Food and Drink

What is Thailand’s Best Beer?

by Dave in Articles, Food and Drink, Koh Chang News 2 Comments

So what is the Best Beer in Thailand?

A good question, and there’s only one way to find an answer. That’s right, try them all. So that’s what we did. We assembled a crack team of testers, bought eleven commonly available beers and did a blind tasting of them all to find out which was best. Here’s how it went.

The Beers

We tasted Chang, Singha, Heineken, Tiger, San Miguel Light, Cheers, Archa, Asahi, Leo, Beer Laos Dark and Federbrau. We could probably have found other beers but these were the most easily available and frankly, eleven was quite enough.

The Tasters

The expert tasting team comprised Andrew Sullivan, John Dawes, Roger Brennan, Martin Buswell, Ken Bird, Glenn Marshall and Dave Hinchliffe. There is a great depth of beer knowledge there. Special credit is due to artist/publican Roger Brennan who was the most successful in guessing the identity of the mystery beers.

The System

We did a blind tasting of all the beers, made tasting notes (a few of which are actually publishable) and scored each beer out of ten.

The Results

There were some real surprises, some tasty beers and some really awful ones. But who were the winners and who were the losers.

Thailand’s Worst Beer?

According to our panel the worst beer was…Tiger Beer. This comes as a bit of a surprise since Singapore’s Tiger is brewed under license in Thailand and sold as one of the countries more expensive brands of beer. But this clearly didn’t impress the panel who all found it unpleasant and gave it a dreadful rating of just 14 out of 70.
Tasting notes: “Gassy indescribable pish” – “Really bad, made my face feel tight” – “Nasty aftertaste” – ” tastes like sweat in a glass” “Unpleasant – not refreshing.”

Thailand’s Third Best Beer – Cheers

Congratulations are due to lowly Cheers beer which performed well above its budget friendly price and scored a very respectable 46 out of 70.
Tasting Notes: “One of the better ones” – “Not too bad, slight aftertaste” – ”Drinkable” – ”Drinkable, Inoffensive”

Thailand’s Second Best Beer – Leo

Despite a recent rebranding and change of recipe which also saw an oh-so-sneaky reduction in the volume of each bottle Boon Rawd Brewery’s Leo again performs very well in our beer tasting (it won the last one). It scored 51 out of 70 and was popular with almost the whole panel (one score of five compared the aroma to urine).
Tasting Notes: “Nice taste, has to be Leo” – “Good enough” – “pretty nice, smooth drinking, could drink a few”

The Best Beer in Thailand

OK nationalists brace yourselves, you ain’t going to like this. The best widely available beer in Thailand, as voted for by our expert panel, scored a huge 58 out of 70 and was a clear winner.
So congratulations to Beer Laos Dark!
Tasting Notes: “A treat for the taste buds” – “Very, very nice” – “Hoppy and full flavoured” – “ Malty, sweet and full flavoured” – “Nice proper beer”

Results in Full

1st – Beer Laos Dark – 58
2nd – Leo – 51
3rd – Cheers – 48
4th – Singha – 40
5th – Archa – 38
6th – Federbrau – 34
7th – Heineken 27
8th – Asahi – 26
9th – Chang – 22
10th – San Miguel Light – 18
11th – Tiger – 14

Since we tested there is already a new beer available. “U” Beer, made by the makers of Leo and Singha is… OK. How does it compare to all the above beers? Dunno. Guess we’ll have to have another tasting. Life is tough!

Share

Thai Chillies

by Dave in Features and Archives, Food and Drink Comments Off on Thai Chillies

Thai Chillies

Although the Chilli Pepper was only introduced to Thailand from the Americas some 400 years ago Thai cuisine relies heavily on chillies to add heat and, most importantly, flavour to its dishes. Black and Green Peppercorns and Ginger are also used to add heat and flavour but Thailand seems to have adopted the Chilli as a fundamental part of their national cuisine..

Thai ChilliesA range of Chillies with different heats and tastes are used in Thai cookery. Typically the hottest of Thai dishes are the spicy salads or Yams. Many other Thai dishes employ chillies but feel free to reduce  (or increase!) the quantities used if you want milder or hotter dishes.

We describe the most common types of Thai Chillies below so you are armed with the information you need to enter the fiery world of Thai spicy cuisine

Large Red Chillies – Prik Chee Faa
These chillies are quite hot and sweet with a capsicum-like flavour. They are 8-12cm long, and are a common ingredient of many Thai curries and stir fried dishes.

Dried Large Red Chillies – Prik Chee Faa Daeng
These are dried versions of the above. The drying process intensifies the flavour and they are commonly fried before cooking until almost black to give a pungent roasted flavour to dishes such as Chicken with Cashew Nuts.

