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March, 2012

  1. Eat Meet: Ko Lanta Ink

    March 31, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE CANVAS 
    Custom Tattoos
    ON THE GLOBE
    Ko Lanta, Thailand
    ON THE TEAM
    Mr. Sitt & Wel, Tattoo Artists
      
     

     

    Palm trees, blue skies, clear water, sand crabs, fruit shakes, and happy tourists on rented motorbikes.  That’s what we found on Ko Lanta, a gorgeous island off the southern peninsula of Thailand.

    We also found Mr. Sitt and Wel, two of Thailand’s most talented tattoo artists.  Thailand is an extremely popular tattoo destination, especially for westerners: sometimes a chance to get a permanent souvenir of their holiday, other times an opportunity to get a custom design at an affordable price.

    We loved chatting with these two.  A brilliant mix of talented and humble, we talked to them about how they got started in the field, tattoo culture in general, traditional Thai tattoos, and what makes them tick.

    Introducing Mr. Sitt:

    Where are you from?

    Hat Yai.

     

    Do you live locally on Ko Lanta?

    I live in the shop.  Well, when you work as many hours as I do …I might as well live here.

     

    You’re a tattoo artist, where are your tattoos?!

    (Laughs) I don’t like so many.

     

    How did you get into tattooing?

    I studied Engineering in Bangkok, but a lot of the companies closed so I could not find a job after I graduated. So I have never worked as an engineer. I taught myself tattooing.

     

    Did you enjoy Bangkok?

    Yes, for that time it was nice. There are many people and many things to do. Now I go there on vacation for a week, maybe 3 days and it’s too busy for me.

     

    How did you change from engineer to artist?

    I couldn’t find a job with my engineering degree. I was looking for one for 3 months and one day I looked in the mirror after a shower and saw my first tattoo (a phoenix on my upper arm to celebrate finishing high school) and realised.. I could do that, and that’s what I want to do. I told my parents about my idea and they said no because I had a degree as an engineer. I didn’t have much money, I borrowed some from friends. One friend 1000 baht, another friend 2000 baht, and bought what I needed with that. My first tattoo was a tribal design that was very small but took 3 hours. I sweated a lot!

     

    Was it easier the second time?

    That was 15 years ago, it’s easier now.

     

    So you taught yourself by practicing?

    Yes. I read a lot of magazines and learned by doing.

     

    How did you choose Ko Lanta as the place for your shop?

    I heard there weren’t too many American and English people here, sometimes they are too loud. There is a lot of Swedish but they are more chilled. Also, there aren’t many French people. I find it hard to understand them which is difficult when talking about tattoos. Sometimes I draw for many hours, when they come back there has been a misunderstanding and I have to re-do the whole thing.

     

    What’s the difference between the normal tattoo machine and the bamboo tattoo method?

    The machine is 50 strokes per second and bamboo is just 2.

     

    Does it hurt less to have a bamboo tattoo?

    Yes, 50% less than machine.

     

    Do a lot of people scream in pain?

    No. Fifteen years I’ve been doing this and no girl has ever passed out. Only men have when they have a lot of muscle!

     

    Is it cheaper or more expensive to have the bamboo method?

    It depends on the size as it takes a long time to create it by hand.

     

    Do most people opt for the bamboo, or do they mostly choose the machine?

    Bamboo is the traditional Thai method and it’s easier to take care of after too, they are quicker to heal.

     

    Do all tattoo studios use the same ink?

    Mostly. I use one that suits us. You have to be careful though as there are fake inks from China that don’t always stay in the skin and can cause infection.

     

    Do people ask you to design the tattoo, or do they normally already know what they want?

    Sometimes they ask me to draw but usually they have seen what they want before and come with a design.

     

    Do people ask to keep the line drawings you make when designing custom tattoos?

    Not usually. I put them up on the wall for examples.

     

    Do you keep sketchbooks of your work?

    I do each tattoo one by one, no books.

     

    Next we spoke to Wel, Mr Sit’s colleague…

     

    How did you get in to tattooing?

    I like it. If you don’t like it, you don’t start.

     

    Did you study drawing?

    I just learned, I like to draw. When I was 14 I would not go to school, I’d go to my friend’s tattoo shop on Phi Phi Island.

     

    Did you work there before here?

    My Mother had a restaurant there so I stayed there when I was young. I saw a lot of the tattoo shops and I liked what they did. Then I came here and learned. At first, I only helped them stretch the skin in preparation for the tattoo, that’s the first stage.

