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Thong Lo Duck Noodles – Lee’s Noodles

Michael Babcock, Saturday, December 20th, 2014

I recently found a very good duck noodle shop in Thong Lo (Sukuhmvit Soi 55, pronounced “Tawng Law”). This noodle shop is part of a chain; in Thai it is called บะหมี่คนแซ่ลี, which can be translated as Khon Sae Lee Noodles or just Lee’s Noodles. It’s found on Sukhumvit Road just past the start of the Soi (Sukhumvit 55, Thong Lo) itself.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Assembling Noodles

Assembling noodles

Noodle Set-up

Noodle set-up

Walking up Sukhumvit, crossing Thong Lo (Soi 55) after exiting the skytrain (BTS) I saw this sign and the young woman obviously assembling a bowl of noodles. The picture on the right shows the area where she assembles the noodles and also a bit of the noodle shop itself, which is pretty much your basic Thai shop-front food shop.

The sign indicates what kind of noodles are sold here: บะหมี่ – ba mee – which are egg noodles made with wheat. This shop claims home-made noodles. The food hanging in the front of the shop (see below) lets you know that they make duck and pork noodles.

Duck Noodles

Duck and Wonton Noodles

At duck noodle shops I usually order บะหมี่เป็ดแห้ง – Ba Mee Ped Haeng – which literally means dry duck noodles. You have a choice of getting the noodles dry or as a soup: บะหมี่เป็ดน้ำ – Ba Mee Ped Nahm. I always get the dry noodles.

The dish I ordered here, shown to the left, included shrimp and pork wonton, which you can see to the right of the rest of the ingredients in the bowl. In addition the dish contains the noodles, slices of roast duck and blanched green vegetables. I’m not sure what the Thai name would be (with the wontons); the restaurant does have menus in English, complete with pictures.

In Thailand, dishes such as this are meant to have their flavors adjusted to your taste preference using the ubiquitous Thai Condiment Set. I added a healthy dose of dried red chillies (as you can see below right), followed it up with several (small) spoonfuls of a vinegar/green chilli mixture (for sour), some fish sauce (for salty) and just a touch of sugar to help meld the flavors. After a couple tastes and a couple of small adjustments, the noodles could be mixed up and eaten.

Duck and Wonton Noodles 2

Duck and Wonton Noodles, with dried chillies

The price for the duck and wonton noodles was 60 baht; for noodles with just duck (no wonton) the price is 50 baht.

The verdict: it’s a very good bowl of noodles. The noodles themselves are tasty with a good texture. The roast duck is succulent and moist. The pork and shrimp wonton are very, very tasty; they are seasoned very well. All in all, it will do as a replacement for the other Thong Lo Duck Noodle Shop that I patronized for so many years (now, sadly, closed). I would say, though, that I preferred the noodles, which were a bit wider, at the old shop; also, they had a better source of sour – vinegar with crushed red chillies. Still, this new shop definitely satisfies the craving.

Shop Front

Front of the shop

Shop Front Detail

Close-up of shop front

Lee’s Noodles serves more than duck, as you can see from these pictures of the front of the shop. They have crispy roasted pork, roasted red pork (shown here) and also crab. You can get the egg noodles served with each of those or you can have your meat of preference served over rice. You can also combine meats in any combination.

I will certainly return here. I may have to eschew my beloved duck noodles in favor of the “everything” combo (for 80 baht), which has: duck, crispy roasted pork, roasted red pork and crab as well as the pork and shrimp wonton.

By the way, all the time we were there eating there was a steady stream of customers, both in the shop and getting noodles to go. What with customers eating there and the to go orders, the woman assembling the noodles never stopped the entire time we were there.


