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Trouble in Thai Town: Notes on Songkran

April 6, 2009 |  2:35 pm

SongkranOn Sunday I hopped the subway to Hollywood and Western to check out the annual Thai New Year (Songkran) festivities. It was a hot day, and Hollywood Boulevard, between Western and Normandie, was blocked off and filled with people. Food was everywhere, with barbecue chicken and beef sticks by far the most prevalent choices. By 1 p.m., lines at the booths were so long that you could hear the waiting people groaning and weighing their options. The lucky folks who already had their food lounged in the shade beside buildings and ate noodles and rice out of Styrofoam containers.

I waited in several long lines for pad thai, only to reach the front and be told there was no more. One booth had me step aside while they made more. Twenty minutes later I was still there. I finally moved on, feeling pretty sorry for myself and extra hungry. Soon I found myself at the curry booths, which were part of the L.A. Curry Festival. I looked at menus, circled the little white tents like a vulture and decided to order the curry tofu katsu from Northshore Hawaiian BBQ. Miraculously, the long line dissipated and I found myself face to face with the woman working the counter. I ordered.

"We can't serve anything right now," she said. "The health department came and shut this whole section down because there's no hot water." That must have been a temporary snafu because a Chowhounder posted that Simpang Asia took first place. (I'm looking for verification, but haven't received a call back from the festival's organizers. I'll post a full list of winners when I do.) The same Chowhounder also mentioned that the coveted Jitlada booth was in the VIP beer garden. No wonder I couldn't find it!

By that time I was so hungry that I walked to Santa Monica and Kingsley to eat in a cool, sheltered booth at Maria's Ramada. One Jimmy's Special later (chicken poblano and cheese enchilada, with rice, beans and lentil soup) I was back in action. I almost walked back to Hollywood to watch the Thai boxing, but I caught the bus home instead. Today I'm having curry for lunch come hell or high water.

-- Jessica Gelt

Photo: Jessica Gelt

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