     

    Mr Sitt said that he was really scared the first time he did a tattoo, was it the same for you?

    Yes!

     

    Do you get the same fear every time?

    Not anymore, but before. The first, second and third. When they are simple like this (the three crown design I’m putting on the customer now) I don’t get nervours, but the first time I did a dragon I was scared. Now, not anymore.

     

    How long have you been doing this for?

    I started at 14 and now I’m 21.

     

    How did you meet Mr Sitt?

    (They both laugh) I think he can tell you better.

     

    This sounds like a good story! Mr Sit, how did you both meet?

    He worked in the enemy’s shop. Then he followed me here.

     

    When was this?

    About 4 years ago.

     

    What do you like best about your job?

    Finishing a tattoo and seeing the customers smile. We make dreams, we build a dream. Tattoo artists put the dream on the customer. For my customer, they dream the dream, then they come to me and I draw and put the dream on them. I like this a lot. You can read in the comments book how happy people have been. Sometimes we cry together!

     

    Tears of joy?

    Yes yes! A guy last week he came to me and asked for a tattoo of two fists together to remind him of his very best friend. Every time he saw his friend they would do this, like a handshake. They did it for 20 years. He was crying when he saw it finished.

     

    Would you change anything if you were to start over?

    Maybe I’d help with the family business–palm oil.

     

    Do you think you’ll do this for the rest of your life?

    Well, I like cooking too actually, I’m going to open a restaurant with a Swedish friend down the street, make Thai & Swedish food.

     

    What else do you like to do?

    I’d like to make a bar too, we’ll see.  Being a business owner is great for making friends.

     

    How is the tattoo scene in Thailand different from other places?

    Well in terms of the television shows.. LA ink is quite scripted.  London Ink is more realistic.

     

    Why do Thai people age so well?

    Its all the chili we eat, contains special ingredient which helps regenerate cells.  And herbs.

     

    How old are you?

    37

     

    Who is the most famous tattoo artist in Thailand?

    Jimmy Wang, his family also makes tattoos and he even started the tattoo convention in Bangkok.

     

    Do you have any advice for people wanting to start a career in tattooing?

    It’s easy! Go to youtube and look at ‘How to make tattoo’ and then go to ebay and get a machine.

     

    Special thanks to Mr. Sit and Wel for the interview, and to Christer Roosk for being a fantastic sport and letting us photograph him being tattooed.

    If you’d like to contact Mr. Sitt and Wel for a custom tattoo, send an email to sit.marley@hotmail.com or call +66816797805 or visit Lanta Ink in Saladan on Ko Lanta, Thailand.

    If you like this project, subscribe to our free monthly newsletter for updates.


     


  2. Eat Meet: Executive Chef Asker Skaarup Bay

    March 31, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE MENU 
    Seven Sea’s seafood soup with herbs & garlic – cumin dusted toast Melba
    Thyme marinated, roasted pork tenderloin on baked root vegetables & prune glace
    Pan-fried Phuket lobster tail on sautéed crushed green pea & lobster bisque
    Slow roasted pineapple & mascarpone mousse, reduced pineapple juice
    Warm chocolate fondant with white liquid center, tamarind juice & honey ice cream
    ON THE GLOBE
    Ko Lanta, Thailand
    ON THE TEAM
    Executive Chef Asker Bay Skaarup, Pimalai 5-Star Resort
     
     

    Close to midnight, Chef Asker walked us down the stairwell from the Seven Seas Restaurant that led to our bright red motorbike.  The sky was ominous, booming with lightning here and there, leaving me feeling a bit like Cinderella leaving the ball at the stroke at 12. Dressed in our evening gowns, we quickly made our descent to avoid the imminent storm after an enchanting evening.

    Try as we might, we did not escape mother nature.  The rain started as we started our engine, a few drops at first, then harder and faster until we could hardly see a thing.  Laughing, we pulled over and took refuge under a bamboo hut.  A lone street dog wandered amongst the flickering streetlights and an indecipherable low pitched horror-film moan filled the air from animals on the ranch across the street.

    More beautiful than scary, it was an unforgettable end to an unforgettable evening.

    Chef Asker wow-ed us to say the least.  Thoughtful, interested, and incredibly talented, he made our experience at Pimalai Resort something special.  He’s worked in the food industry for ages–from his hometown in Denmark, to bustling London, to Dubai, Bangkok, and now Ko Lanta, Asker knows what he’s doing, and he does it well.

