“Kanom” means snack in Thai, while “Waan” means sweet. Combine the two words and the result is Thai Town’s latest dessert destination: Kanomwaan. The newcomer is set to open on Tuesday, December 12, in one of East Hollywood’s busiest plazas at 5261 Hollywood Boulevard. Champ Jansaeng and his wife Chanita Maneekarn, the second-generation operators of neighborhood stalwart Ruen Pair, are behind the dessert shop. (Jansaeng’s parents, Pensri and Somchai, opened the restaurant in 1996 and the couple have been managing it since 2020.)
At Kanomwaan, which is located one door down from Ruen Pair, Jansaeng and Maneekarn are introducing sweet seekers to traditional Thai desserts and Southeast Asian fruits presented in new formats: as Italian gelato, Korean bingsu, and custard toast. “Everyone’s familiar with gelato, but Thai flavors and fruits, they aren’t too familiar with, or they won’t try because of texture or flavor differences they’re not used to,” says Jansaeng. “Our concept is getting traditional Thai flavors and fruits into customers’ hands in a familiar vehicle. We wanted to bridge that gap.”
While contemporary interpretations of traditional Thai desserts can be found throughout Thailand and even in Australia, the couple hasn’t seen the trend proliferate in Los Angeles as much, aside from a few exceptions including roving restaurant Moom Maam, which produces creative gelato flavors like Thai basil pesto and coconut sticky rice. The couple tells Eater that most Thai desserts in LA tend to hew closely to old-school recipes, like at neighboring business Bhan Kanom.
Central to Kanomwaan’s menu is its line of gelati, which are served either in a cup or in a hot dog bun lined with sweet sticky rice, coconut jelly, sweet corn, palm seeds, and grass jelly, just like in Thailand. Jansaeng and Maneekarn learned from Italian makers in Thailand and in the U.S. how to imbue Thai ingredients into each flavor. Jansaeng is most excited about the Candle Smoke Salted Egg, which marries sweet cream gelato with salted egg yolks and candle smoke to add a “nice aroma,” says Jansaeng. Also on the gelato line-up are jasmine, durian, pandan, coconut milk, and sun-dried banana flavors. The menu of dairy-free sorbets includes longan, mango, hibiscus, and tamarind topped with a chile-sugar mixture that’s commonly paired with fresh fruits in Thailand.
Kanomwaan’s shaved ice creations are a take on Korean bingsu. One riffs on classic mango sticky rice with plenty of fresh fruit, while the interpretation of traditional bua loi comes with rice balls and salted egg yolk in different forms. Finally, the shop’s line of custard toasts come in bite-sized squares ladled with flavored custards including pandan, Thai tea, purple yam, black sesame, and salted egg yolk. Both the shaved ice desserts and custard toasts are topped with gelato. The entire menu is made without artificial colors or flavors.
While Kanomwaan’s desserts are intentionally modern, the drinks adhere closer to tradition with a focus on oliang or Thai coffee. Drinks like Thai milk tea, a Thai green tea latte, butterfly pea soda with lemonade or passion fruit, and a mango smoothie round out the shop’s beverage menu. Grassy jelly, cheese foam, and Thai tea-flavored whipped cream are available to top drinks.
The couple hopes that Kanomwaan will be as well received by the Los Angeles dining community as Ruen Pair has for nearly three decades. Success can look a lot of different ways for Jansaeng and Maneekarn, but familiarizing Angelenos with the vast and delightful world of Thai desserts is a good start.
Kanomwaan Thai Gelato and Dessert Cafe, located at 5261 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90027, is open Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.