“I’ve been celebrating three new years per year. America makes a big deal with the Western New Year and Chinese New Year festivities, but I don’t see Thai New Year celebrations in Atlanta all that much, other than the new years celebrated at the Thai and Lao temples,” says Talat Market chef and co-owner Parnass Savang.
Savang wanted to change that this year by throwing a Songkran celebration in the parking lot of Talat Market in Summerhill and bringing in fellow Thai and Lao chefs from Atlanta and beyond to showcase the foods from both countries.
Songkran, known as the “water splashing” festival, takes place annually between April 13 and April 16 and marks the beginning of the Buddhist New Year. Splashing water symbolizes the washing away of the past year’s mistakes and starting anew. It’s also seen as a sign of respect. Thai people typically take the whole week off to celebrate and travel home to spend time with family and friends. Revelers head to the streets to buy food from vendors, spray others with super soakers and water balloons in impromptu water fights, and to seek water blessings from monks in the temples.
“It’s kind of like a water-based Christmas,” says Savang, who recalls traveling to Thailand during Songkran one year to visit family and receiving water blessings and white string bracelets called sai sin meant to offer good karma. But the fun really begins in the streets during Songkran, he says, celebrating with friends and strangers alike with food from street vendors and general merrymaking from a good dousing of water. It’s an excuse to let go and have “sanuk” or fun, says Savang.
For Talat Market’s Songkran celebration on Sunday, April 16, an event Savang and restaurant partner chef Rod Lassiter hope to offer annually, people should expect Thai and Lao food from six chefs, a live DJ, raffle prizes, and Thai beer and cocktails. Dancing and water splashing are highly encouraged.
“I love the idea of bringing Thai chefs together in the Atlanta community to celebrate each other and our culture. I’m a first generation Thai-Lao American, like many of the chefs at our event this year, and would love for Thai and Lao chefs to feel like we aren’t alone in this endeavor of making our food,” Savang says. “We have an opportunity to give back to organizations who helped many refugees, too, including my paternal grandma and my aunt and uncles.”
Those attending the Talat Market Songkran festival this year can opt to donate the price of their ticket to the International Rescue Committee Atlanta, a non-profit organization assisting people affected by humanitarian crises.
Check out the food lineup:
- Grilled chicken skewers, sticky rice, and nahm tok muu (grilled pork salad) from Star Provisions/Bacchanalia chef Faye Poonsiripukdeekul
- Vegetarian Thai tacos from non-profit food organization the Courageous Kitchen.
- Khao mun gai (ginger chicken rice, poached chicken, fermented bean sauce, cucumber, cilantro, broth) and zaab fries from New York Thai restaurant Three Roosters.
- Banh cuon sai mu (rice rolls with savory sweet pork and peanut filling) and kanom dom jok sundae bowls from Atlanta-based Asian street food pop-up Salty Smiles.
- Sai ua samun phrai (herbal pork sausage in a hot dog bun) and hor mok (grilled seafood curry) from Athens Thai restaurant Puma Yu’s.
- Palm sugar ice cream shaped as palm sugar from Life Raft Treats, founded by pastry chef Cynthia Wong.
Talat Market, 112 Ormond Street, Atlanta. talatmarketatl.com.
Songkran festival, Sunday, April 16, from 1 p.m to 4 p.m. Click here to purchase tickets.