Features

Where to celebrate Thai New Year

Vibrant regional Thai cooking is to be found at Som Saa in Spitalfields

April 13 marks the start of the Thai New Year's festival so here's a round-up of places where can you celebrate the country's delicious cuisine

Meaning ‘astrological passage’ in Sanskrit and coinciding with Aries rising in the astrological chart, Songkran is the official name for the Thai New Year’s festival, which falls on 13 April. April is Thailand’s hottest month and this annual celebration marks the end of a dry summer and the start of the annual rainy season. In Thailand, Songkran festivals can be wild affairs with the throwing of water and even white talc all part of the festivities.

A far more civilised way to mark Thai New Year in the UK might be a visit to a Thai restaurant to sample some of the country’s delicious cuisine.

With its upbeat vibe and unpretentious decor, Oli’s Thai on Oxford’s Magdalen Road may only have room for a couple of dozen diners at a time but the compact restaurant is filled with the enticing aromas of dishes such as seared beef, tamarind and chilli, or steamed sea bass, lime, fish sauce, chilli and garlic.

The small Shropshire town of Broseley may not be the first place that springs to mind when it comes to authentic Thai cuisine, but chef Suree Coates has made The King & Thai a destination restaurant. A former GFG Midlands Restaurant Of The Year, stand-out dishes include the honey-roasted duck breast in coconut red curry and the panang curry of beef fillet strips stir-fried with fresh chilli, garlic, bamboo and fine beans in a light oyster sauce.

Regional Thai food is the mantra at Som Saa in Spitalfields, with vibrant flavours to be found in the salads, curries and grills. A typical meal here might kick off with black pepper stir-fry with lamb sweetbreads, oyster sauce and young ginger, continue with Bangkok-style green papaya salad with snake beans, dried shrimp, peanuts and cherry tomatoes, and end with salted palm sugar ice cream with turmeric grilled banana.

Inspired by the pots carried around the Thai street food markets by orange-clad monks, The Begging Bowl has certainly brought a genuine taste of Phuket to Peckham with dishes such as braised guinea fowl, banana blossom soup, winter tomatoes and dill, and braised five spice pork hock, pickled mustard greens and duck egg.

The Soho original of Smoking Goat may have closed at the start of 2018 as part of the area’s ongoing redevelopment, but its Shoreditch High Street restaurant is still going strong. Whether it’s cooked on the grill, in the wok or in the clay pot, dishes such as smoked brisket drunken noodles and barbecue goat turmeric massaman still draw the crowds when it comes to Ben Chapman's inventive modern Thai cooking.

Chapman also runs the popular Kiln restaurant in Soho’s Brewer Street, where regional Thai dishes include langoustines, kaffir lime and sweet mint; wild ginger and beef cheek curry, and aged lamb and cumin skewers.