Songkran Festival Rings in Thai New Year with Papaya Salad, Satay, and Singha

The typical water celebrations were scarce, of course, but Thai Town kept things flowing with beer and spicy food

It’s already April, but that’s when the New Year begins in Thailand. Those who follow along with the kingdom’s Buddhist traditions know what a big deal the Songkran Festival is. Songkran translates into “astrological passage” and is Thailand’s most important national holiday, typically spanning from April 13 to 15.

However, here in Thailand’s “78th province” (as Los Angeles is jokingly known), Songkran was feted this past Sunday within Thai Town’s official borders that stretch along Hollywood Boulevard from Western to Normandie.

The Songkran Festival, as authentically practiced, involves a lot of water due to the belief that it will cleanse away sins and evil. Thailand should be experiencing its wet season around this time of year, which expedites the washing away of all these wicked things. Buckets of water and Super Soakers supplement the banishing of the bad. Unfortunately, there would be none of that in drought-stricken L.A. This Songkran was likely the least watery one in the world.

Water blessings were still available, only in tiny vial-size amounts or sprinklings. The beer garden, though, didn’t look like it was suffering from any type of dry spell as beer tubes brimming with Singha roosted on every table. Thai iced teas swarming with boba seemed to be in everyone’s clutches too.

Food aplenty was to be found on a section of Hollywood Boulevard where the vendors congregated. Most of the fare was portable snacks like pork and chicken satays or shrimp balls on skewers, ideal for walking and gawking.

A booth that attracted a consistently long line was Nuch Thai Papaya Salad. This is one of the few food stalls that you can track down at North Hollywood’s Wat Thai temple on any given Sunday. Freshly mortar-and-pestled som tam woven by just shredded green papaya mingles with an array of ingredients like toasted peanuts, Thai snake beans, dried baby shrimp, and lots of bird’s eye chile. It’ll burn your face off enough for you to get why water would be a real blessing at the moment.

Mango sticky sweet rice was certainly another crowd fave as hungry festival-goers knew to be patient while each order was created from freshly peeled, ripe mangoes then teamed with coconut-infused sticky rice.

Umami-laden, Bangkok-style fried chicken and split-to-order coconut made for a perfect pairing. If you wanted good ol’ pad thai, it was there too. Even Noodle World Jr. represented with a Thai-influenced BBQ pork wonton with egg noodles.

Between the Miss Thai New Year beauty pageant, Muay Thai boxing matches, and spicy Thai fare, the Songkran Festival in Thai Town brought a lot of heat to Hollywood Boulevard. Now it’s time for a little of that Thailand wet season to make it rain. We could all use a water blessing.