04/29/13 9:44am
Young and old mingle over noodles at the Burmese New Year celebration.

Young and old mingle over noodles at the Thingyan celebration.

It’s Southeast Asian Lunar New Year season in Queens kids. It seems like it was just Songkran, or Thai New Year. Yesterday it was Myanmar’s turn, so my buddy Jonathan and I attended the Thingyan festival in the cafeteria of a public school in Woodside. We stocked up on $1 food tickets; most items were between $4 and $7. Even in the most diverse borough in the universe Burmese food is a rarity, so you can be sure that we ate our fill. The festival was sponsored by Dhamman Ranti Vihara, a local Burmese Buddhist temple.

A potage of curried chicken and torn roti with spicy slaw.

A potage of curried chicken and torn roti with spicy slaw.

Kyat thar palatar was a great way to kick off a day of eating. Think of the bowl of torn roti and chicken curry as Burmese chicken and dumplings. The bits of bread soaked up the curry quite nicely, while a slaw of cucumber, cabbage, mint, and green chili lent some brightness to the bowl. (more…)

04/15/13 12:00pm
Songkran,or Thai New Year, is one of the most popular festivals iin Queens.

Songkran, or Thai New Year, is one of the most popular festivals in Queens.

The ornate gilded roof of Wat Buddha Thai Thavorn Vanaram rises majestically above squat brick apartment buildings. The temple, its grounds, and the shrine room with its Emerald Buddha is so spectacular that I always include it in my tours of what I like to call SEA Elmhurst. Even more amazing though is the temple’s annual Songkran—or Thai New Year—festival featuring music, kick boxing, a beauty pageant, and an immense Thai buffet that draws an equally immense crowd.

Servers preparing to serve the hungry horde.

Preparing to serve the hungry Songkran horde.

In years past “before the Internet,” as a friend likes to say, the crowds were manageable. These days the line snakes around the corner. Yesterday I arrived at around 10:45 to find a huge crowd waiting to feast. Long tables laden with larb, currys, grilled fish, and many, many other dishes were arrayed in front of the temple.

Fried fish, duck, and pork with larb.

A heaping Songkran helping, including larb, fried fish, duck, and stewed pork.

Apart from larb I don’t the names of any of the dishes I tried because they weren’t labeled and the crowding made it next to impossible to engage the servers. I do know that everything I ate was excellent, singing with the flavors of Thailand: fish sauce, chili,lime juice, and kaffir lime leaves to name a few. (more…)