Food and Drink

Hua Hin has always considered as a romantic and elegant holiday destination, and a popular seaside gateway for the family. The sentiment started off about 100 years ago when the Royal Family and affluent Thais would spend their summers. I have lost count how many long weekends spent there. I recalled my first visit taking over three and a half hours thirty years ago, with the drive passing through rows of beautiful and towering pineapple trees. Now, the three hour short drive encourages its popularity remain for Bangkokians in taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the capital for relaxing weekends. The popular Hua Hin attractions are the countless attractive seaside houses, villas and a few captivating vintage summer palaces. In addition, the newer, purpose built community malls and special themed sightseeing villages mean there is something for all generations.

Perfect weekend getaway 

According to Christian Wurm, General Manager, Hyatt Regency Hua Hin and The Barai, “With its natural unkempt beauty, Hua Hin offers just as much charm, adventure, and luxury as other Thai destinations. It is a tropical paradise with mile long beautiful beaches and a peaceful ambience making it suitable for families, couples, or friends’ vacation. Its location on the Gulf of Thailand is within easy access especially from Bangkok, so it is the perfect combination for a spontaneous weekend getaway or longer visits too. Hua Hin is more than just a break closer to home; you will feel a sense of serenity, a sense of belonging while you soak up the ambience at your own pace.” 

David Ippersiel, General Manager of Sheraton Hua Hin Resort and Spa also advocated, “For locals and expats, Hua Hin is a family friendly weekend getaway at the beach. There are a wide variety of things to do and several special tourist attractions. Hua Hin is a seaside city with a colourful royal past, a laidback present and a promising future. It is an enthralling city for every visitor.”

Old world charm

For first-time visitors, Hua Hin’s appeal lies in the town’s tantalising old time feel, best illustrated in Hua Hin Railway Station and the Maruekhathaiyawan Palace. The summer seaside Palace, often referred to as “the palace of love and hope is located midway between Cha-Am and Hua Hin. It was built in 1923 under the royal command of King Rama VI using golden teakwood from the demolished Hat Chao Samran Palace. Another tourist’s favourite is the Klai Kangwon Palace. The 83-year-old Palace was formerly the personal residence built by King Prajadhipok (King Rama VII) in 1926 on his privy purse and given to Queen Rambai Barni. 

Staycation activities

Hua Hin offers a wide variety of activities from cultural experiences and outdoor trips to culinary adventures. As a coastal town, Hua Hin has an abundance of fresh seafood, especially blue crabs and tiger prawns and these are available from street food havens to upscale dining. For eye catching natural attractions, the rainforest Phraya Nakhon Cave is certainly worth a visit. Located inside Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, its spectacular beauty is among one of the most photographed landmarks of Hua Hin. For avid golfers, there are a few classy and renowned golf courses where golfers play against picturesque backdrops of hills and lakes.

Exploring the night markets that offer food, fashion, and handicrafts offers another enjoyable experience. “Chat Chai” market, popularly known as Hua Hin Night Market, was originally built on royal treasury land. Its seven arched roofs are in honour of King Rama VII. Available daily, the market offers street food stalls, vendors selling clothes, local handicrafts, and souvenirs. Another must visit place for art lovers is the weekend only Cicada Market. Created for artists to connect with locals and visitors, Cicada Market comprises four zones. “Art A La Mode” presents casual clothing and accessories. “Cicada Art Factory” features original artworks from young artists. “The Amphitheatre” presents various entertainments, ranging from concerts to theatre. “Cicada Cuisine” is dotted with stalls selling local and international dishes. During the day, it will be amusing to try the 25B per set Royal recipe “Khao Chae” at Khao Chae Paa Auen, which serves “Khao Chae” (cooked rice served in cool jasmine flowers water), “kapi” (shrimp paste)” balls, sweetened fish and “chaipo waan” (sweet pickled Chinese turnips).

Trendy instagram spots

With social media, everyone likes to share their best and fun moments with family and friends. There are several popular “instagrammable” places in Hua Hin. McFarland House at Hyatt Regency Hua Hin is a restored two storey 19th century pavilion that has been transformed into a beachfront restaurant. The ambience is rustic and casual. The restaurant has become one of the landmarks of Hua Hin, a perfect place for a wonderful afternoon tea, lunch or dinner with excellent food. After a round of golf, Prime Restaurant at Black Mountain Golf Course is great place to relax to wine and dine. Other “insta-worthy” places include Baan Chok, a beachfront café and eatery, and Memory House Cafe. Although it is a normal cafe, which sells cakes, pastries, coffees, teas and drinks, the surrounding areas of Memory House are designed to offer the feel of calm and relaxation with the wide lawn and tall grass.  

Monsoon Valley Vineyard

Apart from seafood, fine dining and street foods, Hua Hin now offers quality vino to go with their tasty top notch cuisine. The must visit spot for new experience is Monsoon Valley Vineyard, an awesome place to visit with family and friends, especially during the harvest events. Monsoon Valley was founded in 2001 by Chalerm Yoovidhya, a wine loving entrepreneur who sought to build a robust Thai wine culture. Formerly known as the Hua Hin Hills Vineyard, the Monsoon Valley Vineyard was built on a former elephant corral, a precious land where wild Asian elephants were once domesticated. This land is mostly made of sandy soil and slate, which is ideal for growing many grape varietals.  

The vineyard’s proximity to the sea allows it to enjoy a cool nightly breeze, while the sandy and loamy soil enriched with sea shells and fossils lends our wines their characteristic flavours and freshness. In 2006, Monsoon Valley Vineyard Hua Hin had its first harvest. The Monsoon Valley Bin 9 Royal Reserve 2005 was created in honour of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great and served at the Royal Palace on the occasion of 60th anniversary of His Majesty’s Accession to the Throne.

Monsoon Valley Vineyard recently celebrated their “Exceptional 2021 harvest”. With remarkable grape quality, the attention turns to creating great quality wine and adding to over their 320 International Awards secured from previous vintages, the most of any Thai wine. Monsoon Valley White Shiraz was being named “World’s best Rose” by James Suckling in 2018, beating out over 150 Rosé’s from around the world in a blind taste test. 

Suppached Sasomsin, Winemaker at Siam Winery clarified, “As a Winemaker I am very excited about this year’s vintage. Not only was it a bountiful harvest, the high quality allows me to use conventional winemaking techniques to express the terroir. This year’s grapes are incredibly balanced and with over 30 varietals bearing fruit, I’m really looking forward to creating wines with unique character. On top of our Shiraz, Sangiovese, Chenin Blanc and Colom bard varietals, I am especially excited about the quality of this year’s Merlot grapes, which has historically been very challenging to grow in Thailand. We have been experimenting with growing Merlot grapes for almost 10 years, and the plants have matured nicely, producing consistently well-balanced fruits over the past 3-4 seasons. We look forward to being amongst Thailand’s first wineries in introducing locally grown Merlot this year.” 