Large Green Chillies – Prik Yuak
Prik Yuak, also known as Prik Orn in Koh Chang parts of the country, are a relatively mild chilli with a sour flavour much like the Mexican Jalapeno pepper. They are 8-12cm long,

Large Dark Green Chillies – Prik Chee Faa Kieow
These darker green chillies are 8-12cm long,  pretty spicy and also have a sour flavour.

group of different thai chilliesLarge Orange/Yellow Chillies – Prik Leuang
These chillies are again quite hot but with a sweeter taste. Don’t mistake them for their similar sized red counterparts or you’ll know about it.

Small Red or Green Chillies – Prik Kee Noo
The Thai name of these chillies translates as rat dropping chillies. Fortunately this relates to size rather than flavour. They are typically 4-6cm long and are hotter than their larger relatives. You can use Red or Green interchangeably as the taste is similar but the green ones are slightly hotter.

Small Red or Green (Bird’s Eye) Chillies – Prik Kee Noo Suan
These smaller chillies translate as garden rat dropping chillies. They are about 1-2cm long and are the hottest of the Thai Chillies. Eaten raw they are very hot indeed and should be used with care. They are used in the same recipes as Prik Kee Noo but apply greater spiciness.
A milder usage involves pickling the chillies to give a sour flavour to dishes.
Tip: Keep an eye out for them hidden in camouflage like little hand grenades in dishes that contain green vegetables.

Share

“Thai Food” by David Thompson

by Dave in Features and Archives, Food and Drink Comments Off on “Thai Food” by David Thompson

We were very interested recently to receive a copy of “Thai Food” by David Thompson. At almost seven hundred pages this weighty publication is an incredibly comprehensive guide to all aspects of Thai cuisine.

Thompson certainly knows his subject. He is the accomplished chef behind the famous Sydney restaurants Darley Street Thai and Sailor’s Thai. In July 2001 he opened nahm at the Halkin Hotel in London. Seven months later it  became the first ever Thai restaurant to gain a Michelin star. He is currently working with the Suan Dusit College in Bangkok on the preservation of Thai culinary heritage.

thai food by david thompsonThe author begins by giving a history of Thailand’s development as a nation that is almost a book in itself and considers the evolution of Thailand’s unique cuisine within this historical context.

He explains the fundamental difference between Western and Thai cuisine in that whilst western dishes aim to create a dish based on one or two key elements or flavours a Thai recipe builds up a large number of individual, often very pungent, elements that ultimately balance each other out to form an even and perfectly weighted whole. All Thai cuisine is built around what are held to be  the four fundamental tastes; hot, sour, salty and sweet. Any Thai dish will contain a combination of the above with one or more of these elements coming to the fore. In this way the classic Thai Tom Yam Soup concentrates on salty, sour and hot tastes whereas the gentler Lotus Stalk, Mackerel and coconut soup should be sweet, salty and sour.

The book continues by offering a detailed and authoritative description of all the exotic ingredients used in Thai cooking and gives helpful hints on useful substitutes for hard to obtain items or explains how to make some of the more obscure items used.

Only then, after this comprehensive groundwork, does the book get on to the recipes, of which there are a huge number. They are broken up into different types of dish so Relishes, Soups, Curries, Salads and Side Dishes all receive a chapter and a useful chapter addresses how to go about setting a menu of several harmonious dishes. Finally comes a section on snacks and street food and desserts.

What we liked most about the recipes was that instructions are simple and there are plenty of notes on alternative ingredients and treatments. In fact Thompson states repeatedly his belief that a recipe is only a guide and encourages experimentation based on an underlying understanding of the required basic essence of any dish.

A lot of the recipes he features are very old and many come from notable members of the Thai nobility. This reflects the author’s conviction that Thai cuisine reached its very peak in the Royal Thai Cuisine served at the court of the Thai Royal family around the end of the 19th century.
But many more rustic recipes are included reflecting the culinary traditions of the whole country from the milder food of the North, the different culinary traditions of the until-recently remote Issan plateau to the  hot and spicy cuisine of the south.

So we found the book to be a success as a detailed description of the Thai cooking tradition but also, most importantly in a recipe book, as a source of good recipes that allow you to have a good chance of producing for yourselves some of the delicious and mysterious foods that you will encounter on  a trip to Thailand.

Thai Food by David Thompson is Published by the Penguin Book Group.

Share

Garlic in Thai Cuisine

by Dave in Features and Archives, Food and Drink Comments Off on Garlic in Thai Cuisine

Garlic 1Garlic is one of the key ingredients and flavours in Thai cuisine and is used in both raw and cooked forms in a huge number of Thai dishes.
It has a characteristic pungent smell and aroma that is reduced and sweetened by the length of cooking. This pungency is caused by chemical reactions when the cells of the plant are broken by cutting or crushing. So in theory if you swallow garlic whole it won’t be spicy at all. This isn’t recommended though, better to enjoy the mouth-watering aroma of garlic as it fries in a pan, surely one of the greatest smells that can waft out of a kitchen.