    Read on for his thoughts on staying creative, cultural differences, sacrificing for your career, and how he stays James-Bond-fit amongst so much delicious food.

    Introducing Executive Chef Asker Skaarup Bay.

     

    What brought you to work in Thailand?

    I always wanted to work in Asia. I found it is an interesting place compared to European culture – the food, the people, it’s a different way of working.

     

    Did the company ask you to come and work here, or were you looking for work yourself?

    I took a job here two years ago after looking for a job in Asia.

     

    When did you move from being a chef cooking food to managing the kitchens as Executive Chef?

    To;
    About 6 years ago. When we start new menus I brief the concerned staffs, draw up the
    presentation of the dish and some times I arrange the first dish, then we take a photo and
    attach it to the recipe card.During service time I’ll do the rounds in all the kitchens to check that every thing goes
    smoothly.

     

    Is it a lot of paperwork?

    Yes. Sometimes I put more in place than what we need, but it’s a good exercise as you know where different costs go.

     

    What’s your signature dish?

    Seafood soup, one of the most popular dishes here. Also roasted pork tenderloin with roasted veg, and a lobster dish. I’m not a big fan of prawns and lobster but it’s popular. It was a fusion restaurant when I came here but I simplified it.

     

    Are you glad you picked Ko Lanta?

    It’s a nice place – maybe a bit quiet, not much socializing goes on. It’s relaxing but a challenging place to work, it’s harder to find qualified staff and good products than I was used to. Most of our products come from Bangkok although the seafood is local. Almost all of the products on the menu are grown in Thailand.

     

    How big is your team at the moment?

    Sixty people, including students.

     

    And you oversee them all?

    Yes.

     

    It must be a busy day…

    Yes some times. The restaurants are spread all over the resort. We try to do as much as possible home made. The guests appreciate it.

     

    How was it settling in here?

    When you come to a new place it always takes a few weeks to settle down. You need to know how the staff members are working, their strength and weakness etc… and when you accept them they accept you. Once you understand those things you will be able to get a good teamwork and even better when you know their culture.

     

    What’s a regular day in the life of Chef Asker?

    I start around 7 o’clock in the morning and check the breakfast buffets. All the kitchens have
    been closed down and cleaned properly the night before. Then some paperwork needs to be done, I check logbooks, internal cost transfers and staff requests to change or request extra days off. I then attend the morning briefing with the Management, I handle the follow-ups from the morning briefing and check that the breakfast buffets run smoothly. At 11 o’clock I have a briefing with one senior staff member from each kitchen section. Then I a walk through all the kitchens that are in operation for lunch. After that I have time for a break for a couple of hours, then another tour through all the kitchens to make sure they are set for a smooth dinner service.

     

    Do you work everyday?

    I work six days a week. On my days off I visit a beach and have a rest. Once a month I take a
    few days off and go to Bangkok or to some of the neighbour countries to Thailand.

     

    Do you live at the resort?

    Yes, not to far from here. Coming here as a tourist, relaxing for a few days or a week is cool.
    The locals are very laid back, they do not put much effort into meeting the demands from the
    tourists. On your day off you still have to keep in mind you are working at Pimalai because the locals
    and staff know who you are, and even sometimes the guests. Sometimes I miss a socialized
    environment where you can disappear in crowd and no one knows who you are./p>

     

    Why did you leave Dubai?

    Working in Dubai was a good experience in terms of hospitality. Everything is imported and
    you might work with food items that you will not be able to work with in other places because
    of cost. I spent two and half years in Dubai. It was enough.

     

    What is the food scene like on Ko Lanta? And in Thailand in general?

    The food scene here at Koh Lanta is quite basic, all the restaurants serve more or less the
    same kind of food. You wont find many nice restaurants here at Koh Lanta; the backpackers don’t come here for gourmet. In Thailand you get different kind of food depending on where you go; North Thailand serves
    heavier and less spicy food, Bangkok and the center of Thailand serves light and mild spiced
    food, E-san food has a nice special taste which is popular among all the Thais. South Thailand serves lighter and spicier food.

     

    One of the things we have noticed in Thailand is that you can order the same dish from several places but it will always taste totally different, do you know why this is?

