Monday, April 14, 2008

A Taste of Tang at the Thai Fest

A cooking demonstration by famed chef Tommy Tang, followed by a free lunch catered by the man who introduced Thai food to middle America in the 1980s? We're there.

Sunday afternoon we hit the annual Thai festival in Hollywood, where thousands were on hand to celebrate Songkran -- the traditional Thai New Year's festival.

Hollywood Blvd. was shut down between Western and Vermont for the event; we managed to find a parking spot on Franklin (thank you, parking gods) and hopped down to the Singha beer tent for the event.

Singha sponsored the Tommy Tang cooking demo, and yes, I downed quite a few of the Singha Lights on hand (smooth taste, reminded Maria and I of another light beer from the Pacific Rim, the Philippines' San Miguel Light) -- it was scorching hot, after all, and Hollywood's not known for its shade (blame the palm trees).

Tommy whipped up a Thai risotto with shrimp and sausage... and it was quite good (with all that coconut milk, half and half and spices, how could it not be, right?)

Now that he has sold off his U.S. businesses, the chef has been spending a lot of time shuttling back and forth between Thailand and the U.S., he said. In the U.S., he winds up serving as a promoter of Thai culture, while in Thailand, he finds himself promoting the United States. Tang said he sold off his merchandising a few years ago because he tired of the hassle. His restaurant shut down a year or two ago; Mao's Kitchen took over the space on Melrose. (Tommy's website still lists it as if it's open; I wonder how often people show up at Mao's, expecting Tommy's.)

More shots from the festival:

The knife is out.

I love spicy... and when something kicks my ass, you know it's extra hot. I poured this pepper dip over my food... and my mouth erupted in flames. I'm going to be dreaming about this sauce for weeks.

Miss Thai New Years USA (contestant? or winner? not sure) poses with some kids.

Boxing match on Hollywood, in the Muay Thai Boxing Ring.

Paraders strike a drum down the sidewalk.

More from paraders.

According to a primer on the festival from Singha: "Songkran is also known as the 'Water Festival' and is a time of joyous cleaning and purification. The festival features a Thai water blessing ceremony and 'wet zones' where the traditional practice of splashing perfumed water on family and friends take place."

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