People from the few countries that don’t use garlic extensively in their cuisine often comment on the smell it leaves on others. The simple solution to this is, of course, to eat it yourself and you’ll never notice it. Alternatively, consider how the unique aroma of a person who has eaten Blue Cheese appears to the nose of someone from a country that consumes little or no dairy produce.

Garlic – the Latin name is Allium Sativum, for what it’s worth – has been used by people for food and medicine since the beginning of recorded history. It is a close relative of onions, spring onions and Leeks. The stems and shoots of the plant can be eaten but most commonly the bulb of the plant is used. This bulb is comprised of individual segments known as cloves.
Here in Thailand two main types of garlic are available. You will need to decide between flavour and convenience. The first has a bulb that is about 3-5cm wide. This has a sharper and fuller flavour than the second variety which offers much larger cloves with a sweeter flavour in its 6-10 cm bulb. The smaller of the two forms is regarded as the best-tasting by connoisseurs but is much more fiddly and time-consuming to prepare than the larger, which still tastes pretty good.

Garlic is a healthy food and eating it is touted as a treatment or prevention for all kinds of ailments. It has been used for centuries to treat colds and modern medicine has found evidence to support this. It is also a strong antibacterial agent and has a history of use as an antiseptic.
Garlic has often also been claimed to lower cholesterol levels. Whilst the evidence on this not conclusive it seems that chemicals in garlic help to reduce cholesterol from attaching to artery walls, in other words limiting its harmfulness.

Whether you’re a garlic fan or not no gastronomic trip to Thailand would not be complete without sampling one of the scores of Thai dishes that feature garlic. In fact it’s hard to find anything that doesn’t.

Share

Basil

by Dave in Features and Archives, Food and Drink Comments Off on Basil

Basil in Thai Cuisine

3 kinds of thai basilYou are probably familiar with the richly fragrant herb Basil since it is commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine. It is, for example, the central ingredient in Pesto, one of Italian cooking’s finest sauces. Basil is also used extensively in cooking here in Thailand and often in dishes with – to our palates at least – surprising mixtures of tastes and flavours.

The first thing to be aware of is that Thai cooking uses three main types of Basil, all with distinctively different qualities.
The Basil you are probably most familiar with is known here as Bai Ho-Ra-Pa or Sweet Basil. This is the Thai for of the basil most commonly used in Mediterranean cuisines and the one you are probably most familiar with. It has a characteristic sweet and dense aroma and a strong, but not overpowering flavour, reminiscent of but distinctly different to aniseed.

The second type of Basil used in Thailand is Thai Holy Basil, Hot Basil or Bai Grapow . This is the key ingredient in the famous Pat Grapow, a fiery stir fry and one of Thailand’s most common and classic dishes. Sometimes as you pass small roadside restaurants you will be engulfed by a cloud of pungent fumes that make you choke and your eyes stream. This is the result of adding hot basil and chillies to a searing hot frying pan of pat grapow. This causes an impressive flash of flames and the characteristic gas cloud. But the end dish is definitely worth the hazardous cooking process. This issue’s featured recipe, clams with chilli paste, makes good use of holy basil.

Bai Mang-Rak is the third type of basil used in Thai kitchens. This is also known as Lemon Basil for its citrus-like flavour. In cooking it is good in soups and with seafood.

The three plants are a little tricky to distinguish from one another as you will see from the photograph. The best way to be sure which is which is to crush one of the leaves between your fingers and check the aroma released, which is always quite distinctive.
Recently, there has been much research into the health benefits conferred by the essential oils found in basil. Scientific studies have established that compounds in basil oil have potent antioxidant, anti-cancer, antiviral, and anti-microbial properties. So as with many herbs there are health as well as taste reasons to add this versatile herb to your recipes and your shopping list.

Share

Thai Fish Sauce

by Dave in Features and Archives, Food and Drink Comments Off on Thai Fish Sauce

Nam Pla – Thai Fish Sauce

various bottles of thai fish sauceIf you were asked to choose the ingredient most characteristic of Thai cuisine what would you pick? Lemon grass maybe? fiery, brightly-coloured chillies, or perhaps garlic? What you probably wouldn’t pick is the special Thai fish sauce called Nam Pla. Whilst it is one of the most crucial elements of Thai cooking Nam Pla is often forgotten – probably because on its own it smells pretty bad. But don’t hold that against it, when it is added to Thai dishes it imparts a unique richness of flavour that makes it far more than the sum of its parts.

