Amazing Thailand is inviting Uptown to celebrate the Thai New Year with a free block party.
Hennepin Avenue will shut down between Lake and 31st on April 29. Attendees will walk through a tunnel of lanterns (evoking Northern Thailand) to find Thai boxing, beer and wine and khao poon — with chicken feet on the side. A stage near CB2 will showcase traditional Thai instruments and fire dancing after sundown.
The annual papaya salad-eating contest will also take center stage, and the restaurant reports many applicants are willing to take on a strong level of spice. The dish is a popular choice at the restaurant, and it’s made with fresh chili peppers.
“It can be so spicy,” said Operations Manager Tracy Schultz. “It takes to spice really well.”
Street food not found on the regular menu will include vegan green curry and khao poon: vermicelli noodles with curry sauce, mint, lime and other herbs. The broth takes a long time to prepare, so it typically only comes out on special occasions.
The restaurant has celebrated Songkran in-house since 2011. The event has become more packed each year, with guests waiting in line to enter.
“We don’t want to turn anyone away,” Schultz said.
Just as Chinese New Year has become part of American culture, she said, they’re hoping to bring Thai New Year into the spotlight.
“First, it’s about family,” General Manager Yin Srichoochat said. “All Thai people go back to their hometown.”
She said they pour water on their parents’ and grandparents’ hands and ask for forgiveness. Water blessings take place inside the temples, and out on the streets, one is likely to get soaked.
“Some years I’ve had to lock my car,” she said.
She explained that water holds a special place in Thailand, given the country’s connection to the Mekong River.
Schultz thinks the symbolism might resonate in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, although block party attendees shouldn’t need to worry about getting wet.
The event also marks Amazing Thailand’s 10th anniversary. Srichoochat’s sister Kulsatree and her husband Dee Noree moved to the United States from Nong Khai in Thailand. They wanted to open a Thai restaurant for anyone missing home. They try to cultivate a family atmosphere, starting all employees as host.
“It’s not about how much experience you have, it’s how much you’re willing to learn and adapt to a new culture,” Srichoochat said.
The family is about to grow a bit more. Kulsatree is pregnant with twins, and her due date falls on the 29th. They’re hoping the babies will arrive after the party.
The block party runs from 4 p.m.-10 p.m. For more information, visit songkranuptown.com.