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Posts Tagged ‘Eat Meet’

  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.

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  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