Today, Monsoon Valley produces 4 ranges of wines, which include Classic range primarily served in Thai restaurants around the world; Premium and Signature range served at leading hotels all over Thailand, and the Cuvée flagship range, which is made from the finest grapes from our vineyard each year. The vineyard continues to pioneer grape growing techniques in Thailand in order to prove that Monsoon Valley Thai wines can overcome the tropical climate, and assure that Thai farmers can grow great quality grapes and produce the best wines. 

The perfect venue to taste and enjoy the internationally recognised premium quality Thai wines at Monsoon Valley is to dine at The Sala Wine Bar and Bistro. Inspired by the enchanting shape of the Thai pavilion, Sylvia Soh, a former Norman Foster architect, designed this restaurant building as a place to offer information about viticulture and the science of winemaking. The design of The Sala Wine Bar and Bistro combines the local beauty of Thailand with modern aesthetics to give visitors a comfortable, yet spectacular experience. Monsoon Valley offers an impressive dining experience amid the relaxing atmosphere of hectares of vineyard. The menu was inspired by the vineyard setting, using wines, grapes, and grape leaves to create unique dishes that can be enjoyed with Monsoon Valley wines.

Throughout the year, Monsoon Valley Vineyard offers a range of fun excursions, such as vineyard tours and cycling tours, wine tastings, elephant feeding, wine safaris, and most of all the Harvest Festival held annually from March to April.

With the current Covid-19 situation, Hua Hin remains the right choice for a laid back beach town feels with fresh air and sunshine. To unplug from the everyday monotony of life, the seaside town offers suitable options of romantic escapes, family getaways, golf drives, pet-friendly breaks and spa recharges. Its popularity as a holiday sanctuary is never ending!

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Exceptionality of Austrian wine

“Small is beautiful” – that is what best describes Austrian wine, when put into international perspective. Austrian wine is one of the most interesting phenomena happening in the world right now. Wines from Austria are now highly appreciated both by wine experts and wine lovers all around the world and can be found on almost every refined wine list. Expat Life recently interviewed Günther Sucher, Austrian Commercial Counsellor and Head of ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA in Bangkok to learn what is it that makes Austrian wine so special.

Wine critics across the globe appreciate that Austrian wines are exceptionally delicious and pair wonderfully with different kind of food, making Austrian wine sheer drinking pleasure. Mr. Sucher has been promoting Austrian wines in Thailand over almost 6 years, and he explained, “Austrian wines have a compact body and climate driven freshness which makes them an excellent partner for Thai cuisine. Take for example Som Tam, a dish that combines sweetness, fruity acidity and above all fiery spice, which poses a particular challenge to the wine accompaniment. Austrian wines can cope with these challenges, for instance Grüner Veltliner which is high in extract and therefore tames the incendiary spice with agility, highlights the flavour of the coriander leaves (cilantro) and proves itself a lively companion with its fresh apple toned fruit.”

Wine making dated back centuries

The diverse climates and soils of Austria provide ideal conditions to produce the world’s finest wines despite being a landlocked “Alpine” territory. The first findings of wine producing in Austria dated back to the Celts and Romans (700 BC). “Gruner Veltliner”, the Austrian flagship wine, is another good historical example. It covers 37% of Austria’s vineyards today, was created in the 10th century. Austria produces 1% of the global wine production and 30% of this production is exported. After Germany and Switzerland, the U.S. is the third biggest export market for Austrian wine.

Perfect accompaniment to many cuisines

Austrian wines offer the perfect accompaniment to an array of dishes and food styles, from Central European to Mediterranean cuisine, right through to Asian and Oriental dishes. This is due to their compact and elegant body and fresh style; the result of climatic conditions.  

Mr. Sucher advocated, “For Thai cuisine which is rich in fiery chilli, the right wine requires sweetness and extract, to lessen the searing heat. Robust Grüner Veltliner or Riesling with well integrated acidity are nicely suited, as are indigenous and full-bodied RotgipflerZierfandler or Roter Veltliner. The residual sugar and fruit of a Beerenauslese also cool the fire. At the same time a robust Chardonnay (barrique) is great with prawns, lobster or chicken in curry. Its velvety tones attenuate the hot spices and emphasise the succulent sweetness of the seafood. Generally speaking, wines should not have too much acidity or tannin, and white wines ought to have a bit of bottle age.”

Austrian wine producing regions

Wine producing region is concentrated on the Eastern part of Austria as the West of the country is covered by mountainous terrain. The biggest of the four wine growing regions is lower Austria, which covers 60% of the total vineyards. This is home to Austria’s top notch white wines, above all Grüner Veltliner but also fruity Rieslings and some more ancient varieties like the Zierfandler or Rotgipfler.

The second biggest wine growing region is found in Burgenland, which offers ideal conditions for full bodied red wines like Blaufraenkisch, St. Laurent and Zweigelt, but also delicious dessert wines like the Eiswein or Trockenbeerenauslese. The third biggest wine producing region is found in the Southern province of Styria. With around 10% of Austria’s vineyards, Styria makes fantastic Sauvignon Blanc, Gelber Muskateller, Welschriesling and Weissburgunder. Last but not least, Vienna is the fourth wine growing region. No other capital in the world can compete with the 1,600 acres of vineyards. The Danube River going through Vienna provides ideal conditions for the Riesling and other white wine varieties.

Austrian wine tasting in Thailand

ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA organised the first stand-alone Austrian Wine Tasting in Thailand on March 23rd 2021, at the SO Hotel in Bangkok.

Around 150 wines from 47 leading Austrian wine producers from all wine regions in Austria were presented at this unique tasting. Mr. Sucher is extremely pleased with the growing interest of Thai industry experts in Austrian wine, “More than 150 representatives of the Thai wine industry joined our Austrian Wine Tasting, which is a great success during COVID-times. I am confident that we will find more Austrian wines in restaurants and hotels after this tasting.”

According to Mr. Sucher, “About 1/3 of the wines presented at the event were already available in Thailand, 2/3 of the wineries were looking for new partners in order to enter the Thai market. The wines were jointly presented with eight local importers and distributors (Black Forest Distribution, FIN – Fabulous Is Needed, GFour International, IWS – Independent Wine & Spirit, italasia, Napaphan Wine Cellar, Siam Winery and Wine Garage), that already have Austrian wine in stock.”

He further commented, “Austrian wine goes very well with (spicy) Thai cuisine, as well as with Asian food in general. Up to now, the availability of Austrian wines in Thailand has been quite limited. Wines from our small country, located in the heart of Europe, have been little known in this part of the world so far. Therefore, the aim of the Austrian wine tasting was to increase the number of local distributors of Austrian wine, so that step-by-step customers may find Austrian wines in more and more upper class hotels and restaurants. Additionally, the event was designated to enlarge the network of distributors that directly supply to private wine connoisseurs in Thailand.”

