Songkran Splash At Westin and A Dinner At Sukhothai | Celebrating Festivals in Dubai – Episode 2

The last month was all about celebrating some festival or the other from some part of the world. This is the second of a series of posts on the different restaurants that I have visited over the month, participating in the celebration {First of the series… Nowruz Buffet At Ezi Dzi | Celebrating Festivals in Dubai – Episode 1}. Pardon me for the not-so-good pictures shot with my smartphone,  in dimly lit but beautiful surroundings – my Nikon’s gone through a lot of rough use during my recent Thailand Academy trip. The Thailand trip was an entirely different experience – I was with a bunch of Emirati college students and without the Z-Sisters, as a part of the Dubai team which, along with two other teams who had come from London and Frankfurt, descended upon a bit too loudly on a small fishing island in South Thailand called Koh Klang. (My Instagram images below)

{My earlier posts capturing my Thai experience… Ruen Mai Restaurant In Krabi | A Tantalising First Experience Of Thai Food {In Thailand, That is!, Koh Klang in Krabi, Thailand | A Photo Essay of An Island Life, Baan Ma-Yhing Restaurant In The Fishermen’s Village | Recipe of Thai Red Curry As We Cook ‘fresh catch’ Baramundi!}

Our first glimpse into Thai culture even before we landed in Thailand, was actually in Dubai with a Songkran Splash dinner hosted by TAT Dubai {Tourism Authorities of Thailand Middle East} at the Westin Dubai. Held at the hotel’s lawns by the waterfront, this was definitely a very tempting prelude to the Thailand trip. Special Songkran dance performances, traditional hand painted Thai parasols – both Debbie (my fellow Fooderati blogger Debbie who writes Coffee, Cakes and Running and accompanied me to Thailand) and I were pretty enthralled. To top it all up, there was a beautiful Thai buffet (beautiful may not be quite the right adjective for food but there is no other adjective to describe Thai food) – Som Tom Thai or the traditional salad with shredded Papaya; Yam Talay or Mixed seafood salad with spring onion, Tom Kha Gaiaed or Chicken soup with coconut milk; Pad Thai, Kaow Neaw Ma Muang or the sticky Rice with Mango… and more.

The Songkran festival is celebrated in Thailand from 13th April to 15th April. This is to mark the celebration of the Thai New Year and has been adapted from the Holi, the Indian festival of colours. The people roam about in the streets with containers of waters and throw water upon others {more on Songkran…}. We missed Songkran in Thailand by a few days but was kept updated by Suteepa, a Thai friend that I made in this trip. Sharing a picture of Songkran that she sent (below) – this is a scene of the street below her house in Krabi. Tourists visiting Thailand at this time partakes in the entire wet madness as well. Crazy, isn’t it? Must mention that the Songkran Splash at Westin ended with a miraculous drizzle – described humorously as ‘part of the production’ by Ian from Aviareps Group who had been responsible for organising our Thailand Academy trip with TAT Dubai!

The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina
Spice Emporium, serves traditional and authentic Thai menu in ‘family-style’.
Tel No: +971 4 399 4141 (The Westin), +971 4 511 7136 (Spice Emporium); Location: Al Sufouh Road, Jumeirah Beach
For more info: Website, Facebook, Twitter


Post Thailand trip, I had become an adopted Thai citizen. Absolutely tuned into a ‘Thai’ mode – I was eating, dreaming and talking of only Thai food. I was even cooking Thai food at home – for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Debbie invited me to a Songkran dinner – a many course dinner with wine pairing at Sukhothai in Le Meridien Airport Hotel. This was like déja vu – Sukhothai must have been the first fine dining restaurants that I have visited, many years back during my initial Dubai life (one dinner bill at Sukhothai must have been followed by several meals of instant Maggie noodles!). Sukhothai had been an award winning restaurant in those days (voted the Best Southeast Asian Restaurant) – the decor is still charming with pillars intricately carved out of wood and a small Thai Wat, or the temple structure holding center stage. The restaurant is inspired by the Sukhothai period  – 1238 until 1438.