Assembling Noodles

Assembling noodles

Location

บะหมี่คนแซ่ลี
Ba Mee Khon Sae Lee (Thonglor Branch)
1081 In front of soi Thonglor, Sukhumvit 55-57
Sukhumvit Road
Klongton Nua, Wattana,
Bangkok, 10110
Phone: 02-381-8180
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (unconfirmed)
Facebook Page
Google Map of Lee’s Noodles Thong Lor


Written by Michael Babcock, December 2014

Coffee in Thailand, Part 1

Michael Babcock, Monday, April 1st, 2013

Over the past few years there has been a proliferation of places selling fresh-brewed coffee in Thailand. This blog looks at some of the places where this phenomena is taking place.

For the most part, the coffee is pressed coffee (as with “espresso”), made to order. More often than not, you’ll see the whole beans and the grinding mechanism in the same place – at many of the smaller places, the coffee is ground to order.

Espresso Machine

Thai coffee making machine

Coffee

Cup of coffee

Most of the coffee is dark-roasted; sometimes overly so. There is a lighter roast called “Blue Mountain” that is available at some places – I tend to order that when it’s available and find it much to my liking.

Sign Close-up

กาแฟสด (kafae sot) sign

(Click images to see larger version.)

If you’re a coffee drinker, you’ll want to memorize two words of Thai in the Thai script (spelled without an intervening space): กาแฟสด, pronounced kafae sot. กาแฟ (kafae) means “coffee” and สด (sot) means “fresh” – so “fresh coffee.” It’s probably not strictly necessary because the stands and cafes selling coffee are also recognizable by the espresso machines and the coffee beans they usually display; in addition, the signs often include a cup of coffee (as to the left). In some places, there’s a sign in English. On other occasions, knowing the script has helped me find a place I might have overlooked.

Local Stands & Coffee Houses

I’m now finding these “fresh coffee” stands all over Thailand. In Bangkok, Chiang Mai and other larger towns, you’ll find them on the streets and in markets, often just a simple cart with the coffee grinder and a small espresso machine. The picture below shows a coffee stand found on Sukhumvit Soi 55 (Thong Lo – pronounced “tawng law”). It’s a fairly typical example.

Coffee Stand

Thong Lo coffee stand

Making Coffee

Thong Lo barista at work

The pictures below show another coffee stand, this one found at Worarat Market in Chiang Mai. The barista makes a very good cup of coffee.

Coffee Sign

Sonnen Cafe in Worarat Market

Thai Barista

Barista at Sonnen Cafe


Coffee Stand

Sukhothai coffee stand

Stand Close-up

Close-up of stand

I am seeing more places where you can purchase a coffee and sit down. We visit a the Sathorn Golden Textile Museum in Sri Satchanalai (in Sukhothai province) that has this coffee stand; they have excellent “blue Mountain” coffee. This stand is found indoors amongst a number of other shops.

Coffee Beans

Coffee beans in Sukhothai stand

Sukhothai Coffee

Blue Mountain Coffee


Coffee House

Before Sunset Coffee

Barista 2

Mae Hong Son barista

I’m also finding more places that we would think of as a proper café – some place to buy a coffee and to sit and enjoy it. This is “Before Sunset Coffee” and is perched right on the edge of a beautiful view in the parking lot at Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu in Mae Hong Son. (More pictures here at Before Sunset Coffee @ 1095.)

Coffee To Go

Caffe Latte at Before Sunset Coffee


Sign

Sign to Samut Prakan Cafe

Coffee Stand 2

Stand in Imperial World

I’m guessing that much of the increase in popularity of coffee initially was driven by Western tourists who wanted their morning fix. Now more and more Thai people seem to be embracing the drink. “Coffee houses” are making their appearances in the neighborhoods as well. Kasma owns a townhouse out in the Samrong district of Samut Prakan, which is immediately adjacent to the SE corner of Bangkok. It’s a very Thai neighborhood: usually I’m the only westerner I see on the streets, in the markets, or even in the Imperial World shopping center across the way; Imperial world has at least 7 or 8  non-chain coffee shops in addition to Amazon, (one of the chains). With so few westerners to be seen, Thais must be buying coffee. Even in the local fresh market there (Talat Samrong), there’s a fresh coffee stand. I do know that over the past couple of years our driver, Sun, is drinking more coffee.