Nam Pla is a sauce made by adding salt to fish, usually anchovies – and leaving it to ferment. After straining the result of this fermentation process is Nam Pla. This might sound like a simple process but so does fermenting grapes and look at the variety of wines there are out there. Thai people are serious about their fish sauce and in addition to the most common supermarket brands there are hundreds of smaller home-produced recipes. Certain regions of Thailand are noted as being producers of great fish sauce and Trat province is one such area.

As a cooking ingredient fish sauce is used firstly as a flavour enhancer. Thais typically do not add salt to their dishes, the saltiness of nam pla is instead used to bring out the flavour in a dish. Typically fish sauce is 60-75% fish, with the remainder being salt with sometimes 1-3% sugar. There is usually a bowl of Prik Nam Pla at the table in a Thai restaurant. This is nam pla and chopped chillies (of course) and it is added to food in the same way as table salt.

Share

Thai Food Adventures

by Dave in Features and Archives, Food and Drink Comments Off on Thai Food Adventures

A journey through classic Thai Street Foods

Below we offer you a photo guide to some of the excellent Thai dishes that are commonly available but that you might not have heard of before.
Many of these dishes are available in even the most simple of Thai restaurants and they are generally eaten by themselves for breakfast or lunch as one-plate meals in contrast to the multi-dish extravaganzas that commonly constitute Thai evening meals. We’ll give you  a brief description of each dish below the photos.
And in order to help you to order these tasty treats for yourselves we have included their names in Thai so if all else fails then you can just point.

Khao Moo Gop – Rice with belly pork
It’s worth turning a blind eye to the calories to enjoy this rich dish of braised pork in a sweet and sour gravy served over rice with a side dish of healthy greens as some consolation for the health conscious.
ข้าวหมูกรอบ

Kanom Jeen Nam Yar Kati – Rice noodles with curry sauce

This tasty common dish involves a serving of Kanom Jeen rice noodles accompanied by a rich and spicy red curry sauce served with chopped green beans and beansprouts.
ขมนจีนน้ำยากะทิ

Khao Man Gai – Rice and Chicken

The rice in this dish is cooked in Chicken Stock to give a rich flavour and then topped with steamed chicken. This is usually accompanied by a spicy soya bean sauce and a serving of leuat or Thai blood pudding
ข้าวมันไก่

Gai Yang – Grilled Chicken

Few things are more simple and delicious than a freshly spiced and seasoned, grilled piece of chicken.
This is one of the most common and popular street foods in Thailand and you can find and  try it at any number of little roadside stalls.
ไก่ย่าง

Kao Soi – spicy noodle soup

This delicious curry soup comprises yellow noodles and a choice of different meat  curry sauces. Onions, herbs and crunchy deep fried noodles are sprinkled on top for a memorable mixture of textures and flavours It is a speciality of Northern Thailand but can be found throughout the country.
ข้าวซอย

Khao Moo Daeng –
Rice with red pork
There is a strong Chinese influence in Thai cuisine and this dish of Char Siu grilled red pork in a sweet gravy on a bed of rice is a good example. Often served with an egg and a few slices of Chinese sausage it is a common lunchtime one plate meal.
ข้าวหมูแดง


Khao Krub Kapi – Rice in prawn paste

Half the fun is in the mixing with this plate of rice cooked in Kapi prawn paste. Served with sweet Chinese sausage, sour raw papaya, chilli, onion, dried prawns, egg and beans it provides a mesmerising clash of textures, colours and flavours that rewards those brave enough to give it a try.
ข้าวคลุกกะปิ

Khao Mog Gai – Yellow Rice With Chicken

This speciality of Muslim Southern Thailand can be found in most parts of the country.
The spiced yellow rice is accompanied by a chicken cooked with mild Indian-style spices and topped with crispy fried onions. It is commonly accompanied by a sour and spicy chilli sauce.
ข้าวหมกไก่


All of the food images were taken by Mr. Paisan Tinnachatarak
All images are his copyright and we are grateful to him for allowing us to use them.

Share

Chillis

by Dave in Features and Archives, Food and Drink Comments Off on Chillis

We all know that Thai food can be spicy, sometimes very spicy. Thai people love chillies and use them generously in their cuisine. But have you ever wondered what it is in Chillies that gives them their heat and why it is there?

group of different thai chilliesThe active element that gives chillies their heat is known as Capsaicin. It is a chemical that is an irritant to humans and causes a burning sensation in any tissue that it comes into contact with. That doesn’t sound very appetising does it? But in the right quantities, and that of course is a matter of taste, it stimulates the taste buds and palate delightfully. Capsaicin and related compounds known catchily as Capsaisinoids are present in varying quantities in many members of the Pepper family of vegetables.

Ironically it is thought that Capsaicin is present in Chillies as a means of preventing their consumption by mammals. Birds are unaffected by the compound so capsaicin provides an effective means of ensuring that chillies are consumed mainly by birds and their seeds distributed over a large area. Humans seem to be the only mammals perverse enough to enjoy eating something that burns them.