    Different Chefs – different taste, I guess food and beverage is a subject of discussion for
    lifetime. The same counts in other countries as well I guess. For example a Caesar salad also tastes
    different from restaurant to restaurant and from café to café

     

    Have you had to get used to any new ingredients in Thailand that you hadn’t used before?

    Everything! That’s one of the reasons it is interesting to travel and work as a Chef, if you don’t
    like it you better stay at home.

     

    So, if you were to go out for a meal where would you go?

    There are not many places to go here at Koh Lanta. I visit a few nice places when in Bangkok:
    Face, a very old fashioned, traditional Thai restaurant where you can choose Thai and Indian
    food or a mix of both if you want. In the basement of Face is a Japanese restaurant too.
    Restaurant Banacahtian serves basic and tasty Thai food. Celadon serves very nice authentic Thai food at The Sukhothai Hotel and also the Thai restaurant at The Peninsula Hotel is worthwhile to visit..

     

    Has your position of Executive Chef taken you away from being creative?

    No not really. I’m involved in all the menu engineering as well as when we start up a new
    menu, from how the ingredients are prepared to how the dish is arranged and served to the guest.
    As much as possible I involve all my staff in making recipes, preparing the ingredients,
    cooking method/technics and arranging the dish. This way they feel that they’ve contributed
    and they feel important.

     

    How often do you create a new menu?

    I change all the menus a few months before the high season so that we have time to practice
    and modify if needed. The Chef Special changes daily at Seven Seas, our signature restaurant.
    Then we have three themes buffets during the week. The Thai buffet in Spice n’ Rice is the
    most popular. Then seafood barbeque in Rak Talay restaurant on the beach as well as the Surf & Turf buffet
    in Rak Talay.

     

    Are most of the customers here from Europe?

    Yes. Most of them are from UK, Australia, Germany, France and Italy, some from New Zealand,
    USA, Russia and India.

     

    What do you eat when you’re not working?

    When I’m at Koh Lanta I go to a street restaurant for some Thai food. If I go out with my friends I enjoy to go out to a restaurant and have a nice dinner and a bottle of wine.

     

    What food is your guilty pleasure?

    I try to eat healthy when I have my main meals. I taste everything while at work during the
    day to control that the food has the same consistency. I taste all the food from raw to finished
    product – even fatty things, but if you eat a little bit only you can take it./p>

     

    How do you stay in shape when you are surrounded by such delicious food?

    I don’t have big main meals. I taste a lot during the day. I eat fruit when I want to have
    something light and I exercise in my break.

     

    What kind of exercise?

    In the gym here. I do weights, running, …anything.

     

    Has that been a habit for a long time?

    Yes. For the last twelve years. Even though I’m tired, I still go to the gym and after a little bit of
    time I get refreshed and get more energy. If I don’t go I regret it.

     

    How was the experience of publishing your dessert book?

    It was a good experience publishing the dessert book. When looking in my book I can see how I have developed during the past. I have always had a big interest in baking and pastry.

     

    What did you learn in the process of creating the book?

    What did I learn? I think that one of the most important things when I prepare a recipe for
    others is that the other person understands how to prepare the dish.

     

    What was your dream job as a child?

    I always liked to bake and cook at home for my family when I was young. I don’t know if I was
    dreaming of what I’m doing now, but I enjoy what I’m doing. I left primary school when I was 15 years old, started in an apprenticeship as baker then continued as Chef apprentice and finally completed a waiter apprenticeship, eight years all together. Then I started traveling with my educations, meeting different food, culture, people and new places, which I found very interesting.

     

    Who are your food heroes, or who has inspired you along the way?

    I don’t really have any food heroes. I observe when I go out, in terms of menu engineering,
    food quality, presentation and price. While working in London I worked at Quo Vadis one of Marco Pierre White’s. first restaurants where I achieved a lot. I get some inspiration from cookbooks and magazines.
    When I look through old cookbooks and magazines I can see how many old ways of preparations and arranging the dishes are coming back.

     

    Have you ever owned a restaurant or would you like to?

    I have been thinking about it! In Denmark there’s a lot of taxes and fees. If I do I will either go back and do something small that I can manage myself, or do something big that I could get other people to manage for me. You need a lot money to start up so at the moment I’m not sure I’d like to do it yet.

     

    What’s your proudest moment in your career to date?

    When things are going smoothly, the guests are happy and give compliments to my staff. It’s
    nice and enjoyable. I feel proud.

     

    What’s the most embarrassing thing that has happened in your career so far?