Sign Close-up

กาแฟสด (kafae sot) sign

My favorite place to get coffee is a no-name coffee house on Sukhumvit Road in Samrong. This cafe is found on the odd-soi side of the Sukhumvit between soi 111 and 113, marked only by a กาแฟสด (kafae sot) sign. They make a rich coffee made with foam, a real caffe latte. (The second picture in this blog, at the top of the page, is a caffe latte from this cafe.) Thais must be it’s primary customers: there just are not enough of us fahrangs (the Thai word for westerner).

Cafe

Samut Prakan Coffee House

This shop is owned by a young lady who says it is her “hobby.” She also has a regular job. I’ve only seen her there once; the other times there’s been the same young woman employee, friendly and competent. I don’t think the cafe has free wi-fi, like so many coffee houses in the United States,; I imagine it’s only a matter of time before this is commonly offered. I have seen it advertised at coffee houses in the touristed areas, particularly in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Many Internet cafés also sell coffee; I frequent one in Chiang Mai.


Do check out Coffee in Thailand, Part 2. It completes our survey of places to get fresh-brewed coffee and talks about what to expect when you order coffee in Thailand (price, quality, etc.).


Written by Michael Babcock, April 2013

Melt Me Chocolate, Revisited

Michael Babcock, Friday, March 15th, 2013

Melt Me Chocolate in Bangkok makes some of my favorite chocolate anywhere. Although I don’t really associate Thailand with chocolate, I do always manage to find my way to Melt Me at least a couple times when I’m in Thailand to get the two items there that I enjoy the most.

Chocolate Squares

Hokkaido Dark Chocolate

Melt Me says that their chocolate is “Hokkaido Chocolate.” I’ve been unable to track down anything specific about such chocolate but a Japanese friend tells me that Hokkaido is known for its rich butter, milk and cream, so you would expect Hokkaido Chocolate to be rich and creamy. Melt Me chocolate is.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Perhaps my favorite item there is the “Hokkaido Dark.” It’s made with 70% chocolate. As I said in a previous blog: “The dark chocolate is rich, creamy and bittersweet, almost like a truffle in its consistency; it does, literally, melt in your mouth. It’s a luxurious confection: rich and tasty.” These are very rich; usually one is enough to satisfy me. Which is good! They cost 270 baht for a box of 15 – currently about $9.00 U.S., so about 60 cents each. You can also get 30 for 480 baht (about 53 cents, each).

Chocolate Treat

Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts

They also make a Hokkaido Dark 80% (300 baht for 15). I have tried them and, although, they’re quite good, they are (of course) a bit less sweet and they also seemed a bit less creamy to me than the standard Hokkaido Dark. I prefer the Hokkaido dark.

We also love the the Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts; they’re crispy and delicious. We suspect they’ve been roasted crisp and possibly coated with a praline before they are covered over with the bittersweet chocolate. Macadamia nuts are very rich to begin with and with the chocolate these are very rich indeed: a few nuts usually suffice to satisfy. They are not inexpensive: 350 baht (about $12.00 U.S., at this time) for a not so large box. Thankfully, just a couple tastes are enough to satisfy. Like the Hokkaido Dark they are rich enough that I can’t eat that much at one time.

I previously blogged on Melt Me in a March 2011 blog, Great Chocolate; in Thailand! which highlighted the Melt Me Chocolate outlet at Paradise Park Mall. Unfortunately, this outlet is now closed down, so we have had to find other ways to get our Melt Me fix.

Melt Me Sign

Melt Me at Arena 10

Melt Me Counter

Counter at the Melt Me at Arena 10

We now go the main outlet at Arena 10 on Thong Lor (Sukhumvit 55) Soi 10. The picture above left shows the store from the outside; to the right is the main counter inside. The staff is very friendly there. See below for directions.