The amount of Capsaicin that is present in different chillies varies widely from species to species. The spiciness of a chilli is measured by the Scoville scale, developed by chemist Walter Scoville in 1912. His system was based on the dilution of a chilli solution in water and sugar until its spiciness was undetectable by a panel of five judges.

Owing to the subjective nature of this system measures can vary widely for different kinds of chilli and these days a more precise but far less intriguing system of High Performance Liquid Chromatography is used to give more precise results.

The Chillies that you encounter in Thailand are pretty hot by international standards. The hottest Thai chillies are the small red or green coloured Prik Kee Noo chillies. They measure between 50,000 and 100,000 on Scoville’s heat scale. By comparison the famous Tabasco chilli sauce measures only 2,500-5,000 units so handle those little fiery chillies with care.

However you need to travel to India to find the most potent of peppers. The aptly named Naga Jolokia or King Cobra Chilli measures an incredible 850,000 -1,050,000 Scoville units. When you compare this to the 2,000,000 Scoville unit rating of commercial pepper spray used for self protection then you have to ask yourself who in their right mind would dare to take on this fearsome Chilli.

Sources: www.wikipedia.com, www.chilliworld.com

Share

Thai Rice

by Dave in Features and Archives, Food and Drink Comments Off on Thai Rice

Here in Thailand rice is everywhere. This isn’t really surprising since it is the very backbone of Thai nutrition having been the food around which all meals are based for thousands of years in this part of the world.
And of course in these times of internationl cuisine it’s no longer a particularly exotic dish, at least in its plain boiled incarnation.
So how can you write an even vaguely interesting feature on it? We thought we’d try and dig up a few things – strange and bizarre wherever possible – that you didn’t already know about rice.

long grain white rice• Gin Khao is the term most commonly used in Thailand for “Eat Food”. It literally means eat rice but feel free to use it when dining on egg and chips or caviar or whatever you like.

• The Thai phrase “Gin Khao Daeng” means literally eat red rice – but it’s common meaning is to be in jail since red husked rice is was traditionally the cheapest and hence served to prisoners. But in these fibre-loving days it has suddenly become more expensive. So do Thai prisoners eat white rice now?

• Thai Rice Wine or Sato originates from the North-East of Thailand. It’s really more similar to beer  than to wine and is widely available throughout the country. Put diplomatically it’s taste is best described as boisterous and a trifle rustic and can prove challenging to the unaccustomed palate.
Rice whisky or Lao Khao is a distilled spirit, high in alcohol, industrial in flavour and not for the faint of heart, or liver.

• If you’ve never stood on boiled rice barefoot then don’t try it – the resulting gluey horribleness is a uniquely unpleasant experience.

• Most rice in Thailand is cooked in electric rice cookers which are handy because you just add rice and water, plug them in, and close the lid – they switch off when the rice is cooked and keep it warm until you need it. They are very cheap to buy here in Thailand and can be eye-wateringly expensive elsewhere so if you’re looking for a left field holiday present for a rice-loving loved one then say it with a rice cooker.

• The myth that rice is bad for birds because it expands in their stomachs and kills them is apparently unfounded.

• The theory that you can dry out a wet mobile phone in raw rice is also wrong. Rice only cooks in boiling water remember.

• Edgar Rice Burroughs was the author who created Tarzan. Jerry Rice is probably the greatest wide receiver in American Football history.  Sir Tim Rice is a British lyricist and author best know for working with Lord Andrew Lloyd Weber on a string of bewilderingly successful musicals. Our limited research was sadly unable to find their opinions on the miraculous foodstuff with which they share a name.

Share

Trat Night Market

by Dave in Features and Archives, Food and Drink Comments Off on Trat Night Market

trat night market 1The Trat Night Market

Thai markets are fascinating places to visit. People bustle around preparing, buying and selling all kinds of interesting and unfamiliar foods and produce.
Koh Chang has a couple of small markets in White Sand Beach and in Klong Prao village but if you want to experience the full techicolour mystery of a Thai market in full swing then you will be rewarded by a trip to the Night Market in the Centre of Trat Town on the mainland.

trat night market 2As you stroll around the brightly lit stalls you will be offered flowers, noodles, super-spicy curries, improbable fruits, pig’s faces, sticky-sweet desserts and more.
In the centre of the market there are a host of small kiosk-restaurants with simple tables that cook delicious Thai food to order. They have English language menus and are popular with locals and tourists alike for their good fresh food and ridiculously cheap prices. After you eat they are good places to linger with a cold beer and watch everyone bustling about around you.

Trat Night market is on Sukhumvit Road in Trat town centre across the road from Trat Department Store. It is open every night but weekend evenings are the busiest.

