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Posts Tagged ‘Chiang Mai’

  1. 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.

     


  2. 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