Sitting Area

Sitting Area at Melt Me Arena 10

The Arena 10 store is set up as a pleasant place to come to eat desserts. To the left is the sitting area, a pleasant place to be while you’re eating your treats. In addition to our favorite items, they have baked desserts (we’ve tried the chocolate cake and Kasma tried the cheese cake one time) and they also sell fresh brewed coffee. It would be a great place to come after a meal to sit and enjoy dessert and coffee. They also sell a number of truffles; these are on our list to try at some point. If I recall correctly, they are open until midnight most days and until 2 or 3:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. (I’d phone, first, if going late.)

Gelato

Gelato at Melt Me Chocolates

We also get the gelato here. It’s very rich and flavorful. My favorites are the dark chocolate, the hazlenut and the passion fruit sorbet. I also like the green tea gelato: it’s stronger in flavor than many green tea ice creams. Two different flavors in a cup cost 99 baht – over $3.00 U.S. at today’s prices; that’s not a much less than I pay at many places in the U.S.: by Thai standards, it’s a bit pricey. As an occasional treat, though, it’s well worth it to me.

This year we were at the upscale mall Central World to eat at a restaurant there and were pleased to discover a Melt Me outlet (directions below). It was a perfect place to get some gelato after our lunch.

There are a total of 8 Melt Me out branches at this time. I don’t know if all of them serve gelato.

How To Get There

Arena 10

Here’s the full address for the Arena 10 Melt Me:

Arena 10 Thong Lor 10,
225/11 Soi Thong Lor 10 (also given as 225/1 Soi 5, Sukhumvit 63 (Ekamai))z
Sukhumvit Rd., Khlong Tan Nuea,
Wattana, Bangkok 10110
Tel: 090-1975-600

Note. Thong Lor, also spelled Thong Lo, Thonglor or Thonglo (but really pronounced “tawng law”) is the name for Sukhumvit Soi 55. Thong Lo Soi 10 is also Ekamai (Suhkumvit Soi 63) Soi 5. (It’s complicated.)

External Sign

Sign outside Arena 10

Sign Detail

The Melt Me Sign

One option is to take a taxi. You can also take the Skytrain (BTS) to the “Thong Lo” station. From there it’s probably a 20 minute walk; it’s often very hot in Bangkok, though, so you could catch a taxi from there or a motorcycle taxi.

Here’s a Map to Melt Me, Thonglor

Central World

Second Melt Me

Melt Me at Central World

Here’s the address for the Central World Melt Me
Central World 7th Floor, Supermarket Entrance
999/9 Rama 1 Rd.
Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330
Tel: 090-1975-601

Here’s a Map to Central World

The easiest way is to take the BTS (skytrain) to the Chit Lom station; there’s a covered walkway to Central World.


External Links (open in new windows):

Written by Michael Babcock, March 2013

Thailand Trip – Favorite Moments, Part 1

Michael Babcock, Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Here are just a few of my favorite moments last year from Kasma Loha-unchit’s 19-day trip of Bangkok, central and northern Thailand. Kasma’s trips get you off-the-beaten track to places she has discovered over more than 25 years of leading trips. The hard part in writing this blog was picking only a few moments! Kasma’s 28-day Trip A visits most of these places as well.

Buying Mangoes

Kasma buys mangoes

This 19-day “Trip B” was one three small group trips to Thailand that Kasma offers every year. It starts in Bangkok, goes through the historical heartland of Thailand (Ayuthaya and Suhkothai) up to the North, to Mae Sa, Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son. Like all of her trips, there’s an emphasis on getting you “off-the-beaten-track,” on great Thai food and on seeing real Thai culture. I was lucky enough to go on the entire trip last year (I’m not always so lucky); although it was my 4th or 5th time there are so many varied and exciting things to do that it felt like the first time. Here are a some highlights. (Each of these deserves a blog of its own.)

(Click images to see larger version.)


Chive Cakes

Chive cakes

Breakfast at Thong Lo, First Day: (Note: Because of a change of hotel location this is no longer offered.)The very first breakfast of each of Kasma’s trip begins with a walk to Thong Lo (Sukhumvit Soi 55), where there is a lively street food scene. Kasma purchases various snacks (mangos & sticky rice, chive cakes, roast bananas) as she leads the group through the street food vendors and through an open air market. We then go to a noodle shop right on Sukhumvit Road between Soi 55 & Soi 57. In Thailand, most restaurants don’t mind if you bring in food from the outside as long as you are ordering from the restaurant as well so we bring in the food we picked up at the market to enjoy with our noodle breakfast.

