Things are a mess in Bangkok, but all was well in Bridgeview on Saturday at Wat Dhammaram, the Thai Buddhist temple which was celebrating Songkran, or Thai New Year, with, among other events, a food festival featuring a great assortment of dishes. Plenty of well-known restaurants were in attendance and while that’s just swell, what’s really fascinating are the many items prepared by home cooks, far homier and more interesting than typical restaurant variants, and many not usually seen in restaurants at all. 

While we eyed and passed this time on the bags of homemade sausage and dried eel, my pals and I had a fantastically rich and spicy bowl of boat noodles, chunky with bits of offal and slightly bitter greens, a huge tin of the fish custard known as hor mok, and fresh-as-it gets papaya salad pummeled to order with mortar and pestle. And then some.

Above all the assortment of Thai sweets known as Khanom Thai was staggering. Recently I’ve become obsessed with this big family of brightly colored snacks, sometimes booby trapped with surpising flavor combinations. I saw and sampled a bunch that I’d never seen before, but it was too crowded and busy to talk much to vendors about them. I did get some phone numbers so I hope to learn more. In the meantime, check out the photos taken by Peter Engler along with some brief descriptions.