    A couple of times I have been asked by guests why some dishes not are available on the menu
    when I know the items are in stock.

     

    Have you got any advice for people wanting to enter into a similar career?

    You must understand that you have to work when other people don’t. It’s a hot environment and can be very stressful. You have to like what you’re doing.

     

    Do you still like it?

    YES I still like it. It is not an industry you just join to have a job. You have to sacrifice relation
    ships and family. If you have a job in the hospitality industry your friends and family must understand it and support you. You are not working normal hours Monday to Friday nine to five. Your hours will most likely be Friday to Tuesday eight to twenty one, with a break for a couple of hours during the day.. :-) )

     

    Have you sacrificed part of your family life for your career?

    I don’t know. I’m happy with what I’m doing.

     

    Do you still have family in Denmark?

    Yes. I go back once a year.

     

    Do you miss Danish food?  Do you still cook it here and if so, how do people react to it?

    No I don’t miss Danish food. I’m not a particular person. However Thai food two weeks in a
    row can get a bit boring, I like anything.

     

    What’s your secret for not wanting to be home when you’re away and not wanting to be away when you’re at home?

    I like the Asian culture but when it’s too humid I miss the cold weather, otherwise I like it here
    in Thailand, the island, beaches and city life. I feel Bangkok is my second hometown.

     

    Special thanks to Mirko Langui, Food & Beverage Manager, Chef Asker, and the fabulous Pimalai staff for assistance in making this interview a reality.

    If you’d like to visit Chef Asker and enjoy his sensational food, visit Pimalai 5-Star Resort on Ko Lanta, Thailand.

    If you liked this interview, subscribe to our free monthly newsletter for updates.


     


  3. Eat Meet No. 3 – Photorealism in Chiang Mai

    March 16, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE CANVAS 
    Photo-Realistic Charcoal Portraits
    ON THE GLOBE
    Chiang Mai, Thailand
    ON THE TEAM
    Ditcha Pong Donkeaw, Illustrator & Painter

     

    We spent four days in Chiang Mai, a small-ish city in northern Thailand.

    Hannah describes it as “friendly, compact, has everything you’d need, enough to do that you’d discover places regularly, but not so much to do that it’s overwhelming or touristy, impossible to get lost, the community vibe that I didn’t feel in Bangkok.”

    We both agreed to live there at some point.  We loved getting around the city by bike, the relaxed atmosphere, the fast wifi, and the hidden quiet gems with greenery and space to breathe dispersed between the chaotic Thai streets that line each city we’ve been to so far.

    One of the highlights by far was interviewing illustrator Ditcha Pong Donkeaw in a quiet spot underground Chiang Mai’s night bazaar.  He creates illustrations so realistic, you have to look twice (or three times) to make sure that they’re not photographs.

    Though I’m a certified artist (got a piece of paper from the University of California saying as much, so it must be true), I’ve never been able to draw realistically.  Eventually I let go of the notion that artists “should” be able to draw that way and my jealousy that I could not, and focused on my strengths instead..

    Ditcha, or Dui for short, really warmed our hearts.  Initially shy to be on camera and quite modest about his unbelievable skill, he warmed up quickly and opened up to us about how he honed his talent and what his family thinks of his life as an artist.

    Introducing Ditcha:

     

    EatTeam1CollageDuiChiangMai

    What’s your name?

    Ditcha Pong, but my nickname from University is Dui.

     

    How long have you worked at the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai?

    Six years.

     

    You look really young.  Can we ask how old you are?

    Not so young!  I have small wrinkles.  Twenty-nine.

     

    How long did you study art for?

    I studied at university for four years.  I worked here ever since.

     

    Were you naturally talented with drawing, even before studying?

    Yes, as a child I was very good.  My dad guided my hand when I was young.  He helped me learn.

     

    Did you start drawing in this photo-realistic style, or was your style in the beginning something else?

    I drew everything.. acrylic, watercolor, charcoal.   Sometimes abstract–if the customer likes it that way.

     

    What kind of customers usually buy from you?

    Mainly Europeans but also Americans, Canadians, Brits.

     

    Do all the artists here in the market know eachother?  

    Yes, we are all part of different companies.

     

    So you’re all competing?

    Yes.. that’s why everyone is looking at us, wondering what we are filming!

     

    When you create an artwork for a customer, do they sit for you while you draw?

    No, that would take too long.  I draw from a photograph.

     

    Do you enjoy drawing still after so many years?

