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.


“Crisp your hype” with “African Style” potato chips and sausages

My previous two posts clearly illustrate my unhealthy obsession fascination with the World Cup. But I am also, as many readers know, always on the lookout for quirky snackfoods.

So this advertisement in today’s Bangkok Post — in which these two interests of mine converged in a mishmash of globalization, odd English phrasing, and apparent ambush marketing — was right up my alley:

"African Style," "Limited Edition" Crunchips potato chips
(And here’s a larger version of the scan.)

Yes, you read that right: The ad is for Lorenz’s “limited edition,” “African Style” Crunchips brand potato chips and “Afrikawust” sausages from Hareico. (I believe that both Lorenz and Hareico are German companies.)

I especially love the copy on the right. It reads:

Don’t miss a moment of the excitement of The 2010 FIFA World Cup and crisp your hype with African Style Lorenz Crunchips and Hareico Sausage from Tops market and Central Food hall.

(Emphasis mine.)

German potato chips and sausages being sold in Thailand, using African advertising motifs and designed to capitalize on the World Cup. Wow.

Crisp your hype!


Where to eat in Bangkok, by Austin Bush


Visitors who are new to Thailand and have culinary questions about the Thai capital should check out “Where to eat in Bangkok 2010,” a new post by Austin Bush.

I can tell you from personal experience that Austin has a great deal of knowledge about Thai cuisine, and he has a good feel for what interests food-focused travelers. ((Readers may recall a recent eating expedition I undertook with Austin, in which we sampled Cameroonian food in Bangkok.))

Austin recommends that visitors first try Thai cuisine in shopping mall food courts (don’t knock ’em until you’ve tried ’em), then move on to an upscale Thai restaurant. Then he recommends visiting some Thai food neighborhoods before finally graduating to street food.

The post includes annotated Google Maps for more info on individual restaurants and neighborhoods.

(Image credit: a pic of yours truly, snapped by Austin himself.)


La Monita: Bangkok’s best Mexican food


I’m not sure exactly when turned into a food blog, but I’m back with another culinary-centric post.

I wanted to follow up on La Monita, the new Mexican restaurant here in Bangkok. You’ll recall that I wrote about this place back in Nov., before it had opened.

My feeling is that La Monita now offers the best Mexican food in the Thai capital, though there are admittedly only a few Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants here.

You can find La Monita’s Web site here, and they’re also on Twitter (@LaMonitaBkk) and Facebook.

A and I have now eaten at La Monita twice, and while I don’t have any images of the dishes to share, I can tell you this: the owner, Billy, knows his stuff. The food is excellent, and the atmosphere is festive and welcoming.

A few of the standout dishes include:

  • Shrimp tacos with tequila flambe and cheese
  • Fish tacos
  • Steak quesadillas
  • My suggestion for ordering is simply to ask Billy for recommendations.

    Also, for drinks, I’m told that the margaritas are good. I haven’t tried them, but I really enjoyed a different — and new to me — drink: the Michelada, which Billy tells me is a popular beverage in Mexico City at the moment.

    Micheladas consist of beer mixed with lime and hot sauce; they’re served in a salted glass. Here’s a WSJ story about Micheladas.

    Worth a visit, to be sure.

    La Monita Taqueria
    888/26 Mahatun Plaza (about 100 meters down, on the left)
    Tel. 02-650-9581

    View Larger Map


    Cameroonian food in Bangkok: Amirra restaurant

    Yesterday I had a remarkable eating experience — one of the most interesting culinary outings in all of my time here in Thailand, in fact. And it took place not at a Thai food stall or eatery, but at…a Cameroonian restaurant.


    I discovered the place thanks to my Cameroonian friend S, who’s on my soccer team here in Bangkok. I’d been telling him for months that I wanted to sample some of his native cuisine.

    As it happened, my pal Austin is writing a story about unique international food in Bangkok. So S agreed to take us to a restaurant on Sukhumvit soi 3, in the Nana district.

    The restaurant is called Amirra, and to find it you have to duck down a side alley and then go up four flights of stairs to what is essentially a two bedroom apartment over a 7-Eleven. At one end of the space is the kitchen and a small living room, and on the other side is a small dining room with five or six tables.

    Austin has a post with some images and a good write-up of the meal. Be sure to check it out.

    Thanks, S!


    Slideshow: A day in the life of a Bangkok soup vendor

    Steven Pettifor has a slideshow on the BBC News site that’s worth checking out. It’s called “In pictures: Bangkok soup vendor’s working day.”

    (Via Austin)