The event exclusively targeted professionals of the Thai wine and hospitality industry, especially importers, distributors, F&B managers of hotels and restaurants, sommeliers and journalists. The highlight of the event was the exclusive trade session and wine tasting, where wine professionals discovered the unique taste of 47 Austrian wine producers. Visitors had the opportunity to explore more than 150 different wines from all regions of Austria!

In addition, selected sommeliers of leading restaurants and importers participated in an Austrian wine master class. During this session, the participants explored a variety of typical Austrian grapes, presented by wine expert Christophe Mercier of Wine and Spirit IQ, and experienced the full spectrum that Austrian wines have to offer.

To conclude on the interview, Mr. Sucher encouraged our readers, “Whoever has not managed to taste Austrian wine in Bangkok is cordially invited to visit one of the importers and distributors that already have Austrian wine in stock. In contrast to better known wine producing countries, family run wineries dominate the Austrian winemaking scene, which is why the focus is not on mass production. Nonetheless, Austria’s wines are excellent value for money in all the profitable price bands. Wine lovers, please be prepared to be amazed by the unique and distinctive flavours that Austrian wine has to offer!”



About ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA:

ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA, with around 100 offices in over 70 countries, provides a broad range of intelligence and business development services for both Austrian companies and their international business partners. Around 800 employees around the world can assist you in locating Austrian suppliers and business partners. We organise about 1,200 events every year to bring business contacts together. Other services provided by ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA offices range from introductions to Austrian companies looking for importers, distributors or agents to providing in depth information on Austria as a business location and assistance in entering the Austrian market.






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Welcoming in April with both Thai Songkran and some of our own expat’s celebrating Easter, I thought the Starfruit, Carambola, with 91% water, would be a wonderful fruit to highlight! An Easter star and the hydrating needs we all crave during these hot days comes to us on a species of tree native to SE Asia, the Averrhoa carambola. Starfruit, Carambola or Ma-fuang in Thai, fuang meaning “gear”, grows all over SE Asia and in Thailand I have enjoyed the deep orange larger starfruits at any season. There are two main types of starfruit, the small/tart and the large/sweet. The skin is fairly waxy but the whole fruit can be eaten. The flavour is unique and can be similar to an apple, grape, pear and citrus. Some say they are best eaten yellow with a slight greenish tint, but I prefer them when they are more orangey-yellow, much sweeter and just a tad softer, not so crunchy!

These fruits have lots of vitamin C (52% of RDI), most B’s and A, are low in sugar (3%), high in minerals and fibre and has high amounts of antioxidants including some zinc. They can be up to 91% water so a great source of healthy hydration also. The ripe fruit and fruit juice has antidiarrheal effects and has been used in Ayurvedic medicines for thousands of years. In the culinary kitchen creativity reigns. In SE Asia, they are stewed in cloves, sugar and apples. China cooks them with fish and in Australia they may be cooked as a vegetable, made into jams or pickled. I discovered Jamaica dries them and uses them as snacks combined with peanuts. The sour variety makes a nice relish with chopped spices and can be combined with fish or shrimp. I use them as additions to my mangosteen, dragon fruit, mango and papaya tropical fruit platters when treating myself during hot days and look so pretty too with the star shape! Wishing on a star never tasted so good! I am lucky to of found a SE Asian man myself, Mr. Souphanya from Laos, that knows how to organically grow most of my favourite fruits here in Hawaii while I await SE Asia/Thailand to re-open. Shopping at local markets and supporting the local people during these times is a positive human interaction we can have during these times for all involved.

I must mention a slight risk for people with any hard kidney issues like kidney stones, kidney failure or are on kidney dialysis. Starfruit contains caramboxin and oxalic acid. Caramboxin can create adverse neurological effects and oxalic is in many fruits and vegetables but combined with caramboxin and predisposed kidney failure together, I must at least give a slight warning here to not indulge. Taking starfruit juice or even just the fruit on an empty stomach is also not advised for anyone but the normal ingestion of the tropical fruits during the day for most is fine. Please do not let this deter you unnecessarily. It is fine to do juice fasts and fruit fasts etc. as I have written about before, but this particular fruit isn’t one of them for that!

The true native range of this plant is pinpointed closer to Malaysia, Indonesia and S. China than Thailand and has never been located in the wild, like the guava and many other tropical plants. It seems it was domesticated through India and SE Asia in prehistoric times, but it was in the American tropics that it was established just over 150 years ago. Commercial production of starfruit takes places in most tropical places throughout the world now including Hawaii, however, Malaysia is the global leader in starfruit production. The Averrhoa carambola are also grown as ornamentals due to the easy pruning of the mini tree-shrubs which can lead to a decorative addition to any garden yet can be worrying for some as an invasive species since they are quick to spread. Carambola flowers throughout the year with beautiful dainty pink and light lavender flowers which against the background of the dark green leaves can be a gorgeous addition to any garden. The main fruiting season in Thailand is April through June and October through December, which again, for Christmas, is so nice to have the star shaped fruits for decorative fruit platters! One last idea for the kids is to slice the fruit thin and bake them with some sea salt supplying a cute version of snacking. Healthy snacks are always a plus!

I call the painting accompanying this article Blue Skies; Starfruit Surprise because it is in the tropical, glorious, sun filled skies these fruits grow and the element of surprise you enjoy when the fruits are cut in half can be a delight. Happy Spring! May this new season bring some respite to how things have been moving along during wintertime. I am anxious to get back to SE Asia and send you all blessings from across the Pacific headed West! Let us all stay healthy, vibrant, happy and sane!

Check out Margaret’s other article in this April edition all about Thai Massage! Keeping our minds and bodies active and healthy during these times is extra important. Treating food as medicine can be a way of eating and eventually, we are what we eat since we make new cells everyday with what we put in our mouths. Enjoy Thailand’s fruits and stay hydrated during these hot months! Margaret’s paintings can be seen on www.mejcreation.com and one can join her on her other healthy discoveries.

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I never imagined becoming vegan, or a fruitarian or a herbivorous. I still don’t. 

But when I met Maricel, something about her attachment and passion to veganarie moved me. Her stance, her eyes and her voice, all drew me to her commitment. We chatted and I listened to her as she shared her Vegan Crush ideal with me. She has an instagram handle, and this is how she advertises her brand of vegan food aptly named ‘Vegan Crush’. I was not merely curious; I wanted to partake of this journey of hers and get to the bottom of her story. 

I was certain there was one behind those sparkling eyes! I wasn’t wrong. 

They say when the time is right, people come into your life. They also say, when it’s time for transformation of any sort, people are even sent into your life (who sends them?). 

