Songkran (Thai New Year) is just around the corner. One of the biggest holidays in Thailand is from April 13-15. During this time, according to Chareon Hiruntrakul, we “bless” people with water and smudge them with powder (but mostly in the spirit of fun).
The older members of the family bless the younger ones, wishing them a happy life and good fortune. It is hottest in Thailand this time of year so the wetting with water is a welcome relief as well as an actual blessing.
Chareon described the occasion as a very festive one. He spoke of how people visit temples and make food offerings to the monks.
“The images of Buddha in our homes are brought out and bathed with perfumed water.
A time for a fresh start
“A most interesting sight,” he said, “is to see bird and fish vendors peddle their animals but this time, not for their customers to keep as pets but to release to the sky or the river. They believe that by doing so, they are cleansed from their sins and thus ready for a new beginning.”
After his descriptive narration of the festival, our conversation drifted to what prompted him to live in Manila. The answer was pretty obvious… love!
Chareon married Maris Mortel and together started Chokdee Marketing International, a company that specializes in the importation of delectable Thai products.
Some of my personal favorites:
Jeedjard—Chewy tamarind and plum candy.
Marucho Crunchy Coated Peanuts—These peanuts are not just crunchy but even consistent to the bite, they come in seven wonderful flavors (tom yum, chicken, coconut, wasabi, etc.).
Jasmine rice crackers topped with pork floss that crackles like kropek, with hints of toasted rice, plus a bit of sugar and spice. The sprinkling of pork floss adds yet another interesting dimension to the toothsome cracker.
Elephant garlic bread
And of course, elephant garlic bread. It is so addicting, that I can literally eat a bag! Imagine thin, crisp bread slices topped with elephant garlic butter. A leveled-up biscocho that crackles then melts in your mouth, with a tasty, sweet garlic tinge to finish. Elephant garlic is huge but less pungent than the regular one. In fact it is rather sweet.
Truly, their products are not just exceptional in taste but also quite distinct. One of their munchies, made from cockle shells is very interesting—crunchy, spicy, tasty!
Have a taste of Thailand and be one with them in celebration of their new year by visiting the Chokdee booths (#11 Jeedjard Tamarind, #4 Little Farm Garlic bread and Jornguan Pork Floss with Jasmine Rice) and many others at the 5th Thailand Trade Show that opens today at the SMX Hall 3-4, organized by the Thai Trade Center Manila. The show that once had 30 exhibitors now has 100 and runs until April 7.
(Call Chareon Hiruntrakul at 0928-5009822.)
Two Thai recipes
Chareon shares some recipes concocted by his friend, Ekarat Chaturongkavate, a fellow Thai national and an avid food enthusiast.
Little Farm Garlic Bread with Na Tang (Shrimp and Pork Dip)
Little Farm Garlic Bread:
½ c ground pork
½ c ground shrimp
1 can coconut milk
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp tamarind paste or lemon juice
¼ c ground roasted peanut
1 chopped garlic
1 finely chopped coriander root
¼ tsp ground white pepper
1 c finely chopped shallot
Garnish: coriander leaves and chopped chili
Put coconut cream (creamy part from the can of coconut milk) in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, coriander root, ground white pepper. Stir until the oil separates from the coconut cream.
Add the rest of the coconut milk, ground shrimp and pork. Stir until shrimp and pork are cooked. Season with fish sauce, tamarind paste, sugar and ground peanut, to taste.
Remove from heat.
Garnish with coriander leaves and finely chopped chili. Serve hot with Little Farm Garlic Bread.
Little Farm Garlic Bread Miang Kum served as an appetizer
1 c chopped palm sugar
2½ tbsp fish sauce
1 c water
1 c Little Farm Garlic Bread (broken into little pieces)
1 c finely diced ginger
1 c finely diced shallot
1 c unsalted roasted peanuts
3 tbsp finely diced lemon
2 tbsp chopped green bird’s-eye chili
20 sesame leaves; Cha Plu (piperaceae) or lettuce leaves can also be used as a substitute.
Add sugar, fish sauce and water in a saucepan over medium heat.
Mix well and keep stirring as it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer while the mixture shrinks to about a cup, then let it cool.
To serve, pour the sauce into a small, decorative serving bowl and arrange the sesame leaves, small piece of Little Farm Garlic Bread, lemons, shallots, small hot chilies, peanuts, gingers in separate, very small bowls around it on a medium-size platter.
To eat, take a leaf and put a small amount of each ingredient in the middle, top with a spoonful of sauce and fold. Pop the whole leaf into your mouth and enjoy.