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Passover and Easter have all the headlines this week, but many southeast Asians are gearing up to celebrate the New Year this weekend, which means food--and lots of it.
Back in September when I wrote about the Cambodian festival of Pchum Ben, or Ancestors' Day, I mentioned that the celebration was one very rare opportunity for non-Khmer people in Chicago to sample a large variety of dishes from Cambodia's ancient, subtle cuisine, which incorporates Indian, Chinese, Thai, and even Portuguese, Spanish, and French influences. Well, another rare chance comes Saturday, when the Cambodian community celebrates Chol Chnam Thmey (literally "enter the New Year") from 9 AM to 1 PM at Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson. Cambodians from across the region will travel to attend, but outsiders are welcome—particularly if they follow the ceremony and bring offerings of their own. (These don’t have to be Khmer dishes; fruit and cash donations are also welcome.) The New Year's celebration is said to be a lot more festive than Pchum Ben. Call Wat Khmer Metta for more information at 773-989-0969.
Also on Saturday, the Thai Buddhist Temple at 7059 W. 75th in Bridgeview celebrates Songkran, the Thai New Year, with a 4:30 PM food fair, featuring dozens of dishes prepared by local restaurants and home cooks. The adjacent photos are of khanom Thai, or Thai sweets, some of which you might come across at the fair. If those aren't beautiful enough for you, there's also a beauty pageant and classical Thai musical and dance performances on Saturday and religious observances Sunday. Proceeds benefit future temple construction. Call 708-594-8100 for info.