Making Noodles

Making noodles

Noodles

Our noodle breakfast

The noodle shop simply says “Thong Lo Fish Dumpling Noodles:”

ก๋วยเตี๋ยว [kway teow – noodles]
ลูกชิ้นปลาเเชว [look chin chao – fish dumplings]
ทองหล่อ [Thong Lo – the name for Sukhumvit Soi 55]

The specialty of the shop is noodles made with a half dozen kinds of fish dumplings, a kind of fish cake. As with most noodle shops, you get to see the noodles assembled right in front of you as in the picture above left.


Making Bronzeware

Making bronzeware


Canals of Bangkok & Thonburi: On the second day of this trip, we took a ride around the canals of Bangkok and Thonburi. After a stop at the Royal Barge Museum, we headed onto the canals and within minutes it was hard to believe that Bangkok was just a short distance away. We saw life along the water and stopped at some temples along the way. One of the highlights was a visit to a bronze factory where they make bronze ware in the traditional manner: beautiful, hand-crafted bowls, plates and drinking cups.

The picture to the right can’t do justice to the feeling you get at the factory. It shows one of the workers holding a piece of bronze ware directly in the fire. It’s quite dark, except for the light from the fire, which casts off a daunting heat: you wonder how the workers can stand to be so close to the fire all day. Then there’s the sound: once the piece is pulled off the fire, the workers shape it with a hammer and there’s the dull klunk, klunk, klunk as the hammers from two workers hit the bronze over and over before it’s thrust back into the fire.


Canal Ride

A canal near the market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market: Despite the fact that it is heavily touristed, I still absolutely love going to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Although the pictures of floating vendors are a well-worn cliché, it’s exciting to see the lively, colorful boats laden with produce or carrying a kanom (Thai snack) vendor.

Here’s the caveat: don’t go with a scheduled tour. You must get there early, before the tour buses arrive. On Kasma’s trips we always leave Bangkok around 5:30 a.m. so that we see the sunrise on the eastern coast and arrive at Damnoen Saduak just as it is still getting light. We get to travel on the klong (canals) virtually by ourselves.

Boat Vendor

Vendor selling fried bananas

One of the best part of the floating market, as, indeed, with any market in Thailand, is the food. As we set out and return, Kasma invariably purchases snacks such as kanom krok, the delightful coconut pancakes, kanom paeng jee, a grilled coconut cake, and fried bananas (kluay tod, from the vendor you see to the right). We follow up our boat ride with a delicious bowl (or two!) of kway teow reua – “Boat Noodles.” (See my blog: Boat Noodles at Damnoen Saduak Market.)

Here are two more pictures of the market:


Sukhothai Reflection

Suhkothai vignette

Historical Sites of Sukhothai: Once out of Bangkok, we pass through the historical heartland of the country, through Ayuthaya and Sukhothai. My favorite time here is the morning walk through the historical ruins of Sukhothai.

We always get there right after breakfast when the light is just magical and wander around the ruins, which are all in one close area. There is a grace and beauty to the ruins there, reflected in the many ponds, often with water lilies adding a splash of color to the view. After the view from afar, we walk amongst the ruins where there are lovely details to be found on the walls: elephants, lions and graceful, walking Buddhas. You get a sense of what how beautiful Suhkothai must have been when it was flourishing in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.

Sukthothai Ruins

Sukhothai Ruins

Walking Buddhas

Walking Buddhas

To the left we see one of the ruins in the early morning light. The walking Buddhas, to the right, are found on one of the temple walls. I can never resist photographing them; they are so utterly graceful.


