By Rhony Laigo
The place was Paramount Pictures. The show was action-packed, with crowds in “chaotic” pace which included swarms of buzzing people with oozing goodies on their mouths, noisy as they moved from one spot to another while devouring free nourishments along the way.
It was Thai Food Festival! The first of its kind in Hollywood that happened last Saturday, Sept. 28. Although the festival was “By Invitation” only – although tickets cost $50 each – people of Los Angeles trooped to Paramount Pictures in an effort to explore of the Thai cuisine even when it’s been established that it’s one of the best in the world. (For some reason, I have yet to really understand why Thai cuisine – whatever the dish is – turns out to be always delicious. It’s not just the herbs and spices that they use, or the peanut sauce [we have our own kare-kare, right?], but I think it has to do with Thailand’s mesmerizing culture, don’t you think?)
People described the flavors in five distinct tastes: spicy, sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Bitter?! Hmmm…that one I may have missed. Or not, because I had a taste of Singha Beer, with free bottle holder to boot emblazoned with the Singha brand on one side and Dodgers on the other. Of course, for some, beer is bitter, but for the many of us, it’s the best drink invented for mankind to enjoy, women included. Good thing, refill was also free…and I took two holders.
Bitter or not, those dishes were good. And why not? They were served by the best Thai restaurants in Los Angeles that included your favorite spots Jitlada, Ruen Pair, Thai Society, Thai Nakorn, Bhan Kanom Thai, Lum Ka Naad, Siam Sunset, Sapp, Lucky Elephant Thai Cuisine, Night+Market and Ayara Thai.
Each o f the restaurants were housed in white tents manned by a “fusion” of Angelenos who work at the diners – young, attractive, courteous and very accommodating. Dishes in 1-2 spoonfulls were served in authentically-designed taste plates some of which came with small bamboo forks. I wish I could tell you what they’re called, but even if I asked them, they were tongue-twisters if not unintelligible. Besides, tasting each of one of them made me forget what they’re called. Sorry, but I had to move on to the next tent. The festival was only good for a little more than two hours as getting in took much of the first hour.
There was the regular satay, the barbeque chicken, fresh fruits from Thailand, noodles and stuff, but some were too spicy that gulping coconut juice was a necessity. By the way, I learned from the Thai hosts that drinking milk was a better choice than water if you happen to eat a very spicy dish.
There were also displays of Thai culture other than food; artists were busy painting umbrellas and women in traditional Thai costumes did flower leis and who adorned guests with hair accessories. Celebrities were also present, including chef, author and TV personality Curtis Stone who had his own tent, signing autographs and who had his pictures taken with guests.
Oh yes, a Thai massage parlor was among the exhibitors. In fact, it was the first of the many tents. No, I didn’t see any foot massage parlors, which is very popular in Thailand. But there was Thai boxing. (If only they could bring in a live elephant. Well, maybe next time…that is if PETA even allows it.)
The festival was a project of the Thai Trade Center Los Angeles headed by Pilai Siripanich, its Executive Director, in cooperation with the Royal Thai Consulate General, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Board of Investment, Agricultural Office and Thai Airways.
According Tourism Authority of Thailand Marketing Officer Paworn Chatrungnopakun, the event was “By Invitation” as organizers wanted to find out how successful the event would be. Good thing it was that, or else more people would’ve flocked to Paramount Pictures. In fact, some uninvited guests wanted to enter, but were told that “tickets have been sold out.”
Well, from the looks of it, last Saturday’s event was more than successful it deserved more hours, if not days, to give the people of Los Angeles a taste of why Thailand and its cuisine could be the best there is from the Far East. You may have wait another year.
Meanwhile, the restaurants that I’ve mentioned are the nearest thing to what took place at Paramount Pictures.
Definitely, a new season of Thai festival is in the works.