We don’t simply ‘run into’ people; our paths cross when stars are aligned. Young Maricel and my stars were aligned. We met. We spoke. We connected. 

Even as I write this piece, I am sipping from a mug of cocoa that has been churned with walnut milk. It’s a warm afternoon, and I’m barely even a cocoa person. Needless to say it’s a chilled and satisfying mug. And who is this person who’s been nudged awake inside of me?  5 months back I would not look in the direction of any other milk but dairy: in this country it is Meji milk. one of the more popular brands. I love it. I’ve made cottage cheese (paneer) with it, drunk it plain, mixed it with endless cups of tea and coffee, with cocoa, added it to muesli and cornflakes – all the usual stuff. That’s definitely not happening anymore. 

Forward to today: I take my coffee and tea with almond and pistachio milk, and I can’t complain – it’s absolutely delicious and no doubt I will continue to enjoy this warm brew thus for years to come. Maricel has certainly got what it takes to influence those ready. 

I am no vegan I admit: I still love my dairy yoghurt and cream and cheese. I am at the threshold. I am beginning to appreciate the nuances of non-dairy products. A whole new world of ‘milks’ and other nutrients has upsurged, making itself visible. I see the beginnings of a healthier hunger arising within me, nudging out the greed of processed stuff, albeit very, very slowly. The awareness of shoots and leaves and grains and all sorts is crowding out other readymades. I am Indian and love our daals (lentils) and stir-fried vegetable dishes. Paneer? Oh yes, we love our paneer (a form of cottage cheese) and innumerable other dishes I use yoghurt for. That dairy life continues unabated. 

I am no nutritionist, always grabbing healthy stuff from the aisles, or looking to purchase only organic veggies. Nope. I had chips this evening, with a readymade guacamole last night while watching a crime thriller on Netflix, so I certainly haven’t given over to the other side! God forbid I give up completely on the humungous array of delicious dairy offerings!

Meeting Maricel was fortuitous. Tasting her fare, for an entire week, was like an infant eating solids for the first time. The textures and grains she offered were totally new. They tasted of ’nutrition’, they spoke of fresh, unspoilt graininess. They were under spiced and some of it wasn’t even properly salty, but my body sung with it. I did add some coriander and cumin powders to the brown rice, and salt of course, but my mind and my being were awakened to the existence of whole foods. It was astonishingly refreshing. 

During the vegan week, I found myself light and energetic. I didn’t miss the food I was used to eating at all. And it was extremely filling too. I stayed full for far longer. 

I’ll share a fact : if I was full with the food I made, I would normally feel sluggish and sleepy. With Vegan Crush’s food, I felt rushes of creative energy and above all, my tummy was not bloated. My being felt easy and light. There was a tangible difference that my body observed. 

How did Maricel, a German, brought up on a diet of meats and dairy arrive at this juncture? What made her choose veganerie? How is that she now runs a meal service called Vegan Crush – on subscriptions of monthly deliveries or weekly deliveries in the city of Bangkok and has enough takers?

Snatches of our chat below:

  • Maricel, when did you give up eating meat and dairy – at what stage and age?

I started my plant based journey while on a world travel tour over 10 years ago when I was about 27 years old. 

There are way too many misconceptions about vegan food, and one of the biggest misconceptions is that it is difficult to get and it is very pricey. Let me tell you that vegan food is the most common and among the cheapest food on earth: it includes grains, beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits. All these foods are available all over the world. What makes it challenging though is that it isn’t easily available around the corner. 

One of my survival kit during my travels was happycow — an app where you find vegetarian/vegan restaurants and shops near you, anywhere in the world. I carried a book called the “Vegan passport” which explains what you can eat in every language. It was easy enough to get by with this passport.

The endless options of plant based cuisine is what has sparked my passion for cooking. 

So throughout my travels I collected favourite recipes from locals, restaurants, friends and created a vegan version. It became a neverending journey. 


  • What is it that you read about dairy exactly that made you sit up and take notice of your intake, and made you question your food habits? 

Milk for the calf is created for it to grow from 40kg to 400kg within a year. All the necessary  ingredients of hormones, vitamins, fat and proteins form part of this nutritive drink to achieve this result. Human milk is created to grow a baby from 4kg to 75kg within 20 years. It should be obvious that the formulas of both milks are completely different, right?

Which is why I believe cow’s milk is not designed for human consumption. I also think it very odd that no other animal drinks milk from another species. You never see a lion drink milk from an elephant, do you? And if you look closer you’ll realise that there is no other species that still drinks milk once it is grown up. There is a reason why milk is only available for a specific period of time. 

One knows that cows need to be pregnant in order to produce milk. Unfortunately it is very sad how this is handled. The mother cow never gets to see her babies and is milked until she is no longer productive. It is only natural to think, ‘how can something that was created in misery and despair be a source of health and vibrancy?’

– when did you come to Thailand and realise that your dream was to set up Vegan Crush and help all those who were turning vegan? 

I came to Thailand not knowing that I would stay on for 6 years. All I knew was, I wanted to share what I have discovered and offer support to those who are on a similar healthy journey. Getting started on a plant based diet can be challenging. It’s a matter of changing one’s perspective. If one is convinced of its value, it is entirely possible to turn vegan. 

It only seems difficult because it is something new and we have to educate our senses to a completely different viewpoint: how do we consume food and what it is we are putting into our bodies?

 Vegan food can be so much fun and when done right you feel an immense health shift within a matter of a week itself. The birth of Vegan Crush was my attempt to illuminate and feed anyone who is willing to take the plunge. 

  • What does being vegan really mean to you Maricel?

Being vegan is so much more than just the way you eat. It is an act of being more conscious and empathic towards animals, the planet and yourself. Our loved ones are no longer limited to family anymore. It has made me reflect on many of my behaviours that did not feel right. 

Food carries a quality of energy that impacts your own vital and psychological energies. Once I started fueling my body with whole plant-based foods, I became more sensitive and empathic toward my environment and above all, to my own needs. It gave me a sense of peace and calm I had not felt earlier. It was the best decision I have ever made in my life and I couldn’t be more grateful to have had the ability to put it into action. 

Yes, it is a very powerful choice and provides more independence, because food can either debilitate or nurture one’s health. 

I believe everyone can benefit from replacing or reducing dairy products. There are many more plant based milk options as well, depending what you want to use it for. And if cheese is your vice don’t be fooled: the process of making vegan cheese is exactly the same. Instead of cow’s milk, nut milk is used to create cheddar, blue cheese or even cashewrella! 

After listening to all Maricel had to say, I began questioning everything that went into my mouth that was dairy based. Could one truly become vegan overnight? I don’t know. Awareness is the first step, and she has certainly put many thoughts in my foodie head. I have begun looking at vegan options in restaurants for one. They are all very interesting, and call out to me. I hope we all try and understand the reasons behind Maricel’s change of heart and mind, and her dream of providing healthy food for those willing to make a life change. 