Suhkothai Market

Sausage vendor

Sukhothai Market: Ahhh. The market walks. Whenever possible, we visit the lively Thai morning markets. The Sukhothai Market is one of my favorites, in large part because of the friendliness of the vendors. Like most Thai markets, it’s colorful and lively with plenty of appetizing prepared food.

This market is also where Kasma purchases large quantities (several kilograms) of beautiful, dried red chillies to bring back for use in her Thai cooking classes. One of our Wednesday photos showed these Dried Red Chillies in Sukhothai.


Welcoming Ceremony

In a Hmong home

Hmong Village, Ceremony and Walk: What is the best part of Thailand? Without a doubt, the people. The only contact with the hill tribe in many other tours is often a village set up just for tourists. Kasma has been friends with people in one of the Hmong villages in the Mae Sa area (just north of Chiang Mai) since her first trip to Thailand in 1986. We visit a real village with a living culture, where most of the people are still farmers.

We are invited into Kasma’s friend’s home and given a welcoming ceremony by the village shaman. Protective strings are tied on each trip member’s wrist to be followed with a shot of Hmong moonshine to seal the deal. We then eat delicious chicken soup, made from gai bahn, which literally, “house chicken.” These are the very chickens we see running around the village: you want free range? These are free range.

Tying the String

Tying a protective string

Hmong Mother & Child

Hmong mother & child

To the left we see the Hmong shaman tying a string on a trip member’s wrist. To the right is one of the Hmong mothers with child that we saw on our visit. The people really are the best part about visiting Thailand.

Trip Members

Walking the village

Village View

View of the Hmong Village

After our ceremony and the chicken soup, we take a walk through the village. Within a short while we’re a bit out of town and see views of the village, such as this one to the right, and of the fields. The two young Hmong women in the leftmost picture are the daughters of the family where the welcoming ceremony was held; Kasma has known them since they were infants.


This blog continues in Thailand Trip – Favorite Moments, Part 2.


Follow these links for more about the 19-day Trip B:


Written by Michael Babcock, June 2012

Whole-Grain Rices Make a Comeback in Thailand

Kasma Loha-unchit, Sunday, January 1st, 2012

In Thailand, the movement back to consuming whole-grain rice is picking up steam. Just a decade ago, it’s almost unthinkable that Thais would ever give up the white rice they have become so accustomed to eating and regard as a refinement of their taste for the rough-and-tumble brown rice relegated to a small subset of the rural population. I recall that in my childhood, my mother would buy whole-grain red rice mainly to feed our pet dogs since it was less expensive.

The Switch From Whole-Grain to White Rice

Whole Grain Rice

Red & pink jasmine rice

In generations past, before the days of mass cash-crop agriculture for export, farmers grew enough rice just for their own and for local consumption. The rice was de-husked by pounding with large wooden mortars and pestles, which retained the bran and germ. But as the country began to emerge on the world stage, government policy focused on increasing agricultural output for export to build up the country’s foreign currency reserves and wealth. Cash-crop agriculture was pushed and this large-scale mono-cropping necessitated the widespread use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to increase and maintain yields.

Click on photos to see a larger image.

9 Kinds of Rice

Mix of 9 rice varieties

Government-sponsored field trials selected rice strains with superior attributes to promote for farmers to grow (see previous blog: Thai Jasmine Rice – Kao Hom Mali – Part 2). The advent of modern-day mills came about to handle the large tonnage of rice and standard polishing techniques were implemented to produce grains that were uniform and looked white, long and beautiful as the world market demanded. Because the fragile oil in rice bran could turn rancid easily, removing the bran with polishing enabled exporters to store the large tonnage of rice for indefinite periods of time without concern about spoilage until it was ready to be shipped abroad.

This development led to a change in domestic consumption patterns with white rice rapidly replacing hand-milled brown rice as the norm. With modernization bringing more sedentary ways of living, Thai people found white rice more palatable as its lightness and easy digestibility better suited their life-style and its neutral, mild taste and softer texture better complimented Thai dishes. Its long shelf life was also seen as a plus compared to brown rice which turned rancid and buggy easily – usually in only a couple of months under normal home conditions in the tropics.

