This past weekend celebrated Thai New Years or ‘Songkran’, also known as the Water Festival. The wonderful thing about living in Los Angeles is that we can experience so many different cultural festivities like this. The festival took place on Sunday in Thai Town, which is in Hollywood. They blocked off a good portion of Hollywood Boulevard and lined it up with food stalls, karaoke stages, business and market booths, a beauty pageant event and a Muay Thai kickboxing ring. There weren’t as many food stalls as the previous festivals that I’ve been to, but it was still fun to soak up the festive energy.
Although this is a religious and sacred holiday, it has become known as the festival in which people throw or spray water at each other. The throwing of water originated as a symbol for cleansing and renewal, but it has gained a reputation of becoming the biggest water fight party because it falls on the hottest month of the year in Thailand. Not so in LA, though it was a bright and hot day on this particular Sunday.
People will usually go to a wat (Buddhist monastery) to pay their respects to monks. I’ve been to Songkran at the large Wat Thai temple in North Hollywood before, and it’s a vibrant and lively festival. On Hollywood Boulevard, there’s a different type of crowd representing Thai Town:
At Wat Thai, the temple grounds are usually teeming with hundreds of monks wearing their bright saffron orange and yellow garb. In contrast, I only saw a few monks on Hollywood Boulevard, standing out against a background of dirty asphalt, iron fences and faded buildings.
The smell of chicken, pork and beef satay roasting on the charcoal barbecue grills emanated throughout the streets. I love that dense smokey aroma of barbecued meat and fat unique to charcoal grilling. It makes me salivate.
We shared a chicken satay stick, sausage, and grilled pork salad. The grilled pork salad was garnished with red onions, fresh cilantro, scallions and a tangy chili sauce that was so delicious.
After watching people get their asses kicked in Muay Thai kickboxing, we worked up an appetite for more Thai food.
We went to a restaurant called Ruen Pair on Hollywood Boulevard that boasts comfort Thai food. It’s a quaint little restaurant in a mini mall that is always packed with local Thai residents. The young coconut juice with fresh coconut shavings and grass jelly drink were both sweet and refreshing.
We got the combination egg noodle soup, stir fried morning glory and stewed pork leg.
The egg noodle soup had char-siu BBQ pork, duck, fish cake and fish balls. It was pretty average; the kind you can expect to get at most Chinese restaurants.
The morning glory, sautéed with fresh garlic and soybean sauce, was absolutely heavenly. I just love when the simplest of dishes hits the spot and makes my taste buds happy. Morning glory, also known as on choy, is a hollow leafy vegetable that maintains a crunchy texture at the root when cooked just right.
The best dish of the day that just blew me away was the stewed pork leg, or Khao Kha Moo. These fatty pork legs are stewed for hours so that the meat falls off the bones and the skin turns into a soft gelatinous mass of rich collagen that melts in your mouth and makes your skin glow the next day.
The sharp citrus accents and sour vinegar kick from the pickled mustard greens went extremely well with the intensity of the pork leg. It really amazes me when I get to eat foods that are paired so perfectly like this. The rice was infused with pork essence, and every bite of this dish was an intense mingling of wonderful flavors. Lucky me, I got to take home the leftovers and have round 2 for lunch the next day. Stewed pork leg from Ruen Pair, are you the love of my life? Even better news is that Ruen Pair is open until 4 am. It’s the perfect digs for those late night post-clubbing cravings.
5257 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Random trivia: Did you know that the meat from the left leg of a pig is supposed to be more tender than the right? Most pigs are right-leg dominant and scratch themselves with their right leg, so the right leg meat is more muscular and tough. That is, unless it’s a left legged southpaw pig…