Share

Grubs Up!

by Dave in Features and Archives, Food and Drink Comments Off on Grubs Up!

You probably think that you are interested in pushing the boundaries of your culinary experience, of enjoying textures, tastes and flavours that you have never encountered before. The problem is that with the increasing availability of all kinds of world cuisine it becomes harder and harder to find a truly novel eating experience.

So here’s a suggestion for you.

fried grasshopper koh changWhy don’t you grab a bag of Grasshoppers?

In Koh Chang and most other parts of Thailand you can find little street stalls that sell a variety of fried insects as tasty snacks. Insects are highly nutritious and taste pretty good when you get used to the idea. It is just that for some reason we Westerners seem to have a mental block with regard to munching on a handful of bugs. This is a little odd when you look at some of the weird things that we eat. Consider the prawn or the bottom-feeding mussels and clams that we consider to be delicacies. Or think about that mouldy old stilton/roquefort/gorgonzola cheese that you enjoy so much? What about a weird old fungus that lives in the roots of trees that only special pigs can sniff out? We don’t just eat the Truffle we pay a fortune for it. As for Caviar? Don’t even go there.

mixed insects koh changSo if we can eat all of these weird things then a bag of bugs should be a piece of cake (or something like that). And they really do taste pretty good.  They have a kind of roasted, nutty flavour. Try and think of them as peanuts with legs. They are perfect for snacking on with a cold beer.

Here in Thailand the fried insect stalls offer plenty of different kinds of bug for you to sample. A good rule of thumb is to start small and work your way up to the larger six-legged snacks such as scorpions. It is a little easier, especially the first time you try them, when you can’t identify the constituent part that you are crunching down on.

Fried larvae (a much easier word to use in this context than maggot) have quite a sweet taste and go down a bit easier on account of being legless. Grasshoppers are recommended as well. The better stalls will give you a topping of chopped onions and the inevitable chilli that adds quite a lot to the experience.

So now you are ready to search out the bug vendors and give yourselves a new experience. Just remember to brush your teeth afterwards, the last thing that you need is come across a stray leg, wing or something even scarier a few hours later.

Images courtesy and copyright David Vinot.

Share

Sticky Rice

by Dave in Features and Archives, Food and Drink Comments Off on Sticky Rice

Thai Sticky RiceThai Sticky Rice

Sticky rice (known as Khao Niao in Thai) is eaten as a staple in the Northern and North-Eastern “Issan” regions of Thailand. It is a hardy plant that grows well on the mountainous hillsides of the north and it requires much less water to grow than regular rice.

Sticky rice has a very high starch content and if it were to be prepared by boiling in water the grains would lose their individual cohesion and the result would be a kind of sticky mush. Instead sticky rice is prepared by soaking the uncooked grains in water for a few hours and then by placing in an enclosed, usually wicker, container over a pot of boiling water and steaming. The result is a cooked rice that whilst it has the adhesive exterior typical of sticky rice, keeps the individual rice grain shape.

Sticky rice is served alongside a meal in a conical wicker basket. One of the advantages of this serving technique is that it does away with the need for cutlery. The best way to eat sticky rice is to pull a lump off the main mass and roll it into a little ball. This can then be used to dip into either a spicy sauce or to dip into main dishes such as laap. It’s a pretty entertaining way to eat and is far less messy than you might imagine.

Khao Niao is grown in many countries in South-East Asia and is by far the most consumed rice in Laos. It has a very long heritage as well, having found to have been used in the construction of the mortar in the walls of the historical temples of Xian in China and, it is believed, in the Great Wall of China itself.

These days you can find sticky rice served all over Thailand in restaurants that offer or specialise in North-Eastern cuisine. Sticky rice flavoured and sweetened with coconut milk is also eaten as part of Thai dessert dishes such as sweet sticky rice and mango.

Share

Thai Beer Challenge #1 – 2007

by Dave in Features and Archives, Food and Drink Comments Off on Thai Beer Challenge #1 – 2007

A few years ago there was very little choice in the Thai Beer market. Now a large variety of domestically brewed and imported beers are available. To help you decide which beer to drink we summoned a panel of four experts in the field of fermented fluid analytics who generously donated their time to drink beer for free.
Ten different beers, all brewed in Thailand, were selected for our taste challenge. Each was tasted blind by our panel, who considered the various attributes of each candidate before awarding a mark out of ten.
The following beers were chosen for tasting; Archa, Beer Thai, Cheers Beer, Beer Leo, San Miguel, Kloster, Tiger Beer, Beer Chang, Singha Beer and Heineken. We excluded light beers on principle.

all thai beers 2007

The Testing

1 – Beer Leo – 6%
This is Boon Rawd breweries economy beer brand.
Comments: “Good beery aroma”, “Strong, distinct taste”, “Metally..weird aftertaste”, “Drinkable but not preferable”, “Could induce pain the next morning”
Score: 19

