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Happy Thai New Year
As we all get ready to celebrate Easter, spring, the beginning of the longer and warmer days, next week is also the Thai new year! As we think pastel colours, blossom, country walks, the smell of freshly cut grass, the whole of Thailand are thinking, new years celebrations, and they certainly do celebrate!
The Songkran festival is celebrated in Thailand as the traditional New Year's Day between 13th to the 15th April. Just like Easter, the Thai new year was originally set by an astronomical calculation, but it these days, it has a fixed date every year. The Thai new year known as the Songkran, falls at the end of the dry season which is the hottest time of the year in Thailand. January 1st is now the official beginning of the year, but the traditional Thai New Year or Songkran has become a national holiday, which is well celebrated by the Thai people and the hoards of tourists which visit the country during the festival.
In a similar way to the European tradition of undertaking a thorough tidy up and Spring clean around this time of year, the Thai population have a similar routine just before the beginning os the New Year celebrations!
A day before the main celebration of Songkran, housewives clean their house and declutter! Not a bad idea! It’s traditionally believed that a failure to do so might bring them bad luck for the remaining months of the year! It’s rather a useful custom if you like a tidy, clean home, but unlike us Europeans, the Thai custom is not linked to an improvement in the weather which encourages us Westerners to throw open the windows and air the house.
On April 13th, the rather important water throwing tradition really gets going! Travellers and natives, adults and children throw water, a practise which symbolises cleansing. Anyone and everyone can get involved in the celebrations, and If you're out and about during Songkran, you're almost guaranteed to end up soaked, but you’ll probably have lots of fun in the process! For this reason, this time of year is a very popular time for tourist and travellers to visit Thailand. Many tourists specifically arrange their holidays around this unique event.
As well as the beauty of this country, with it’s unique customs, tourists love to sample the food. There are several foods made popular by Thailand, and others that remain a little less know. For curry lovers, Thailand has something serious to offer, a curry that is as famous and well know as the country itself! The Green curry.
The name "green" curry is derived from the colour of the dish, which comes from fresh Thai basil and green chillies. The main ingredients for the sauce consist of coconut milk, green curry paste, aubergine, sugar, fish sauce, and Thai basil leaves.
The backbone of the green curry paste, is of course, the green chillies which give it the colour. The shrimp paste, or fish sauce adds a saltiness. The lemongrass and galangal (similar to ginger) as well as the shallots and garlic give the curry the flavour, pungency and depth.
The paste can be made using a pestle and mortar, by pounding the ingredients together, this can then be stored in a jar in the fridge until needed. The fish sauce, which is one of Thailand’s native products is a well know addition to many Thai dishes, but use it sparingly, as it has a very strong taste and aroma. You’ve been warned!!
To make the curry, the paste is fried in coconut cream to release the aromas in the paste. Of course, Oil is an alternative, if fresh coconut cream isn't available. Once the curry paste is cooked, then coconut milk and the remaining ingredients are added along with a pinch of palm sugar to add a little sweetness and fish sauce. Finally, Thai basil leaves are added just at the end of cooking for fragrance.
There are a few ingredients which appear time and time again in Thai cuisine. To make a Thai green curry at home, is reasonably straight forward! To make the paste, simply whizz all the ingredients, the lemongrass, chillies, garlic, galangal, shallots, coriander, lime leaves, lime juice, fish sauce and black peppercorns in a blender.
Then, to make your home made authentic green curry, fry the paste in a little oil before adding the coconut milk, stock, and whatever protein you fancy, such as chicken, fish or prawns. To finish, add a handful of coriander and Thai basil leaves. This makes a hot, fresh deliciously spicy curry. Well worth a try!
Of course, there are plenty of green curry pastes available in the supermarkets, which makes life easier, especially if you can’t get the fresh produce to make your own. Just choose a good brand, check the ingredients, and remember that the fresh, refrigerated paste and sauces usually contain less preservatives, and have a much fresher taste. Well, good luck and have a very happy Thai New Year! don't forget to make a SPLASH!!