I don’t anymore wonder what a ‘vegan person’ looks like. Jokes apart, becoming vegan is a powerful choice, and a durable one. It can also be an experiment with whole foods and see where it takes us. It is not only in one’s imagination, but an undeniable reality that food fuels our mental and physical energies. The sluggishness that arises from eating heavy, and sometimes oily meats is not desirable. Processed foods are possibly the worst intake for someone looking for a healthier and cleaner existence. The additives that go into readymade meals are horrific on a long term basis. 

We may all indulge in a takeaway, or packaged food once in a while, but may it be the exception. 

Can’t live with it, can’t live without it – and I’m talking about good, nutritious whole food. 

Give it a new meaning, shall we!

Let’s move toward the light. Let’s become whole. Thank you Maricel for being the forerunner of good tidings and great nutrition. 

The book of recipes is available on pre-order:
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Expat Life covered an article on “Malaysian Cuisine: Peranakan Food” in the December/January issue last year. Recently, Kelab Malaysia of Thailand (KMT) with support from the Embassy of Malaysia organised the 2021 Penang Street Food Festival at the Holiday Inn Bangkok Sukhumvit.

The official opening was inaugurated by HE Dato’ Jojie Samuel, Ambassador of Malaysia to the Kingdom of Thailand and Dato’ Bobby Tai, President of KMT.  The one day event displayed a total of 12 vendors, which specialised in authentic Penang cuisine coming together to offer their culinary highlights. The objective of the function was to promote Malaysian cuisine, especially dishes from the state of Pulau Pinang to club members and friends

Among the savoury dishes on were on offered include the island’s iconic delicacies such as stir-fried char koay teow noodle dish; mee goreng mamak (stir-fried fresh egg noodles with tofu, shrimp and peanut sauce); and chee choeng fun (steamed rice noodle rolls with sweet shrimp paste sauce). Other mouth watery signature dishes were nasi kandar (a platter of rice with side items); rojak buah (Javanese-styled spicy fruit salad); loh bak (crispy five spice meat roll); and the famous Penang White Curry Mee noodles. Dessert and beverage offerings included teh tarik (pulling milk-tea); cendol and cucur badak (sweet potato cake). Authentic local delicacies (such as nutmeg) and sauces from Penang were imported for this occasion.

Due to Covid travel restrictions, many Malaysians residing in Bangkok who have been missing their local food turned up on the day to sample the flare prepared by their countrymen. The 300+ foodies who were at the event included other international and local visitors in Bangkok and nearby provinces, who came as individuals, family and friends groups and left with bags of takeaways as well.  Many left with a satisfying stomach and asking for the date of the next Penang!

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As the month of February rolls in, we may be thinking of a few ways to lose some of the weight we may have put on with not only the lockdown issues and less freedom of movement in general, but also the holiday splurges we may of indulged in. Weight loss can be a lot easier to work towards if your diet is not only tasty but satisfying due to having a high fibre content and “good fats”. Minding sugar intake, even being careful of fruit sugars, can be hard if you are a fruit lover as I am, however, some of the fruits that are available to us in Thailand so readily have a remarkably high fibre content and very little sugar, one of them being the Guava, Psidium guajava. A few of these fruits, and you can feel very full. I will also include Avocado, Persea americana, because there is a misconception that “eating fat makes you fat” but it is eating the wrong kind of fat along with too much sugar that can make you fat. Avocados also have a high fibre content and are considered a “good fat”. (There are four types of fats: saturated, monounsaturated, trans and polyunsaturated. The complete understanding of these can be a whole article unto itself and I just want to suggest some ways to incorporate both the guava and the avocado in this article but please know that in general, fat from non-animal products like avocados, olives, nuts and seeds fall into the “good fat” category. Yes, eggs too, but this is why I say it is a whole article unto itself!) For now, let’s just move forward with these two fruits to incorporate into your lifestyle for weight loss and health.

Both the guava and the avocado, along with potential weight loss, can boost the system for some great health and fresh vitality as we come into 2021. I delight in being able to indulge in one of my favourite fruits, the pink guava, but I’ll speak of the Thai guava first which more of us may be familiar with. In Thailand, one often eats Thai guava’s sliced up raw and dipped in sugar with dried chilli, sliced up small and added to green papaya or green mango salads or even pickled. I prefer the sweet pink guava’s to have plain as a delicious snack or to use in smoothies for they have a lot of pectin in them and create a real rich creamy texture for this. But both types of guava are full of vitamins and minerals for supreme health!

Thai Guava’s are fairly easy to find year round and they are a bit harder, not as sweet, and more yellow inside than the pink. The Thai guava is known as Farang in Thailand. This is rather funny because it is the same name the Thai’s use to call foreigners. It refers to when this fruit was introduced by Europeans in the 17th century representing something foreign in any way being brought into the local community.

Pink guava is sweet and tangy! I have a smoothie idea here to share and did a painting of the pink guava I call “Gung-ho guava!” that I include in this article for your enjoyment. Some of you, my regular readers, may know I travel around with my suitcase full of art supplies and portray local fruits and flowers on my journeys and discuss medicinal ways to incorporate these “superfoods” into your lifestyle. Hopefully, I can satisfy some of your desires for healthy ways and cater to your art culture cravings! Choosing guava to paint was a challenging subject because in watercolour, the white of anything is supposed to be the paper and the delicate guava flowers are white in general. I am pleased with the results finding that white can include light lavenders, greens and yellows when observed closely. This species of guava that can be found growing profusely in Thailand is green even when ripened with a touch of rose and light yellows showing through. Knowing when the fruit is ripe to pick is a skill one must develop since the guava can drop off the stem and then the fruit flies will “have at it” laying their egg’s in the fruit which will be disappointing when maggots are infiltrated into your well expected treat! So, making sure to get the fruit right off the tree or from a trusted guava seller is always best!

Guava, having loads of fibre, being easy to digest, having a high vitamins A and C content along with lycopene, a strong antioxidant, I can easily say this fruit is well worth our respect. For gut health, there are antimicrobial properties and with the level of magnesium in this fruit, it can help to relax the body and contribute to great mental clarity. Vitamins B3 and B6 is present, B6 being proven to help with neurodegeneration. Ripe guava’s emanate a divine scent, like a sweet vanilla/strawberry. When I buy guava’s and they are sitting in my fridge, every time I open the fridge I get a waft of this sweet guava scent and I cannot help but to want to make a smoothie so my guava purchases run out quick! 

As I mentioned, guava’s have a high level of pectin so make very creamy and thick smoothies without the need to freeze the fruit. I added some papaya, also low in sugar/high in fibre, and some good seed fats (like Tahini/sesame seed butter) to my smoothie. Frozen banana is also a way to cream up your smoothie but if trying to stay low sugar, please use lightly or add some avocado! Both papaya and guava can go right though one’s digestive system so with these added fat suggestions, it will make this yummy breakfast last longer, and the nutty flavour goes with this concoction very well. 