2 – Kloster – 6%
Boon Rawd has four beers in our selection of 10. This is, apparently, their “international premium lager beer”
Comments: “Smells horrid”, “Sharp taste, makes you jerk back”, “No alcohol taste, no beer taste”, “Tastes like diluted chemical works run-off”
Score: 11

3 – Cheers Beer – 5.6%
This is the economy beer of Thai Asia Pacific Brewery Ltd. Who also produce Tiger and Heineken beers
Comments: “Flowery aftertaste”, “Not too bad, could drink more”, “Inoffensive”
Score: 22

4 – Singha Beer – 6%
Boon Rawd was founded in 1933 and is Thailand’s oldest producer of beer. They brew at three breweries in Thailand and Singha is their flagship product.
Comments: “Clean smelling”, “Good honest ale”, “Best so far”, “Nice smooth taste, I’m in”, “Sweet, decent nose”
Score: 26

5 – San Miguel – 5%
A recent addition to the Thai beer market San Miguel is a beer originating in the Philippines.
Comments: “Sweet smell”, “Cloudy”, “Bad”, “Sadistically drinkable”, “It’s giving me a headache”
Score: 11

6 – Beer Archa – 5.4%
This economy beer launched a couple of years ago is produced by Thai Beverages.
Comments: “Smells a bit like a wet dog”, “Full bodied but not too rich”, “Clean drinking”, “thick tasting..could drink     more”
Score: 25

7 – Tiger Beer – 5%
Tiger is a popular international beer that originates in Singapore and is brewed in Thailand in Nonthaburi, just North of Bangkok.
Comments: “All day no worries”, “Clean, crisp straight lager”, “Very good, nice cool taste”
Score: 32

8 – Beer Thai – 6.5%
This beer is Boon Rawd’s candidate in the strong economy end of the domestic beer market. It is the strongest beer we tested being a not-accidental 0.1% stronger than its main competitor Chang.
Comments: “Sugary battery acid taste”,  “Gets harder to drink, tastes like brake fluid”, “Sweet and off tasting”
Score: 10

9 – Heineken – 5%
Hailing from Amsterdam in Holland Heineken is one of the world’s largest beer brands. It is brewed under license in Thailand by Thai Asia Pacific Brewery Ltd.
Comments: “Sweet, clean and smooth”, “Sweet and tasty”, “It’s Heineken”
Score: 30.5

10 – Beer Chang – 6.4%
Chang has been around for a good few years now. It was the original economy beer and is Thailand’s best selling beer.
Comments: “Nice taste”, “Wouldn’t want to cane it”, “better than most”
Score: 24

Beer Taste Challenge Results

1st    Tiger        32
2nd    Heineken    30.5
3rd    Singha        26
4th    Archa        25
5th    Chang        24
6th    Cheers        22
7th    Leo        19
8th=    Kloster        11
8th=    San Miguel    11
10th    Thai        10

Tiger beer was the clear winner scoring 32 points out of a possible 40. Although only a mid-priced beer it managed to beat off premium opposition like Heineken and Kloster. Heineken and Singha were both well-liked and performed strongly. These were followed by Archa, Chang (Thailand’s best selling beer), Cheers and Leo. The panel found all of these beers to be, if not perfect, at least drinkable. Then there was quite a large gap before the last three beers which the panel unanimously agreed they would be quite happy never to encounter again.

Share

Thai Food

by Dave in Features and Archives, Food and Drink Comments Off on Thai Food

Thailand has one of the great world cuisines. While you’re here you should sample some of the delicious food available. Even though the Thais have only had chillies for four hundred years or so they are one of the key ingredients in Thai food. But if you don’t like spicy food don’t worry; the Thai chefs on Koh Chang are used to making dishes milder on request and there are also plenty of Thai dishes which aren’t too spicy.

Whilst the food is great you may not be familiar with some of the names of the dishes and translations can sometimes be a little confusing. One local restaurant used to have “Fish in That Sauce” on their menu. So to help you to explore Thai food while you are here in Koh Chang the following is a very brief introduction to some Thai dishes you may want to sample. With most meals you can usually choose which meat or seafood you want. Chicken is Gai, Pork is Moo, Beef is Neu-a, Prawn is Goong, Fish is Pla, Squid is Pla Meuk and Vegetable is Pak. Enjoy!

