Thai cooking ingredients in Chichester Harbour
You don’t find spring roll pastry in Sainsbury’s let alone green papaya for Som Tam. The same goes for M & S and this says a lot about the retail market in the UK.
No problem if you are looking for ready made and frozen meals.
But if it is going to be home cooked you need to know where to look. In Portsmouth, if it’s Thai you are after, you want to find the Thai & Asian Food Mart. Around the corner from the Fratton station. Besides green papaya they stock almost everything you might need. Although I am not sure whether they have the spring roll pastry.
Scratching through the fridge crammed full of fresh ingredients I found small trays of Sadtaw. A bitter young bean like seed which blends perfectly with into a hot Thai curry. Which when bought in a village market, come in a long, flat and wavy, over-sized, bright green seedpod which are usually bound together with a rubber band.
Pak bung, wild morning glory water spinach and cha-om which is a ferny young leaf shoot. A well-loved herby vegetable that is cunningly secreted into Thai omelettes to hide those spikey bits which you get even in the tender tips. Not to forget to mention the short stocky Thai bananas which I think are called gluay nam wa.
But with fifty odd different varieties of banana in Thailand you can never be sure which is which. But if it is Thai there is a good chance you can find it. Jasmine rice, sticky rice, black rice, rice noodle sticks in the three prescribed sizes. Oyster sauce, mushroom soya sauce and fish sauce. Bottles of all sorts, tins of coconut milk, jars of palm sugar and packets of dried chilli.
They even stock Birdy iced coffee in cans, bottles Oishi teas and the notorious Mama instant noodles.
Sampran Riverside, Nakhon Pathom
About an hour away from Bangkok, covering 70 acres the Sampran Riverside is a family-run eco-cultural destination in Nakornpathom on the Ta Chin River. Visitors can experience authentic Thai hospitality and traditional food using organic ingredients. Visitors are accommodated in an antique Thai house and are invited to participate in cultural workshops or to visit local farmers who supply the kitchen with organic produce.
Next post overdue 27/04/2020
Situated in Khun Han of Sisaket Province, Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew or the Million Bottle Temple was built to draw attention to the need to recycle and adopt a sustainable lifestyle.
Work started in 1984 after the monks invited locals to help collect empty green Chang and Heinekan beer bottles. First came the temple and one and a half million bottles later a crematorium, water towers, sleeping quarters and and ablutions. Bottle caps were also used to create mosaics and Buddhist designs inside this unique temple.
Ban Rai is a small unassuming town in Uthai Thani which most busy tourists simply bypass. And by tourists I am referring mostly to cyclists. They are the only ones I know of who venture this far off the beaten track in Thailand. But they are always peddling to get to the next town and seldom stop.
But there are reasons why Ban Rai is both a destination for local tourists as well as a second home for city types looking for an escape.
It is also home to the Na Ta Po weaving and cultural centre which is tucked away off the main road behind the Ban Na Fai Bueng Ta Pho school. They produce and market exquiste handwoven fabrics which are marketed through OTOP and sold at upmarket shops in Bangkok. They also have a small fabric museum which is one of those special places I never tire of.
Every year at the end of the rainy season, the villagers in Nong Prue go in search of the termite mushrooms. These are then sold from stalls lining the road, to buyers who will drive from Bangkok for these rare and sought after delicacies.
They germinate in the organic matter left behind in termite nests after the ants swarm to establish new colonies. They can be found in Phetchaburi, Kanchanaburi and the more mountainous areas in Suphanburi. But the best, the sweetest mushrooms are found in Nong Prue where they can fetch prices in excess of B600 for a kg.
In reverse order of excellence in the Pattaya area:
‘Nang Nuen’ on ‘Walking Street’ is good and, if you are just passing through Pattaya something of a show.
Mum Aroy in Narklua, excellent sea food, but getting rather pricey.
In Jomtien, ร้านอาหารสุดทางรักพัทยา, this is not a place with live fish to gawk at and choose, but the seafood is sublime.
To the south of Pattaya towards Satthahip Phreecha, I’ll not argue with anyone who claims this to be the best seafood restaurant they’ve ever eaten at. (and yes live fish, prawns, cabs etc).
To the North of Pattaya near Chonburi at Saen Suk, Wang Muk sea food restaurant – There is no better sea food in Thailand and the reason why I would not argue with anyone saying Phreecha is the best is because I’d know they’ve never been to Wang Muk.
Sea food markets of note:
Narklua market (at the back of the old market nearest the sea)
Wang Muk sea food market
Ang Sila sea food market – really really superb.
For the past 9 years I have lived in SEA port cities and Bigal1’s advice is the best. Go to the fish market at the harbor and buy the best fish, have it cooked for you in a small place nearby and be happy.
In Thailand really good seafood costs as much as in the west. Check for Seafood Market in Bangkok. Good place but not cheap at all. The places mentioned by persona are ok but nothing mind blowing, standard fare serving the Thai middle class.
Yes, people do fish in Thailand but the catch is limited and mostly reserved for export or privileged consumption. The tons of shrimps, baby lobsters, crabs, snappers etc. you find all around have never seen the sea. The romantic belief that fishermen go out in the early morning, bring in a colorful fish and you have it for lunch and at a bargain is tourist industry image. Resellers wait with their cellphones in the harbors, check the catch, and get immediately limits from their patrons in the capitol or Japan. If the harbor is close to an airport, the good quality is within hours in Tokyo. Only rejects enter local wholesale or those ordered by places like the restaurant above which charges a premium.
Islands order wholesale frozen farmed fish. I have seen it on Koh Samet and do not think other places are any different – this applies also for fish restaurants in Pattaya. Difference here is that the farmed fish is delivered alive to the better places – but again this is not a catch from the sea.
I do not eat fish away from places like Bigal1 described. The danger of formaldehyde (causes cancer) and other forms of manipulation is just too big. Shrimps are another long story. Just take a look at the farms north of Ayuthaya (that’s not on the sea).
In sum, if you are not at a good place and islands are not, if you do not go at the right time, and if you are not willing to pay a realistic price for the product you wont get good quality. In my place it is either at dawn or dusk and it is rubbing shoulders with locals and being prepared to pay a dollar more than them.