    Yes.

     

    In your free time, do you draw other things just for fun?

    Yes, I really enjoy drawing animals, flowers, abstracts.  Jackson Pollock, Picasso.. yeah!

     

    Do you give drawings to your friends sometimes?

    Yes, especially for birthday presents.

     

    Hannah and I are both artists.  I can only do abstract, child-like drawings, totally different from your style.  I get embarrassed looking back through old sketchbooks, at the bad quality.  Do you get embarrassed too looking back to the beginning?

    No, I like it better–there’s so much innocence in it.

     

    Where did you grow up?

    A province called Phaie, its 2 hours from Chiang Mai.  I moved here for university.

     

    How old were you when you started learning how to draw?

    I started studying at 18.

     

    So eleven years now.  And you said your mom and dad wanted you to be an artist?

    Yes, my dad.. but not my mom.  She wanted me to study electronics.

     

    Did your dad push you to be an artist or did he support you in your decision?

    He supported me in my decision.

     

    Do you prefer black and white or color when drawing and painting?

    I like black-and-white better, its more classic and its easier.

     

    What’s the strangest picture anyone’s ever commissioned you to draw?

    Six months ago, a customer had me draw their head in the body of a mermaid.

     

    How long did the drawing we’re looking at take you?

    Two days.  That’s the average amount of time they usually take.

     

    How much did it cost?

    About three-thousand baht. ($100)

     

    Do you like drawing people or animals better?

    People.

     

    The bigger drawings for sale in your gallery were made from photographs too?  They’re real people?

    Yes.

     

    What do you usually draw with?

    Charcoals, chalks, pastels, pencils, lots of different brushes.  No water, its all dry.  Sometimes I wear a mask because the materials can be dangerous.

     

    Where else do you exhibit your work?

    Sometimes I enter contests and show in galleries.

     

    Who are your favorite artists?

    T. Tawan Dutcha Nee (very famous Thai artist), Michelangelo, and Da Vinci.

    Special thanks to Winit Kumrai for translating.

    If you’d like to contact the artist or order a custom illustration, email Ditcha at ditchapongart_9@hotmail.com or call +66892612669.  You can also visit his studio in Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar.

    If you liked this interview, subscribe to our free monthly newsletter for updates.

     


  4. Kids For A Day

    March 9, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    After spending four days in the jungle with chef Samart, we were ready to be back in the throes of society.  Roaming the streets of Chiang Mai’s city center all day with our friend Evan tuckered us out, and by the time mid afternoon rolled around, Hannah & Evan were hankering for an ice cold beer by the water.  We stopped in to 7-11 to get the local Chang brew, but there was a sign indicating we were out of luck.  No alcohol was being sold that day because of a Buddhist holiday.

    Instead, we decided to be kids again for the day.  We stocked up on toys–yo yos, frisbee, bubble blowers–and some of the most ridiculous (and surprisingly tasty) processed snacks Thailand has to offer.  Here’s our findings on 7-11′s “finest” foods:

    Cuttlefish Crackers: Crispy, salty, a bit like shrimp chips.  ★★★☆☆

    Coconut Bread: Squishy center, very gelatinous.  Strong, desirable coconut flavor with crispy exterior. ★★★☆☆

    Sushi Sunchips: Light and fluffy, strong earthy texture and seaweed flavor.  Different from American sunchips, but equally delicious. ★★★★☆

    Peanuts glazed with sesame seeds and toffee: Sugary, salty and crunchy.  Fantastic dessert, but not so different than nuts you can acquire at home. ★★★☆☆

    Sweet & sour tamarind: Extreme tartness blends well with sugar and chewiness.  Bean pods still inside were unexpected. ★★☆☆☆

    Toffee almond cake: Mild, moist cake, crispy almonds glazed in honey.  A lot like the German pastry called “bienenstich”.  ★★★☆☆

    Original crispy seaweed: Bland and outright nasty on the first bite, better and better with each thereafter.  7-11s in Thailand have a huge selection of different seaweed. ★★★☆☆

    M150 Energy Drink: Impressive that it comes in a glass bottle.  I heard that energy drinks originated in Thailand, so we wanted to see how they compared to the ones at home.  Sweet but not sickly flavor, enjoyable actually.  Amusing text on packaging reads “DEVOTION, COURAGE, SACRIFICE”. ★★★★☆

