Talad Tamarind: Celebrating Songkran at Tamarind Hill
Situated amidst Labrador Nature Reserve, Tamarind Hill is about a 15-minute walk from Labrador MRT Station. And yes, we do have to climb a small hill before arriving at the Thai restaurant – hence the name, Tamarind Hill.
I don’t normally go to Thai restaurants, but Friday night was an exception due to Songkran, a water festival which marks the start of a Thai New Year. It’s an annual event that falls on 13 April, and this year, Tamarind Hill celebrated Songkran by hosting a buffet and several activities.
Upon arriving at the restaurant, a waitress smeared white powder on our faces, then proceeded to pour Jasmine-scented water into our hands. Those were done as a way of blessing us.
Then, my colleague and I were ushered into the restaurant, where the buffet featured up to 25 Siamese dishes, with chefs live cooking right in front of our very own eyes.
Every single item at the buffet looked absolutely delicious: Phad Thai, Khow Phad Tom Yam (Tom Yam Fried Rice with Chicken), Kaeng Kanun (Jackfruit Curry), just to name a few. There was such a wide array of food that we couldn’t even decide where to start, although we eventually settled for the salads and a selection of grilled meat as our first course.
The meat were cooked to perfection – the Neau Yang (Grilled Beef) was juicy and the Gai Yang Tah Khai (Grilled Chicken with Garlic and Lemongrass) was extremely flavourful. There were a couple of sweet, sour and spicy sauces to go along with our carnivorous platter, though they were not really my cup of tea.
The Yambpet Yang (Duck and Lychee Salad) really got my attention. Although there was a combination of flavours – spiciness from the sauce, saltiness from the smoked duck, sweetness from the lychee – they didn’t clash. In fact, they blended pretty well and this was actually one of my favourite dishes in the buffet!
Midway through our feasting, a waiter informed us that a performance was coming up. As we walked towards the main hall, Thai music filled the room and we had to squeeze through the crowd in order to get a clear view of the dancer, who donned a traditional Thai costume. It was a relatively slow dance. As it came to an end, the dancer sprinkled flower petals at the audience.
The dance intermission was a good break for our stomachs. After which, we went for yet another round of soups and curries, followed by a round of main courses.
I thought that the Kaeng Kanun (Jackfruit Curry) (top left in picture above) was quite interesting and decided to give it a try. Ironically, it tasted nothing like jackfruit, nor did it taste anything like curry. Although there were jackfruit pieces inside, its smell wasn’t distinct; the dish was alright, I guess, though I found it too salty for my liking as a whole.
Although I knew that Songkran was a water festival, I thought the “water” part referred to just the ritual of waiters sprinkling water at us when we first arrived at the restaurant. I wasn’t dressed to get wet. At all. You probably know how that ends.
I took a plate of Mango Sticky Rice and Tub Tim Krob (Red Ruby) from the buffet area. On the way back, I was asked by a waiter if I would like to be blessed again. Naturally, I said yes, and stuck out my hands. Next thing I knew, the waiter started to pour the jug over my head and shoulders, drenching me. After two jugs of water, I was left with a very blessed soul and a small plate of soggy Mango Sticky Rice.
Regardless, the Mango Sticky Rice tasted amazing, and the mangoes were very ripe and sweet. Although I was soaked and shivering in the air-con, it didn’t stop me from savouring my Red Ruby. I absolutely loved the coconut ice cream that came with it; the coconut ice cream was very pure.
The weekend started with a big splash and we left the restaurant with happy stomachs and souls. Though we got drenched, it was worth it – the food was tasty, and the Tamarind Hill Songkran was a great way to spend a Friday night.