The Health Food Movement

Rice Vendor

Or Tor Kor rice vendor

Things have changed quite a bit since then and mostly in the past half a dozen years or so as the health food movement marched in earnest to the forefront, propelled by widespread concerns about the rising incidences of modern-day diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer in all segments of the Thai population.

Today, whether at open-air marketplaces with large rice vendors such as at Or Tor Kor (pronounced Aw Taw Kaw), mega warehouse stores such as Makro (similar to Costco), neighborhood fresh markets, or even upscale supermarkets and specialty health food stores in many of Bangkok’s glittery shopping complexes, it is exciting to see many varieties of whole-grain rices on offer in various natural colors, from light brown and pink to deep purple and black, alongside different kinds of polished white rices. They come in big sacks, bulk open baskets or specially packaged kilogram pouches slapped with labels touting the particular grain’s health attributes.

Bulk Rice Bin

Supermarket bulk rice bin

Also on offer are colorful mixes combining several different kinds of whole-grain rices. With research confirming a unique nutritional profile for each kind of whole-grain rice, these mixes are formulated to provide a broad range of nutrients as well as ensure a delicious texture and flavor combination.

What is astonishing is that the prices of many of these emerging whole-grain rices are relatively steep, especially those grown organically or are heirloom or improved native strains grown only in limited quantities in particular regions of the country. This is a far cry from a decade ago when there was little, if any, demand for them.

“Green” Markets

Rice for Health Sign

Sign says "Rice for Health"


Accompanying the health food movement, the past few years have seen the advent of “green” markets — sort of like farmer’s markets held once a week at several locations in major cities. Vendors offer not only fresh, organically grown produce, healthy snacks, ready-made take-home foods, and natural juices, but a wide range of natural products as well, such as herbal shampoos and natural cosmetics, herbal food supplements, and environmentally friendly household products. Of course, it is most interesting to me to see the increasing varieties of organically grown whole-grain rices being sold at these markets. Many of them are particular to micro-climates in different parts of the country and are OTOP (“One Tambol, One Product” – tambol refers to a district in a province) or village products, which earn villagers a good income. The word “OTOP” usually signifies a quality hand-made product — notice it on the sign of a rice vendor stall at Or Tor Kor (Aw Taw Kaw) market in the above left picture.

The Red and Black Whole-Grain Rices

Among the varieties of whole-grain rices that have become highly valued among the health conscious in Thailand are the red and black rices. They contain more nutrients than the lighter brown rices. (It’s interesting that researchers in America have recently found black rice to contain even more antioxidants than blueberries — see www.blackrice.com.)

Sanyot Red Rice

"Sanyot" red rice

Red rices have been popular among health-conscious consumers since the beginning of the health food movement. While there are many strains of them grown around the country, kao sangyot has emerged as one of the most highly regarded. A red rice native to (and only grown in) Phattalung province in southern Thailand, this heirloom variety saw a resurgence in its cultivation about seven years ago when local agricultural cooperatives designated it as a rice to be grown organically for the health food market. With a stellar nutritional profile, demand for it in recent years has surpassed the limited supply. In addition to all the vitamins and minerals found in all brown rices, sangyot red rice is much higher in iron and zinc than other whole-grain rices, owing to the mineral-rich soil and water where it is grown.

Red jasmine rice, on the other hand, is particularly high in vitamin E and is said to contain 30 times more antioxidants than common brown rice.

Among the black rices, the most popular is probably kao hom nin or fragrant purple rice. Developed by Kasetsart University (Thailand’s agricultural university), it looks black when raw but is actually deep purple when cooked. It is a delicious rice higher in iron, zinc, copper, calcium, potassium, vitamins A and B than brown jasmine rice. More importantly, it contains a substance called proanthocyanidin. which gives the rice its dark color, and is a more potent antioxidant than vitamins C, E or A. The iron in this rice has particularly small molecules, making it immediately available to the body.