    Watermelon Seeds: Absolutely disgusting.  Like old burnt nails.  We just imagined someone at the factory munching on a watermelon spitting seeds out and collecting them, baking them for a few minutes, and packaging them up for sale. ☆☆☆☆☆

    Crab Black Pepper Deluxe Potato Chips: Tasted mostly of BBQ.  A classic, enjoyable chip. ★★★★☆

     


  5. Eat Meet No. 2 – Chiang Mai Jungle Curry

    March 6, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE MENU 
    Bok Choi Jungle Curry and Moonshine
    ON THE GLOBE
    Mae Wan, Chiang Mai, Thailand
    ON THE TEAM
    Chef Samart Srisoda, Ex-Monk and Philanthropist
     

    Samart’s Lifestory in a Nutshell

    The youngest of 9 children, Samart attended Primary school until his parents could no longer afford it. At 11 years old he started life in a monastery as a Temple Boy and continued his studies as a Monk after a year. Leaving the monastery after 8 years, Samart continued in his education becoming the only member of his family to have a university degree. Samart now runs a successful adventure tour company along with several community projects which help to raise money for families unable to fund education for their children.

    www.theeatteam.com

    Where are we?

    Mae Win, a sub district of Chiang Mai

     

    Where are you from?

    Chiang Mai, Thailand

     

    What are we eating tonight? 

    Bok Choi Jungle Curry with rice, followed by Papaya.

     

    Why/how did you become a chef?

    Started from a young age because my parents had to work long hours as garlic pickers. I cooked for them.  They would get picked up from the nearest village to start a two hour journey – finish at 5 back home at 7 – late.  There was no electricity so after sunset.. the only thing to do is make babies.

     

    What is the food scene like in Chiang Mai?

    Chiang Mai food and Thai food.. very different.  Everywhere has their own food.  Me?  I’m very picky.  I eat 99%  only northern Thai food.  Pad Thai, fried rice.. maybe once a year for me.  I cook all the time.  Here, they wrap fish in banana leaves and put them on the barbecue so it steams.. that’s northern Thai food.  Central Thai food uses a lot of coconut milk.  Northern people hardly use coconut milk–only in pudding.  Muslim people use coconut milk a lot.  Southern Thai also.. that’s why they’re fat!  They use lemon juice, and we use tamarind.  Southern Thai food is more about stir fry, northern is more about curry. The ingredients in Tom (like in Tom Yam and Tom Kha) is sliced and boiled. Gang is ground. Masaman is Buddhist/Hindu curry. Penang is more like red curry.  Burmese curry – tomato peanuts and ginger.

    When you come to Chiang Mai, you must eat the sausage.  And chili paste with pork and tomato.  Sticky rice and Chiang Mai sausage.  The second one is bak choi soup, very simple: in hot water, you cook the bones to make a broth and stock.  Don’t overcook!  Throw fried garlic in.. perfect.  That’s for tomorrow.  Chiang Mai food only.  No Thai food.

     

    What was the first thing you learned how to cook?

    This, what we’re eating tonight–Bak  Choi Curry.  There’s many different types of bak choi, and they’re all very different.  This one is a little bit bitter.  It’s called Hamong.

     

    Where and how did you learn to cook?

    Just watching my parents, seeing how they did it.  My mother liked to cook Thai food, but my Father hated [southern] Thai food.  He liked Chiang Mai food, he thought it was healthier becuase it’s steamed in banana leaves.  He was a smart.  He was a village man but he watched documentaries and the news all the time.  He’s 73 years old.

     

    What is your favorite food?

    Bok choi curry, I eat it twice a week.  I don’t like beige vegetables, only green.  I really like stir fried morning glory with oyster sauce.  Morning glory is from China.

     

    “MSG stands for MMM So Good!”

    Why aren’t there many tomatoes here?

    Thai people don’t really eat a lot of it, and it’s not native.

     

    Do you feel fast food joints are ruining Thai food culture?

    No, I think it has changed the culture, but it’s still just an option and Thailand cannot really say anything because when we decide to be an open, fair trade country, well that means we have to accept everything.  But not many people can afford to eat fast food anyways!  It’s so much more expensive.

    Families cook, but people living in a dorm go out a lot–its cheaper!  It’s more expensive to gather the ingredients and cook at home, unless you share with many people.

     

    Is it usually the mom that cooks?

    Usually women cook, the more common foods especially.  Unless it’s extra special rare food, like rare beef salad, men cook that.

