai or otherwise). And it will get me to excited that I try to recreate it. It might not be that close to what was in the photo, but it’s authentic to my own experience.

Do you keep up with any food or recipe blogs/vlogs?

Honestly, I don’t wake up and look for cooking tips. I’ll usually stumble upon something on Instagram. My pal Matt Weaver, the chef at Aburiya Raku, does amazing tutorials of breaking down fish or how to prep sea cucumber, etc. That stuff just pops up on my feed and I get really immersed in it. But I don’t usually seek this stuff out, unless there is a recipe I’m trying to execute that I’ve never done before.

What is your go-to Postmates order?

Aburiya Raku—2 oyako don, 1 Kaisen don, 1 salmon sashimi don, oyaji tofu (homemade tofu with chili and pickled greens).

What would you recommend to anyone who Postmates NIGHT+MARKET (read: what travels well)?

Curries, since you can reheat them. Any of our spicy salads. Pork toro, fried rice. You just have to know when you’re ordering takeout, whether from us or from anywhere else, that it’s obviously not the same as eating it in the restaurant. It seems pretty logical, but I know there are folks out there that actually do expect it to be the same experience.

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"Honestly, I don’t wake up and look for cooking tips."
Kris Yenbamroong Night Market finals0556

Do you rely on any digital gadgets in your kitchen or are you strictly low-tech?

Low-tech: mortar and pestle for making Som Tum (aka Papaya Salad). I think anyone who doesn’t have one should buy — you’ll find yourself using it regularly.

What’s the last great thing you read online?

This article by Garrett Snyder for LA Magazine is an in-depth look at how Jon and Vinny run their restaurant empire.

We heard you used to work at the Apple store, are you still an acolyte?

Of course! I decided to apply to Apple because I believed in the brand. And, years later, the brand’s simplicity is still inspiring.

Last but not least, you’re a VERY stylish fellow. What items are you coveting right now?

I could see this Saint Laurent suede jacket being a workhorse item in my wardrobe—it’s great for traveling, and is a departure from the class black. Dries Van Noten has the best patterns, and I’m currently wearing lots of “vacation-minded” shirts. If I could buy one pair of espadrilles, I’d make them Tom Ford.

Keep up with Kris:

i: @ntmrkt
t: @NtMRKT