Hom Nin Rice

"Hom Nin" Rice

Kam Doi Hill Rice

"Kam Doi" hill rice

Another highly nutritious dark purple rice is kao kam doi, cultivated in the hills of the north where it picks up

Rices Are Full of Flavor

Forget Husband Rice

"Forget Husband Rice"

The black rices are not only very nutritious but they are full of flavor. Perhaps the most flavorful is a glutinous variety given the common name of kao leum pua — literally “forget husband rice.” I was told by a friend that it got its name because any wife who cooked the rice would find it so delicious that she would eat it all up, forgetting to save any for her husband. It is an OTOP rice from Surin province and has become very popular.

I bought some to try out and found it indeed very delicious. Mixing just a quarter cup of this rice with two cups of brown jasmine rice turns the whole mixture a pretty purple color when cooked and adds so much flavor that it can easily convert white-rice eaters into brown rice lovers. My niece is one of them. She won’t touch brown rice, but when I mix it with the “forget husband rice” and cook it the way I usually cook brown rice (see How to Cook Jasmine Brown Rice for Maximum Nutrition) she just can’t seem to get enough of it!

Soaking Rice

Soaking rice (click picture)

Steamed Whole Grain Rice

Steamed whole grain rice

More to Come in the Near Future

Of course, there are numerous other varieties of very nutritious native whole-grain rices. Books (in the Thai language) have been written about them over the past couple of years. I am still looking for some of them in the rice markets, health food stores and “green” markets. Perhaps as more and more people are awakened to the health benefits of consuming whole-grain rices, many more varieties of these rices will become readily available. For me, consuming these native whole-grain rices not only contributes to my health but it, in turn, improves farmers’ earnings and helps return them to a more harmonious way of living on the land.

Surin Rices

Or Tor Kor rice stall

Whole Grain Rices

Several whole grain rices


Kasma’s Other Articles on Rice

Fool Proof Rice Recipes

Written by Kasma Loha-unchit, December 2011.

Watch Repair, A Thai Option

Michael Babcock, Thursday, December 15th, 2011

On Sukhumvit Road, just before Soi 55 (Thong Lo, pronounced Tawng Law) there is a very Thai option for getting your watch repaired – a street vendor. This is one of the nice things about Thailand: you can find entrepreneurs of all types on the street, including tailors who set up with a sewing machine right on the street, and shoe repair. Last year I had the soles of $180 pair of shoes repaired for about $10.00 – a real bargain.

Watch Repairman

Thong Lo watch repairman

"Shop" Front

Front of watch repair stall

(Click images to see larger version.)

I don’t know the name of this watch repairman. He has been in the same location since I’ve been coming to Thailand beginning in the fall of 1992. If you’re not looking for him, you might miss him, nestled as he is in a little niche among the storefronts and street vendors. I’m including a number of different photos of the street to give you an idea of where to find him. The picture below (to the left) is perhaps the most useful: look for him right by the sign for the Grand Tower Inn. He’s actually situated right by a little alleyway (in between Sukhumvit Sois 53 & 55) that leads to the Grand Tower.

Street Scene

View from watch repair stall

Street View 2

Can you see the vendor?

Over the years, we’ve had a number of repairs done by him including several watchbands replaced, new batteries and stopped watches repaired. For simple things, he’ll do the repair right on the spot as you wait. For repairing the workings of the watch, you leave the watch and return in a few hours.

One of the main advantages of street-side repair of any kind is the cost. I don’t remember specific baht prices of our watch repairs, but I can recall being pleased with how inexpensive they were. Batteries, for instance, cost a fraction of what I’d pay for them back in Oakland, California. Without the overhead of the storefront he can keep costs down; I suspect that he does pay some kind of a rental fee to someone, probably the store he is directly in front of.

Sign & Vendor

Now you see him

Watch Repair Stall

Here's the watch repair stall

This is another reason I love Thailand: although much of Thailand is sophisticated and modern, you can still find these sorts of vendors eeking out a living on the street. It makes for a lively, exciting place to be.


Written by Michael Babcock, December, 2011