The River Thames is generally grey with opaque hues of muddy or sandy brown. It is only brought into high definition colour through a rare – if stunning – London sunny day or a particularly striking sunset. Of course, the many boats that travel down it will give it some extra colour, but these are rarely flamboyant oranges, reds and purples, and are more often as bland as a plate piled with jellied eels (sorry, I’m not a fan). Sometimes when I am walking down the River Thames during a rainy, cloudy day (particularly when I have a craving for the unmistakable sweet, salty, sour and spicy flavours of Thailand) I will look inward and imagine a procession of lights floating down the current, adding colour to an otherwise listless palette along with a touch of brightness to reveal a festival filled with exotic flowers, candles and – of course – plenty of delicious food.
I should come clean – I am an impassioned lover of Thai food. I eat it – along with the cuisine of Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia as often as I can. I’ve never have been to Thailand, which is a source of unending shame, particularly as I am fairly well travelled. The fantasy I imprint upon the River Thames is inspired by Thailand’s Loi Krathong (or Loy Krathong – spelling depending on the area in Thailand) festival – the annual holiday in which Thais go to a river after sunset and bring with them little floats made of lotus and decorated with colourful flowers, fragrant incense and a candle. Since I first saw pictures of Loi Krathong I’ve wanted to go to immerse myself in the festivities, the food and to see the ways in which the lights from the fireworks from above intermingle with the glow from the floats from below. It must be magical.
Alas – I don’t have tickets to go to Thailand for this November’s celebration, which is why I have decided to bring it to London in tandem with Chef Urmi Shah, the fabulous chef who has inspired Londoners with both her Thai and Indian flavours through her Blue Lotus Inspiration Supper Club. Shah – despite a robust American accent acquired through her university studies in North Carolina – is a native of Bangkok and is well poised to give EatofftheMenu guests (as well as me!) a truly authentic Loi Krathong culinary experience, albeit from her evocative and ambient London location. Not only did Shah celebrate Loi Krathong as a child – typically at her parents’ country club where there would be a competition for best float and best costume – but also some of her best memories come from this remarkable celebration.
The EatofftheMenu Loi Krathong Secret Dinner will be held on the evening of November 3rd – we won’t have a river for homemade floats, but we will have a menu that will give you both the taste and the spirit of this Thai festival. Shah and her Sous Chef Michael Goss have crafted a 6-course menu (sorry, it will be a secret until the evening of our event!) that will guide your palate through an authentic Loi Krathong experience with a series of flavour explosions. All we can reveal is that the dishes will be ones typically only found in Thailand and that it will be able to accommodate vegetarians upon request.
So what dishes are we going to try you wonder? As I pen this blog the excitement for this year’s Loi Krathong à la EatofftheMenu is beginning to gather in chef Urmi Shah’s kitchen where she – with chef Goss and I – are brainstorming and crafting a culinary experience worthy of the River Goddess for whom the festival is celebrated. Our intense and pure excitement will radiate out to beckon London foodies who are as addicted to Thai food as I am. It will guide them – as the current carries the illuminated lotus floats downstream – in a colourful procession directly to the unofficial London home of this most special of Thai festivals – the EatofftheMenu Loi Krathong Secret Dinner!