Avocados are a staple in my diet when I can find them. They are considered a nutrient dense superfood due to being able to help increase the absorption of fat soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, K and E. Unbeknownst to some, an avocado is a fruit. Botanically, it is considered a large berry containing a single seed. This fruit matures on the tree but ripens off the tree and this is where I find my avocado selections stilted at times. Knowing when to pick is especially important, as with most fruits, otherwise you will have a hard avocado sitting around your kitchen for a week with no softening and then it just goes brown. Sometimes you can get lucky and by putting it in a brown paper bag with a ripe banana, you can speed up the process! Ripe bananas contain a natural plant hormone called ethylene, which can trigger ripening in mature fruit.  

Originally from Mexico, there also are separate domesticated beginning versions of this fruit coming from Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. It was in 1526 the avocado began infiltrating into Europe, Hawaii in 1833 and California 1856. In Thailand, avocado production seems to be increasing every year. In the provinces of Chanthaburi, Songkhla, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Rayong, Chaiyaphum, Nakhon Ratchasima, Tak and Nan, avocados are grown. 

It is in the Northeastern and Northern regions where the larger concentrations can be found. So, for just under 200 years this fruit has come a long way from a small variety of choice to the overwhelming 500 varieties! It can be a fussy subtropical species to grow needing lots of applied water, not just natural moisture from rain or run off. Low winds (so the flower does not get dehydrated) and well aerated soil is also needed plus this fruit is only partially self-pollinating so careful orchard space and care must be taken into consideration. I often can get discouraged trying to find avocados that ripen well and can be easily found but after knowing the care involved to delight in these fruits, I am pleased when I find my favourite market seller in my own neighbourhood.

Once I cut an avocado and have it on my plate or in a recipe, squeezing some lime/lemon on it can prevent it from browning. (I have discovered that if you only eat half of the avocado, keep the pit in the other half of the fruit you refrigerate, and it will stay fresher longer!) I just love eating them in so many ways from straight out of the skin with some salt using a spoon to putting in smoothies, mashed on rye-toast, with tomatoes in salads and it goes on and on.  One can even use it in stir fry’s, it is divine heated! Avocados can range from 200-350 calories each depending on size.

The high level of diverse fats in an avocado is great for hair/skin/nails and for the whole body in general. The avocado is virtually the only fruit (also some nuts but we know they can be a fruit too) that contains heart healthy monounsaturated fat. Avocados are also a good source of vitamins A, B, C, E, K, copper and fibre, plus, the potassium content is high. Adding 1/2 of an avocado or more to your daily diet adds not only nutrition but helps to stay satiated throughout the day as mentioned above. Make some guacamole (avocado, lime, cilantro, then get creative with chillies and a bit of crushed salt) and enjoy using as a healthy dip for chips (blue corn), cream up your smoothies or toss into your salad today!

Before wrapping up these ways to use both the guava and the avocado I did want to mention that both these fruits can be used medicinally. Guava leaf extract is very potent as an antioxidant and is loaded with vitamins and minerals. The extract is antimicrobial and can help to relieve and neutralise harmful bacteria in your gut. Lowering blood sugar and cholesterol (as with the fruit also) is also noted, along with relieving menstrual cramps. A skin tonic can be made from the leaf extract to relieve facial irritation like acne or rashes.  It is found that using a combination of both water and alcohol for a solvent is best leaving the highest potency available for use.

Boil 1 cup of water along with 50 guava leaves, strain, cool. Soak 25 leaves in 1/2 cup Vodka 1 wk, strain cool. Mix both, keep in fridge in brown/green bottle. Apply to skin for outer issues (you can use just the water tincture if preferred) and/or take 1/2 tbls. a day under tongue when needed, regular smaller does if trying to relieve a chronic condition. This tincture has been created by me with much reading up on the subject and is safe for ordinary use, no alcohol for pregnant woman, just water tincture, same as for children. One can purchase the supplements in pill for also from local health food stores however fresh is best!

An extract of avocado leaves can be created similarly, using the tincture under the tongue. It has been shown to be of use to slow hyperactive activity for cancer, support liver function and can be used for dysentery. Even the bark of the avocado can be used for diarrhoea. For topical applications, the seeds are well known to produce an oil that is a healthy alternative to palm oil in cosmetics and can also be directly on the skin. In the past, the oil has been known to be used in dye for making clothes. 

It is so easy to think of mango’s, pineapples and bananas, all high in sugar, when we think of our local fruit markets along with some of the more exotic rambutan, dragonfruit and durian but let us not forget these two wonderful fruits and think of healthy ways to add them to our diets. I wrote this article in December 2020, after a long hard year for most, hoping that by the month of February 2021 we are all out and about getting our fresh air and exercise, having pushed through the harder times and reaping some clear visions for our future. May 2021 bring in some lighter days and easier ways. 

Margaret enjoys learning about local fruits and flowers she stumbles upon during her travels and portraying them in her bright and bold watercolours educating us along the way of how to use these divine gifts in our own lives as food and medicine. Food is medicine in her world. One can follow her on her journeys throughout SE Asia and some of the rest of the world via her website at www.mejcreations.com. Her art and health blogs are fun and informative and one can sign up for a bimonthly newsletter too!

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Part of what makes Thailand so appealing to expats is Thai cuisine. And it used to be that you could sample it on the cheap through the country’s world-famous street food scene, which for so long has been lauded for its portability and its flavourful offerings. Sadly, a ban on street food beginning in 2014 debilitated a once booming street food scene, with vendors forced out of the sidewalks where they used to serve some of the most scrumptious yet affordable dishes this side of the world.

This decision to clear Thailand’s sidewalks and walkways didn’t necessarily ‘kill’ the country’s street food scene, but its impact is far-reaching, having caused a loss of livelihood for many and reduced profits for others. It also means that street food, so accessible everywhere once upon a time, is now a bit more difficult to get, and just a tad pricier as opposed to many years ago. But at least there is a silver lining: You can recreate the street food experience right in the comforts of your home! And the guide below will outline exactly how you can do that.

Get the right kitchen tools and equipment

First things first, make sure you have the kitchen tools and equipment commonly used in making Thai street food. In particular, you’ll need a wok, as it is vital to Thai cooking—and in Asian cooking as a whole. That said, the best woks are seasoned cast iron or carbon steel ones, which means they have been warmed, cooled down, and oiled so that dust won’t accumulate on the surface.

You’ll also need a mortar and pestle, preferably granite, as you will use it to make different kinds of pastes, like chili paste and green curry paste. An alternative would be to use a food processor or blender, though you’ll be sacrificing flavour if you go that route. That’s because pounding herbs and spices in a mortar lets you extract every bit of flavour, thereby making them more flavourful as compared to cutting them into tiny pieces using a food processor.