The astonishing Starter came with E-Sarn Ruam Mit (below) – a platter with green Papaya salad, char-grilled beef sausage with sticky rice, deep fried glass noodles salad, spring rolls and a spicy prawn salad presented beautifully in small pastry cups. This was paired by a Gentil, Hugel Et Fils 2011 (all the pairings came from the house of Alsace Hugel, the very old French winemaker producing wines since the 1600s. Interestingly, the wine notes for the different wines in their official website comes from Serge Dubs, who’s been voted the World’s Best Sommelier in1989) – based on the refreshing Sylvaner and Pinot Blanc grapes. The soup that followed – the Tom Kha Nam Khon was equally astonishing. This was a herbed soup of Scallop, flavoured with lemongrass, Kaffir limes, Galangal, Mushroom and Coriander – a very subtle but distinctly flavourful. This was paired with a Riesling – a Hugel 2010-2011. The Main course consisted of a Northern style diced beef in curry paste, ginger, peanuts, onions and tamarind juice – the Gaeng Hang Tay Neau; a Bangkok styled steamed Hamour with grilled chilli lime sauce – the Pla Nueng Jaeo; and the enormous sized Phuket lobster filled with Coconut red curry, young Coconut, sweet Basil and other Thai herbs – the Hau-Mok Goong Mang Gorn Ma Phrao Orn. All these were served with Khao Suai, the Thai Jasmine Rice and the greens came in the form of  Phak-Wan Phad Nam Man Hoi or the wok-fried North-East sweet leaf with Oyster Sauce. The wine pairing came in the form of a Pinto Gris Tradition, Hugel et Fils 2009 -2010 – rich and full but still dry, this perfectly matched the meat and fish in sauce. The Chocolate Mamoung dessert was paired with the Gewurztraimmer, Cuvée Jean Hugel 2010-2011. The Main Course, though very impressive, had yet to match up to the astonishing Starter and the subtle Soup that followed it. One point to note here – many big hotels and restaurants are gradually making a conscious move to stay away from fish which belong to the ‘overfished’ category in the UAE, for example, Hamour. Diners will always insist on Hamour and it still remains to be the most popular fish requests but a few big places that I’ve visited recently have a very sustainable and environmentally conscious menu {Sense On The Edge @ZighyBay | Slow Life, Sustainable Menu & Fattoush Recipe, Desert Islands Resorts By Anantara | Cooking Spicy Prawn Harra By The Beach}.

Ram Thai or traditional Thai dance is the main art form in Thailand. The Sri-Nuan dance performance by the beautiful Thai dancer (the cover picture above), accompanied by the sweet music added to the festive mood of the evening and was followed by the fairwell Songkran wish of washing away all bad luck (below right).

Sukhothai – Authentic Thai Cuisine; Fine Dining
Tel No: +971 4 217 0000; Location: Le Méridien Dubai, Airport Road
Opening hours: Lunch 12.30 pm – 2.45 pm; Dinner 7.00 pm – 11.45 pm
You may view Sukhothai menu or the Chef’s recipes with Thai cooking tips.
For more info: Website, Facebook, Twitter


Signing off by borrowing the concluding paragraph from the last post as this is a series of posts following the same thought – celebrating festivals in Dubai… though born into a Hindu family, my brother and I grew up in Kolkata celebrating all festivals from all religion. So Eid would mean that we would flock to the homes of our Muslim friends and pestering their Mums whom we would address as Mashi/Aunt to refill our bowls of Shimuyer Payesh or Semayia/Sevaiya Pudding {My recipe post… Vermicelli Pudding, Eid in Dubai | Eid Mubarak!} and ransack their kitchens for home-made Biriyanis and Laccha Parathas, a type of Indian flat bread, triangular in shape with multiple layers lapped with Ghee/Indian clarified butter. Or Christmas would mean attending midnight mass at St Paul’s Cathedral with my Christian friends and rip open my small gifts of fruit cakes that my Christian Mashis/Aunties would have prepared for me. I’ve reminisced all this nostalgia in an earlier post – Living By The Water With Sunset As Prop – Kolkata & the Ganges. It talks about the multi-cultural upbringing of my childhood that has shaped my own philosophies in life. What about you? Have you embraced any other festival from any other country or religion, apart from your own?

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Disclaimer: The opinions stated here are my own and are absolutely independent. I hope you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals but please do not use any material from this post. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here. It does take lot of effort to capture a food experience in text and pictures. While it’s meant for you to enjoy them, I request you not to use them!


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