14 Apr 2014

Happy Songkran peoples!!

Happy Songkran peoples!!

Sawasdeeand a happy Thai new year to you all, it’s Thailand’s traditional new year over the next couple of days known as Songkran and they sure do celebrate in style, but more on that later.Firstly,looking out the window here at the offices it’s clear that spring is starting to rear its beautifully budding head here in Blighty, and it couldn't come soon enough in my opinion. It signifies a time to pack away your winter paraphernalia, and use the money saved on heating to fund many a beer garden expedition, as is essential to any English summer. Regardless of my slow decent into seasonal alcoholism using fallacy of the most pathetic kind, this blog is about what’s happening down (and to the right a bit) in Thailand, during what are their summer months.As Thailand is positioned in a prime location just shy of the equator, residents of this tropical country enjoy sliiiiigghhty hotter summers than we do, with temperatures reaching the mid 30’s during their hot season (February – April).Jammy buggers. Now the Lady Boys of Bangkok may be missing this weather as they landed in the UK a couple of weeks back to kick off our spanking new tour in Derby, which wrapped up this Saturday and is now on the way to Bristol, but that doesn’t mean we can’t spice up our spring with a bit of Thai culture.

Personally I've never been to Thailand, however from delving slightly into its culture, it is now definitely on my bucket list. One thing I noticed from my google excursion is that Thai’s sure do love a festival;they literally have everything you could ask for, from all out country wide water fights to monkey banquets, yes that’s right monkey banquets, but more on that later. Keeping things rooted in the land of the topical, a recent Thai event that has taken place is the originally named Thailand Festival, which also rather ironically took place in the Philippines. The three day event opened on the 20th March in the city of Makati and was organised by the Royal Thai Embassy, it involved many performances from acts such as Petjaratsang, a popular Thai group that were the finalists of Thailand’s Got Talent 2013, yes they have that there too, hats off to you Simon Cowell. It was a celebration of Thailand’s rich culture, with arts, performances and even food from the world famous Thai restaurant chain Blue Elephant, withtheir take on Thailand classics such as Pad Thai, stick around till the end of the blog and there may be a recipe in it for you. The festival was held to promote Thailand as a culturally rich destination for travellers in the Philippines and it sure has me sold.
 
Moving back over to Thailand itself, many a festival takes place within these next few summer months. These range from celebrations steeped in tradition such asPoy Sang Long or the Festival of the Crystal Sons which takes place in early April and isa rite of passage for boys in northern Thailand, where they dress up as princes toimitate Lord Buddha, are ordained and enter a monastery as novice monks for weeks, months to even years. On the other end of the spectrum is the Full Moon Party,a well-known tradition which took place earlier in the month, where travellers get merry at an all-night beech party bathed in the light of the full moon, as I said before Thailand certainly is a country of contrasts.

 
I believe I previously touched on the country wide water fight;this is believe it or not how Thai’s celebrate their traditional new year in a custom called Songkran, told you they celebrate in style. Trading fireworks and sparklers for waters guns,travellers and locals alike take to streets to soak each other in torrents of water, symbolising the cleansing and rejuvenation of their bodies. Noted as being the grandest holiday in Thailand, this truly unique national celebration is taking place right now in Thailand between the 13 – 15th April.it’s not all about water warfare however, with it being customary to visit Buddhist temples and give alms to monks, build sand pyramid images, make flower chains and also for housewife’s to clean their homes a day before the celebrations to stave away bad luck for the forthcoming year, and likely because their husbands are out buying the latestsupersoaker 5000. It’s such an encompassing event that even the elephants get involved and it looks like incredible fun.
 

I know what you’re thinking, water fights and impressive sand castles are all well and good but what was that about a monkey buffet? This is a delightful festival which takes place just north of Bangkok in the province of Lopburi, people from all over the region bring 4000 kilograms of fruit, vegetables, cake and even sweet to temples, laying them out for the 3000 or so hungry monkeys living in the area to feast upon. And feast they do, the event is accompanied by monkey related entertainment such as music and dancers in monkey outfits and of course the taking of millions upon millions of photos of these amazing little critters eating like kings. Now if it were up to me I would fill the whole blog with pictures of these guys, but this is a blog about Thailand not monkeys, so here’s just the one, apparently monkeys love coke. Also the Monkey Buffet Festival takes place in November this year should you fancy a visit. 
 
We here are proud of the Lady Boys Thai heritage, and as you can see it’s really is a culturally diverse country, so diverse in fact that I have missed out a few more festivals such as the iconic LoiKrathong festival (the one where they light all the lanterns), maybe in another blog. A massive thank you is due for all our audiences In Derby over the past two weeks; you were fantastic as usual, now onto Bristol to continue the party.Finally as promised here’s a recipe for the traditional Thai dish Chicken Pad Thai so you can cook up your own monkey buffet, not that you’re a monkey or anything, well technically you are, anyway on with the recipe. 
 
The ingredients you’ll be needing are nothing to extravagant, find them below in a handy bullet point form:   
 
·         1 tbsp dried shrimps (optional)
·         100g dried rice stick noodles
·         3 tbsp vegetable oil
·         2 eggs, lightly beaten
·         2 garlic cloves, smashed
·         200g small fresh prawns, peeled
·         100g bean sprouts, rinsed
·         2 spring onion greens, chopped into 3cm/1in lengths
·         3 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nampla)
·         1 tbsp tomato ketchup
·         2 tbsp lime juice
·         ½ tsp dried chilli flakes or cayenne
·         1 tbsp palm or brown sugar
·         2 tbsp roasted peanuts, lightly crushed
·         2 tbsp coriander sprigs
·         1 lime, quartered

Now for the preparation, firstly grind the dried shrimps to a fluffy powder in an electric coffee grinder (which can be easily cleaned out by whizzing raw rice in it). Cover the noodles with boiling water and leave for 15 minutes or until al dente, that’s firm to you and me. Rinse in cold water and drain well, then use 1 tsp of oil to coat your hands and run them through the noodles to help prevent sticking, because who liked sticky noodles. Now onto the omelette, heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a wok and swirl to coat the surface. Pour in the beaten eggs and swirl to make a very thin omelette, then run a knife around the edge, turn out, slice into strips and set aside for later. To cook the noodles, add remaining oil to the wok and heat. Add the garlic and the prawns and toss over high heat to get them cooked. Set the prawns aside and then in this order, add the noodles, omelette strips, bean sprouts, spring onions, shrimp powder, fish sauce, ketchup, lime juice, chilli and sugar, tossing constantly over high heat. To serve, scatter with some tasty crushed peanuts, coriander leaves and quartered limes and there you have it a tasty bit of Pad Thai to spice up your spring.