Are the best new Thai chefs farang?


That’s the provocative title of an upcoming event at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) that I look forward to attending. It’s on Mon., Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. here in Bangkok.

The announcement on the FCCT site helps put the issues — which I’ve mentioned before — into perspective:

You have only to ask a Frenchman for his thoughts on English cooking to realize that all over the world matters culinary provide an outstanding excuse for chauvinistic excess. Hotels and restaurants in Thailand are full of Thai chefs and cooks who produce wonderful and completely authentic Western fare every day — and nobody gives the matter a second thought. Local newspapers, magazines and books feature recipes and cooking tips for Thais who might want to roast the perfect leg of lamb, bake a black forest gateau, turn out a pizza or simmer a bouillabaisse. Yet when the occasional daring farang turns his or her ladle to a tom yam kung, or does something different with a green curry, a surprising number of Thais are left in slack- jawed astonishment. Their horror only deepens when more broadminded compatriots praise the results and laud some of the innovations. This culinary cross-pollination is more than a debate about carrots in the som tam or dairy milk in the soup. To read some recent comments about mischievous farangs in the Thai kitchen, a heresy is being uncovered that could threaten the end of Thai civilization as we know it. Could a plot be afoot here that is even more threatening than a nuclear-empowered Myanmar? Fortunately, the FCCT is no stranger to controversy, and only too pleased to release some steam from the kitchen. The club welcomes without reservation all great cooks and gourmets, including for this special programme.

(Cartoon via.)

Bangkok Thailand

Krispy Kreme arrives in Bangkok


The Financial Times: Krispy Kreme opens on a high in Bangkok:

As western corporations scratch their heads to work out how to make the most of Asia’s growth, it is sometimes worth remembering the tried and tested, like the combination of an established brand, lashings of sugar and a pinch of hype.

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts opened its first Bangkok franchise shop last week, and every day the crowds are still queuing around the block to get their hands on the saccharine treat. On Tuesday the longest wait was five and a half hours, which is better than the 27-hour marathon put in by hard-core doughnut fans on opening day.

Related: Dwight Turner’s blog post: “The Best of Bangkok’s Krispy Kreme Grand Opening Twitter Buzz.

See also, for background info: my post from Oct. 2009: “Krispy Kreme: Coming to Thailand.

Humorous tweet from @BKKApologist that reflects my feelings, having discovered Krispy Kreme at a shop in Charleston, South Carolina, as a 14-year-old:

I grew up an hour away from Krispy Kreme HQ in North Carolina. I can tell you where “donut mania” leads: a wardrobe full of sweatpants.

(Emphasis mine.)

(FT item via @jonrussell)

Thai politics Thailand

David Thompson, foreigners, and Thai cuisine


A much-discussed story here in Bangkok at the moment is this IHT piece about David Thompson, an Australian chef known for his cuisine at the Michelin-starred Thai restaurant nahm, in London. Thomspon recently opened a branch here in Bangkok.

The lede:

It’s been a rough year for Thailand. First there were the images of deadly street battles between soldiers and protesters beamed around the world. Then people living in neighboring dictatorships snickered that Thailand was a democracy in decline. Foreign tourists wondered whether it was safe to travel here.

And now this: An Australian chef has the audacity to declare that he is on a mission to revive Thai cuisine.

Can non-Thais really understand or appreciate Thai cuisine? Can foreigners actually cook authentic Thai food? Do they even know what “authentic” Thai food tastes like?

For a good summary of the media response to Thompson’s new restaurant, I suggest checking out this post at Siam Voices by Saksith Saiyasombut — whose father, as Saksith’s bio says, was a Thai chef for more than 25 years. The post is called “If you are farang, don’t meddle with Thai politics – or their food!”

I have followed this story with interest because, as you may recall, I put together an audio slideshow (embedded below) for CNNGo last year, when Thompson was in town to give a cooking demonstration.

For what it’s worth, I was impressed by Thompson’s knowledge of Thai cuisine — and culture — and did not find him to be brash in the least. He seems to have a genuine interest in sharing one of the world’s great cuisines with people. And that’s it.

(Emphasis mine.)

Photo credit: Austin Bush.


AP: “Study: Bangkok street fruit often contaminated”


Most street food available in Thailand is safe to eat. I’ve never fallen ill after eating a meal from a street-side vendor — including the fruit I often buy from local hawkers. But this AP story today is worth checking out.

Study: Bangkok street fruit often contaminated:

BANGKOK — Fruit buyers, beware. A survey of the Thai capital’s ubiquitous fruit carts that sell snack bags filled with juicy watermelon chunks, papaya slivers and exotic treats such as pickled guava has found the fruit also contains unsafe levels of bacteria and chemicals that help keep it looking fresh in Bangkok’s tropical heat.


Results of the study found that 67 percent of 153 samples of fresh fruit contained unsafe amounts of coliform bacteria. Coliform bacteria is common in digestive tracts and does not necessarily cause sickness, but its presence may indicate fecal matter, E. coli and other disease-causing organisms.

The study also found that 40 percent of the fruit tested contained anti-fungal agents like salicylic acid.

Sounds like it might be best to stay away from the guavas (pictured) and mango especially:

Of the pickled fruits tested, 64 percent were tainted with hazardous chemicals, mainly color dyes to keep the guavas extra green and the mango slices bright yellow.

(Via @babyfishie)


Austin Bush’s favorite Bangkok dishes


Don’t miss this post — with pics — of food expert/photographer/Bangkok blogger extraordinaire Austin Bush’s favorite dishes in Bangkok.

Image: Oxtail soup at Yusup, Bangkok, by Austin Bush.