Another thing you will need is a rice cooker, as some Thai street foods like Khao Kha Moo and Moo Ping are served with rice. The former – pork cooked in soy sauce, sugar, and spices until juicy and tender – is served with ordinary white rice. The latter – grilled pork skewers – often comes with sticky rice. So, it goes without saying that you will need a good rice cooker if you want to try these kinds of street food.

Fortunately, the best rice cookers nowadays make cooking rice a breeze. They are also innovative and incredibly multifunctional, with features that are beyond what meets the eye. For instance, there is a keep warm function that will keep your food warm, but not burnt, for hours. There is also a steam option, which is perfect for prepping vegetables—key staples in some Thai street food such as Pad See Ew and Som Tam.

Finally, it would be great if you had a grill, as that means you can prepare all-time favourites, like Thai Chicken Satay and Sai Ooah. You can also use it for family barbecues, get-togethers, and special occasions, where you can cook Thai style barbecue.

Try these recipes

With your equipment on hand, you’re now ready to cook some awesome Thai street food. Here are three recipes to get you started:

Pad See Ew

CREDIT: stu_spivack via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons License (No changes were made to the image.)

Pad See Ew is basically just fried noodles prepared with soy sauce. You’ll need sen yai, or Thai flat rice noodles (300 grams), your choice of chicken, beef or pork (200 grams), Chinese broccoli, garlic, an egg, light and dark sweet soy sauce, and some sugar.

Now, heat the wok and add some oil. Once the oil is hot, sauté the garlic and then stir-fry the meat. Toss in the rice noodles, along with the Chinese broccoli plus 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce, ½ tablespoon of dark soy sauce, and ½ teaspoon of sugar. Stir and cook the noodles for a minute or two, adding some oil when they get dry. Then, push everything to one side of the wok and crack open an egg on the empty side. Scramble the egg before mixing it with the rice noodles and meat. Fry for another 30−45 seconds and your Pad See Ew is ready to serve!

Kao Niew Ma Muang

CREDIT: Dennis Wong via Wikipedia, under a Creative Commons License [No changes were made to the image.]

Kao Niew Ma Muang is tasty treat of sliced mangoes served with sticky rice and coconut cream syrup. For this dish, you’ll need ripe mangoes, rice, coconut milk, sugar, salt, and cornstarch. Start by cooking the rice, making sure that you wash it 5−6 times to get rid of the extra starch. Then, set your rice cooker to the sticky rice option. At the same time, make the coconut syrup by heating the coconut milk, sugar and salt over medium-low heat.

Add the coconut syrup into the cooking rice in two batches, with the second batch coming after you have stirred the rice. Once the rice is cooked, set the rice cooker on warm mode and make the coconut sauce by heating coconut milk in a saucepan and adding cornstarch liquid. Whisk and let cook for a minute or two. Your Kao Niew Ma Muang is now ready!

Moo Ping

CREDIT: Ayara Thai via Pinterest [No changes were made to the image.]

Moo Ping is actually just pork barbecue skewers. But they are made with lean meat that makes them more flavourful and satisfying, especially with the sticky rice served with them. For this street food, you’ll need 500 grams of boneless pork shoulder cut into strips, 3 minced garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons of caster sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, and 125 mL coconut cream

For Moo Ping, the key is marinating the pork at least overnight. So, create the marinade by combining all non-pork ingredients into a bowl and adding about a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Place the pork into the marinade and set aside. The next day, put the pork on bamboo skewers, grill, and then enjoy!

Of course, good food is better enjoyed with loved ones or familiar faces, and that is often the case when people make their way to Thailand’s food vendors. So, prepare the food as best you can, then eat and share them with your family (and friends when get-togethers are okay again). In this way, you’ll be able to truly recapture the Thai street food experience—but in the comfort of your home.

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Yindii is a mobile application to connect consumers with food cafes to tackle climate change. It is an anti food waste application designed to help restaurants, cafes and grocery stores with their excess food which might go to waste. Yindii helps battle an escalating food waste problem and helps restaurants to gain potentially lost revenue. The food on the application is half the price, the consumer gets a good deal and a feeling of satisfaction for helping to reduce the carbon footprint of food wastage.




I met Louis-Alban-Batard-Dupre, Yindii founder and tech entrepreneur in an eco market in Bangkok when the application was launched. The business model which focuses on reducing carbon footprint immediately caught my attention so I asked him what inspired him to launch Yindii and he told me, “33% of all food produced globally is wasted or lost every year. That is close to a billion and a half tons which is never consumed, accounting for 8% of total greenhouse gas emissions around the globe. This is an ecological disaster! The growing problem of food waste is challenging to solve for endless reasons including logistics, the complexities of short lived items and the lack of a set market which is what we are working to help solve. All the food available on Yindii is delicious and untouched, coming from premium places, that just cannot wait to be eaten”.

Yindii was established with a simple mission: to ensure delicious unsold meals are tasted and not wasted. It is Thailand’s first food rescue application connecting consumers with restaurants and cafes which have excess food products at discounted prices. I have discovered some interesting cafes through Yindii and love that I can get surprise boxes at discounted prices.

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by Billy Brigham 

Wine! What exactly is it? Where does it come from? And where is it going to be in the future? These are the questions I find myself answering the most often as a Wine Ambassador. 

Let’s start with: What exactly is wine? 

Wine is defined as an alcoholic beverage made from fermented wine grapes. However, wine can be made from any fruit, but wine grapes are most commonly used. Wine grapes are slightly different from your regular table grapes from farmers markets or shops. They are smaller in size, contain more bitter tasting seeds, have thicker skins, and are sweeter in taste. All these factors contribute to the flavourful wines you know and love. By crushing the wine grapes, we can extract the sweet juice inside, then by adding yeast, the fermentation process occurs! The yeast will eat the sugars converting it into alcohol after a few additional steps, your wine is ready to enjoy.

Now that we know how wines are made let’s discuss the different types of wines. There are many different types, because of the different grape varieties. You may notice many of these when walk down the wine aisle and see Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Shiraz. All these grape varieties, whether red or white, can be traced back to one species of grapevine, the Vitis Vinifera. Each wine producing country tends to plant a different variety of the Vitis Vinfera, which is how there are thousands of different grape varieties around the world. When you think of Spain, most people think of Tempranillo, for France, Pinot Noir, and Australia, Shiraz. But the most planted red grape variety in the world, is the Cabernet Sauvignon grape with approximately 340,000 hectares (840,000 acres) planted globally. Some of the most well known regions for planting Cabernet Sauvignon include: Bordeaux, France; The Coonawarra, Australia; and Napa Valley, USA. While it is not surprising to hear Cabernet Sauvignon is the most largely planted red grape variety, many wine enthusiasts, myself included, would be surprised to find out the most planted white wine variety isn’t Chardonnay or Riesling, or even Sauvignon Blanc but Airén with 218,000 hectares (538,700 acres). It is planted almost entirely in Spain, and is used to make brandies, sherries and still white wine that is consumed almost entirely domestically.