     

    Is there anything you don’t like or ingredients you avoid?

    I just don’t like creamy substances like coconut milk.

     

    Do you prefer cooking here than in your house in Chiang Mai?

    It’s a better atmosphere.  In the city, I’m alone.  This is one of the reasons I participate with couchsurfing, because I like cooking and this way someone eats my food!

     

    “Cooking is my skill, my art. ”

     

    Do you have special occassions that you make food for?

    I cook pretty much every day, so I cook for the holidays too.  I’d rather have a nice meal than go out, so I cook while the others go out and celebrate.  They get home and eat my food.  It’s my skill, its art for me.  I don’t know how to draw or paint, or music… I know nothing.  Cooking is my skill, my art.  Most people still follow the old generation’s advice.  They link that belief to the idea that a spirit would get angry, perhaps give you diarrhea.

     

    What is it that you’re not meant to do that would anger the spirits?

    Well, people do it now, but when I was younger, you would never cook mushroom with meat.

     

    Was there a special diet for the monks?

    Basically, the monk has no choice for food, so they have to eat what the people cook for them.  Eat to live.  And they don’t cook normally, it’s the people’s job.  If they don’t like it, they can cook their own or adapt their tastebuds. And that’s very hard.

     

    Is it true that a lot of Thai food has MSG in it?

    Oh yes, a lot.  But I use chicken stock.  But it still has very low levels of MSG in it.  But nobody knows for sure still whether or not MSG is bad for you.

     

    Why do they use MSG anyways?  It’s tasty enough isn’t it?

    Because sometimes you need a sweetness that’s not sugar.  Normally MSG is from tapioca, a Japanese company in Kanchanaburi, Thailand makes MSG.  It’s not only tapioca powder, but chemicals too, and that’s what they think might be harmful.  Lots of people talk about it, but its still not known.  You keep hearing, ‘oh it’s bad for the blood, it’s bad for the bones,’ and then a couple years later you hear from American scientists that nothing’s wrong.

     

    How do you feel about MSG?

    It’s a drug.  People get addicted to it.

     

    Where do you get MSG?

    Just from the shop.  It’s like a white powder. Started in Japan but there’s a factory in Kanchanaburi. When you study science you learn about MSG from a very early age as if it’s a drug, good teachers try to stop kids from having it and advise against them having it. You can use mushroom if veggie, or chicken or pork stock if not instead.

    My Sister and mother are good at cooking but use too much MSG. You can’t change the people in the village or older relatives who are stuck in their ways. I am the first of my family to get a degree, but they dont listen to me about MSG. If they have never been to school then they haven’t ever learned about it, therefore don’t care. I say to my Mother, “If you can’t tell me what MSG stands for then you need to stop using it.” She replies, “MSG stands for MMM So Good!”

     

    Have you tried cooking food other than Thai food?

    I cook Italian sometimes.  I cook pizza, and adapt it in my way–I make red curry pizza.  And Thai lasagna, including chilis, garlics, coriander seeds, spices, tumerics, like what we put in the chili paste we are making tonight.  I like red meat so I would put pork or beef in it.  Kangaroo meat is the best meat in the world, no fat because they’re hopping all day.

     

    Did you build this place?

    Yes, it took 2.5 years.  Now they are solar powered and there’s internet.  I started in May 2 years ago.  I started with only 1 bungalow, I wanted only 1, and then.. more and more.

     

    If you were gonna eat a really fatty meal, what would it be?

    Bacon is the worst food that I would eat.

     

    Why isn’t there cheese in Thai food?

    Because Thailand is a tropical region–just because it’s hot.  Cheese is meant to keep you warm.  New chefs bring a revolution in the last 15 years and now lots of people use cheese mixed with Thai food.

     

    Do you ever use cheese in your cooking?

    No never.. except for the Thai lasagna.

     

    We’ve ordered the same dish in several places, but they’ve all tasted different.  Why?

    When cooking, chefs can have the same skills, same ingredients, but the food can taste totally different. The key is that you need the same pot and same heat–bronze and open air fire from a clay oven. If you want to cook lemur or deer you need to cook in a clay pot so it smells like the earth.

     

    How do you know how much of each ingredient to put in since you’re not measuring anything?

    You can feel how much you need to put in from your heart. (If you’re a real chef!)

    To work, volunteer, or vacation with Samart visit chaingmaiecolodges.com or email him at spicywildpumpkin@gmail.com