Sunday, April 17, 2011

Songkran/Thai Festival at the Buddhist Temple

Songkran is the Thai new year's festival, and it's apparently one of the bigger celebrations, held in mid-April. (Read about it on Wiki here.) There's a Buddhist temple in Del Valle, out past the airport, Wat Buddhananachat, and there are currently 5 monks who live there. The Thai community prepares all kinds of street food, there is karaoke, raffles, beauty pageants, and moon bounces for the kids, and I think the monies raised benefit the temple. I've been 3 or 4 times now, and Songkran is the one you want to go to for all the varieties of food! 

We've also learned they tend to run out out of certain foods, so best to get there early. The flier I had was mostly in Thai, but I think they get started in the early afternoon, though it isn't til the evening when the pageants are held. We got there about 6 pm, and hit the ground running, buying up foods as we came across them so we wouldn't have to backtrack!

It started with a salad bar clam shell container of fried chicken skins for $5. Really it's a bargain, and they are utterly addictive! Same booth also found grilled pork skewers, which I think were 3 sticks for $6. Marinated in some galangal and lemongrass. We found yellow curry chicken in a puff pastry-type dough. Fried fish cakes. Grilled fish balls. Fried plantains, dipped in this yummy batter with black sesame seeds, that kind of caramelizes when fried. Sesame balls with a sugary egg yolk filling. There's one table inside the main hall that always makes the best green papaya salad, and they'll ask you how hot do you want it (medium!). And then there's the puffed rice cakes, drizzled with palm sugar, that I am also addicted to. So a bunch of us take some wine (don't forget the bottle opener!), and kind of have a big communal table of foods! 

Here's a woman sitting on a table, tending to the fried plantains. Yes, she's barefoot. While I've never had a problem with the safety and sanitation of the foods there, it IS a street food festival.  I had never had these plantains before, and they're terrific!
Below -- upper right: chicken skins; bottom right: green papaya salad; middle: pork skewers; bottom left: egg roll and fried shrimp, which came with a really great sweet/sour/peanutty sauce.
Above -- curried chicken in puff pastry, sesame balls, plantains; below, my breakfast the following morning! Peanut butter toast, with some of the reheated fried plantains and my beloved rice cakes, which I am eating as I write this! 
Lots of kids, seems like more people this year than last, and in general, a cacophony of noise. But the unique foods make it all worthwhile. Only disappointing thing is now I have to wait another year for the tapioca balls with peanut filling that we missed out on this time. 

Many thanks to my Thai friend Noi, who took me inside the actual temple and residence hall of the monks, and introduced me to the head monk, who was a very genial host.


  1. got LOTS of things I didn't even see. I looked and looked for the plaintains, but couldn't find them. Must go back. Thank you so much for telling me about this - it was a fantastic experience!

  2. Papaya salad I got was very bad, the lady that always make it for me went off to do her business for a second and let this 'can not cook at all' lady swings the pestle made me the worse papaya salad ever!
    Many foods were gone by the time I got there, chicken skin is the best with som-tom (papaya salad) which .. of cause .. was gone before I got there.
    Im gonna forward this link to my thai friends so they can see what songkran here is like. Thank you so much Susanna for this wonderful article about my culture.

  3. Oh by the way the sasames balls fillings are yellow or mung beans paste. The biggest Laos temple in Saganaw is 15 to 20 times more venders a and the temple is very big. Two or 3 live bands. You should check that temple out Saganaw Temple in Forth Worth TX, festival is going April 27, this month.

    1. Oh, I'd love to go to the event in Fort Worth, unfortunately, I can't this year, but I'll keep it in mind in the future. Thanks!