Where does it come from?

To start, let’s go back to the very beginning. The first traces of wine can be found around 6000BC in Georgia. People shifted away from the nomadic lifestyle and wanted a more stable living place. This allowed for more experimentation with food and drinks – and ultimately, the creation of wine. Fast forward a few centuries, and the ancient Greeks were using wine as a tool for worship, which later carried on to the ancient Romans. As time went on, the way for producing wine improved, and the places growing vines expanded. During the medieval era, wine became a common social beverage for all, partially to its links to religion and heavy production from Benedictine monks. The monks had vineyards all over France and Germany, including, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne and Frankfurt. One famous Benedictine monk, Dom Perignon, was the first to discover how to make bubbles in wine through a second fermentation. With this discovery he accidentally created what we now know as Champagne.

For many centuries, places like France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Greece have been the biggest producers of wine. They have created many traditions about how to produce and grow their wines. Specifically, they are very particular on the type of barrels, minimum time for ageing, and grape varieties allowed to grow in certain regions. These rich traditions, which have largely remained unchanged, awarded these countries the title of ‘Old World’ wines.

As the world’s footprint began to expand with the British, Spanish, and French colonies, the desire to have wine in these colonies also grew. Places such as the United States, Chile, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand all began producing their own wines. Soon enough these countries became very good at growing different varieties and developing their own styles and techniques. Since they were new to making wine, they didn’t have these set traditions and rules to follow, which allowed them to be innovative and experimental with new ideas. The prime example would be the screw cap instead of the traditional cork. A screw cap seals the bottle better, keeping the oxygen out and allowing the wine to stay fresher for longer. Almost all wines with a screw cap will originate from a New World country. Additionally, the New World wines are releasing more innovations wine into the category. For example, Australia’s Jacob’s Creek experimented with ageing wine in matured whisky barrels, and in 2014 released the Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Shiraz a wine matured in Scotch whisky barrels, making them first in the world to do something like this. In New Zealand and -America, the growing trend of wine in a can, for a more transportable and sustainable packaging, has started to soar. All of these innovations are allowed in the New World of wine but are against the traditions of the Old World.  

Where is it going to be in the future? 

One of the things that I love about wine is that it is continuously changing and developing, particularly people’s perceptions and consumption methods. In recent years wine has changed from being the formal drink your parents would consume on a Sunday night, to the fun and social drink younger people prefer. One of the biggest growing trends in the wine industry has been related to the craze of Rosé, heavily driven by younger drinkers in their mid 20s to 30s. Rosé has also been amplified by big A list celebrities releasing their own wine labels, like rapper Post Malone, actor John Malkovich, and pop star Kylie Minogue. When before the wine of choice may have been a bold red or oaked white, people’s choices have led to new styles and varieties being produced that are lesser known. 

Not only are the styles of wine changing, but so are the ways we consume them. Wine has often been a traditional drink served with a meal, but the growing trend of wine cocktails is adapting those traditions. Wine cocktails are a new take on a traditional cocktail, with a wine being its base. This new way of drinking wine has seen huge growth due to Covid-19 lockdown measures, with more people spending time at home concocting their own drinks. Many took the opportunity to post their new creations online helping boost the trend and is likely to be one that we will be seeing a lot of in the future!

Wine has a long history in our shared cultures and is continuing to grow in all different ways. But one staple value of wine that has remained the same, is that wine is meant to be shared. The foundations of wine are built to bring people together. Wine most commonly comes in a 750ml bottle, not just to look nice, but because it is the ideal amount to share with friends, therefore making people come together. Although the wine varieties we drink may change over time, the way drinking wine may change, even the regions where we get our wines from may alter, but one thing that will always remain the same is that wine will always be made for sharing. 

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You are certainly not short of places to take coffee and a break or to dine in style at Iconsiam on the river in Thonburi, the largest shopping emporium in SE Asia.

Today we preview two of the very best and we highly recommend that you try them yourself.

The first is the ultimate coffee shop Starbucks Reserve Chao Phraya Riverfront at Iconsiam is on the 7th floor West wing which has to be the largest Starbucks in Thailand at an area of 1,260 square metre. Americas finest from Seattle serves up a treat and is accessed by its own escalators and or lifts which deliver you to a huge inner area and even an outside terrace overlooking the Chao Phraya river. Apparently it comfortably seats 350 seats inside in air controlled heaven and a further 80 outdoors sheltered from the sun.

We chose our beverage of choice – a large latte for me and Iced Pistachio Pure Matcha Latte for my guest and assorted croissants, meringues and Danish pastries and then searched for somewhere to sit and people watch. Despite it’s size both the well appointed lounge inside and the outside terrace were pretty full when we arrived at lunchtime and it must have had 3 – 400 people in it at least!

We found somewhere to sit, set about the tasty pastries and coffee and discussed what was to come our assault on the eight floors of shopping and hundreds of prestige brands ahead of us.

This particular Starbucks even sells alcohol – I did not see anyone partaking so early in the day but we were surrounded by all age groups from adolescent teenagers to families taking Grandma and Grandpa out shopping. People talking animately all around us deep in conversation or enjoying their beverage of choice.

This new store will not only serve signature menus, but also has a mixologist bar that can serve alcoholic drinks to customers for the first time in Thailand. Thailand is the fifth country in which Starbucks launched a menu featuring alcoholic drinks, following the US, China, Japan and Taiwan.

After an hour or so devising a plan of action for the day we left Starbucks and set off for the real task of the day – shopping!

The other dining venue that I would like to cover was Blue by Alan Ducasse which is situated in the Iconluxe area of Iconsiam. Tucked discreetly away on the downriver corner of the building, on top of Gucci and near Jim Thompson and the lifts, it is on the first floor alongside a gallery or breakout space.

Iconluxe is what it says it is the home of all of the luxury brands of Iconsiam: Louis Vuitton, Bvlgari, Hermes, Bentley, Cartier, Dior and all the other exclusive brands and labels that cluster together over three floors.

This fine dining restaurant has already been awarded one Michelin star in December 2020 and from what I saw it is well on the way to another. A la carte, a set menu or a “tasters” menu the panoramic view is spectacular looking over the Chao Phraya to the luxury hotels across the river.

Alain Ducasse has 28 restaurants around the world now in Hong Kong, Macau, Tokyo, Paris, New York, Las Vegas and of course across France.

Whether it is a special occasion or just a lunch break between the shopping or at the end of the day Blue is a fine dining experience you are not likely to forget. [email protected]

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