Simple Dishes

Thai staple dishes are simple and nourishing and usually revolve around rice or noodles.
Pat Thai – classic Thai fried noodles
Khao Pat – Tasty and filling Egg Fried Rice.
Khao Tom – Peppery and wholesome rice soup.
Khao Man Gai – Garlic rice boiled in chicken stock with boiled chicken & chilli bean sauce

Thai Curries – Gang: spicy, healthy & delicious

Gang Kieow Wan – creamy green curry with lime leaf, lemon grass and chilli flavours
Gang Kati – creamy red curry soup
Gang Penang – aromatic, creamy, spicy curry
Gang Massaman – rich Indian style curry
Gang Som – sour spicy tamarind curry
Gang Karee – milder yellow creamy curry

Fried Dishes

Pat Gapow – spicy! stir fry with hot basil leaves
Gai Pat Med Ma Muang – chicken and cashew nut in a delicious rich roasted sauce
Pat Nam Man Hoy – Mild oyster sauce dish
Pat Poong Karee – delicious yellow curry dish, usually made with crab and eggs.

Soups

Tom Yam – Nam Kon – spicy hot and sour soup with lemon grass, galangal, mushroom, condensed milk and, usually, prawn
Tom Yam – Nam Sei – without condensed milk and usually with more fresh chillies
Tom Kaa – mild, creamy with salad cream taste
Tom Jert – mild soup with pork, tofu & cabbage

Thai Salads – Yam

These salads are typically sweet and sour and can be incredibly spicy. Watch out for small fiery hidden chillies!
Som Tam – Delicious green papaya and lime salad. This sometimes comes with raw crab – only for strong stomachs
Yam Goong – prawn and glass noodles salad

Snack Foods

Moo Dat Dieo – savoury pork strips dipped in             sesame seeds and fried
Tort Man Pla – Thailand’s famous fishcakes
Kanom Bang Nar Moo – special pork toast

Share

Fusion Food

by Dave in Features and Archives, Food and Drink Comments Off on Fusion Food

How to Mix Thai and Western Cuisine

thai fusion dishChefs and cooks are forever changing styles and bringing in new ideas and ingredients from different places. What we regard as distinctive international cuisines are really already a mixture of all the international influences that have affected a particular country. Think of something like the potato, which is so fundamental to European cuisines. If you’re English then imagine bangers without mash? Or try telling a Belgian he can’t have any frites with his moules. But remember that the potato was only introduced from South America four centuries ago. And just try to imagine how the chilli loving Thais survived before the chilli was introduced from the new world at around the same time. The point we’re trying to make is that many of the dishes that we regard as regional or national classics are really already a mixture of different influences from around the world.
All of which is a fairly long-winded way of introducing the idea of making simple and tasty fusion foods. Thai food is great. Other food is great. But there isn’t any reason at all why you shouldn’t mix things up a bit and take things you like from Thai cuisine and mix, match and combine them with anything else that takes your fancy. Below we’ll run thorugh some great and easy ways to mix Thai and international recipes and ingredients. But please don’t just follow our suggestions – make up your own combinations.

Change the Staple
Most world cuisines have evolved as a way to make the daily task of eating the cheapest and most plentiful local crop to hand a more pleasant experience. In Thailand, of course, this is rice. To give you an idea of the centrality of rice to Thai food consider that the Thai words for cooking are Tam Kap Kao, which literally means “to make with rice”.
But with the wide availability of all kinds of other carbohydrates we are free to experiment with pairing up Thai dishes with a range of other international staples. Below are some that work very well together:
Moist Thai curries such as Gang Panang, Green Curry or the Southern Thai classic Massaman are terrific if served with mashed potato instead of rice.
Pasta is great when served with some of the drier Thai dishes, particularly with stir-fried dishes like the classic hot basil dish Pat Gapow, or Pat Kee Mao or Chicken with Cashew Nuts.
And the list goes on; Gnocci, those delicious little Italian potato dumplings are also great with Thai dishes, Pizza is excellent when topped with Pat Gapow  minced meat, hot basil and chilli and of course chips go well with Northern Thai Laap or for that matter with almost any Thai dish that you can think of.

Substitute Ingredients
There are plenty of ingredients that aren’t common to Thailand that actually combine very well with Thai dishes.
The spicy Thai salads called yam are healthy and delicious. Foreign ingredients like salami or chorizo sausage fit in very well. So does tinned tuna and Mediterranean ingredients like olives and capers. Similarly you can add all kinds of things like bacon or ham or vegetables such as spinach, leeks or even artichoke to Thai fried rice with good effect.

Marinate
Combinations of Thai ingredients make great marinades for all kinds of meat, fish and barbeque dishes. Simply tenderise a pork chop and leave it overnight in a marinade of lime, honey, lemon grass, chilli and fish sauce (you can of course add pretty much any other Thai ingredients that you like!) and grill to bring out a great mixture of flavours.
Another good example is the marinated chicken breast recipe on the next page.

So whilst Thai food purists might roll their eyes at some of these ideas it’s your kitchen and you can do as you please so go on ahead and experiment with some fusion cooking.

Share

Share