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Best Thai Restaurants in the Philippines at the Songkran Thai Food Gala Buffet
The Songkran is the Thai Water Festival/New Year, celebrated by pouring scented water on the elders of the family as a sign of respect and to bring forth good fortune. This is actually the third new year that I experienced this 2013, the first two being the western new year, celebrated at the beginning of every year, and the Chinese new year, celebrated during the first day of the first month in the traditional Chinese calendar which is a lunisolar calendar, meaning they take into account both the lunar and solar phases.
The Songkran, which originates from the sanskrit word saṃkrānti, literally means astrological passage and is usually celebrated from the 13th to the 15th of April of every year. In certain regions in Thailand, the people use this occasion to splash commuters and random strangers with dirty and icky water. I'm just glad there was no water-splashing at the Philippine Thai Cultural Organization (PTCO)'s Songkran Thai Food Gala Buffet two nights ago. But they did pour water on some of their most respected members.
So, enough with the introductions. Let's get on with the food.
For that night's buffet, several well-known Thai restaurants in the country participated. These were:
- People's Palace
- Benjarong Dusit Thani
- Oody's Thai Rice and Noodles Bar
- Soi: Eat Thai, Love Thai, and
- 8 Spices Thai Cuisine
The chefs for all those restaurants were also introduced at the beginning of the program.
It was a 12-course buffet. The menu included specialties from each of the participating restaurants. I will be listing them down below along with my comments.
- Poh Pia Paksot (Fresh Thai Spring Rolls with Special Dipping Sauce) - these are the freshest spring rolls I've ever had, as the veggies inside the wrapper were still so crunchy. Apart from that, I didn't find it specially appealing because the freshness of the veggies caused their juices to flow at every bite. My boyfriend really liked it though so I guess it was just me.
- Satay Moo (Pork Satay with Peanut Sauce and Cucumber Achara) - I've been looking forward to this particular item on the menu because there is a similarly-named food that I really loved when I was vacationing in Zamboanga with my boyfriend which was called Satti. It tasted a bit different from what I expected, but I guess that was because I was expecting for it to taste like the Satti that I had in Zamboanga. It was kinda good, nonetheless. I liked the cucumber achara because it was the first time I tried it.
- Yam Pla Dok Foo (Crispy Catfish and Mango Salad) - I'm not a fan of anything really, really sour, and for me, mangoes are nice but only when ripe so I didn't really like this dish much but my boyfriend loved it. LOL. We complement each other that way. He eats what I don't and vice versa. The green mangoes were really finely shredded and the catfish bits were really crispy though. It was a fresh twist. I guess the Filipino version for this would be the Ensaladang Mangga (Green Mango Salad).
- Tom Yum Talay (Hot and Sour Soup with Mixed Seafood)- I really, really loved this! Like most Southeast Asian soups and noodles, this was spicy but not too spicy for me. The flavors were evenly balanced and I loved how the taste of the broth accentuated the seafood. Gaaah. I am absolutely in love with this soup. Absolutely.
- Khaeng Panang Neua (Beef in Panang Red Curry)- The Panang Red Curry was nothing special for me. Actually, it didn't taste like the usual Filipino curry. There wasn't much spice in it. It tasted good but it was nothing special. It also looked like the Filipino dish, Beef Caldereta.
- Haw Mok Talay (Steamed Seafood Custard in Banana Leaf Cups) - I really don't remember this particular dish. I'm not even sure if it was actually served during the Songkran Thai. I remember a similar dish though, based on the description. The dish I remember was also a custard in banana leaf cups served during my prof's birthday party where she had a Thai restaurant cater the event. It was good. I just hope they're the same thing. It's a bit of a dessert thing for me.
- Khao Soi Kai (Chiangmai Chicken Curry Red Noodles) - I found this dish to be particularly too spicy for my tastes. One of my colleagues, whom we shared the table with, liked this very much though and he also consumed his partner's Khao Soi Kai. it was cool though to see how the noodles would soften after you star t mixing it with the sauce.
- PlaTubtim Sam Rod (Fried Fish Fillet in Three Flavored Sauces) – Also one of my faves during the Songkran. The fish fillet strips and the sauces go perfectly well. The flavors are to die for.
- Gaeng Kieo Waan Kai (Chicken Green Curry) – The green curry looked a bit like the Filipino dish Bicol Express because it wasn’t green when it was served to us. It may be because not much green curry herbs were used or maybe the lighting was playing tricks on us. Either way, this tasted particularly nice and had me craving for seconds.
- Pad Pak Ruam (Stir-fried Mixed Vegetables) - This one tastes like the Chinese stir-fried veggie mix Chopsuey which we Filipinos love. It had some broccoli though so that's the variation.
- Khao Neiow Sung Kaya (Sticky Rice with Thai Custard) – This one is very similar to a popular Filipino dessert called the Biko (sticky rice with sugar/syrup). The only difference was that it had a custard topping while the biko is normally eaten as is, because it’s already sweet on its own, or with syrup.
The PTCO's Songkran Thai Food Gala Buffet was held last Saturday, April 13, 2013, at the Rockwell Tent, Rockwell Center, Makati City
How did I like the food? It was nice. I liked some, I disliked some. It was a bit normal. But the experience was unforgettable. You know, being in a tent full of people who have all (well, probably most of them anyway) lived in Thailand for quite some time, and taking part in their celebration of their traditional New Year was just awesome.
Sometimes I wish our country wasn't so westernized, that we kept some of our traditions intact that we can pass it on to future generations. Would have been nice to have a more unique and quirky celebration of the new year, no?
What's your favorite Thai food or restaurant? Let me know in the comments below. Happy eating!