by Khun Shaklunta
Food and Drink
by Kathleen Pokrud, President of Hong Kong Ladies’ Group
Photos by Jenny Chan
It is easy to say, “Follow one’s childhood passion or dream”, but in reality how many manage to do so. Another question is “Will one recognise the opportunity to fulfil your passion when it comes?” Expat Life was so impressed to come across such a case and find inspirations for our readers. I sat down with Pradinan Arkarachinores, the beautiful and elegant owner of Khao, an awarded Michelin star Thai fine dining restaurant since 2020 for three consecutive years. A private banker turned entrepreneur, to learn about her journey in fulfilling the childhood fantasy into concrete achievements. A collector of over 2,000 cookbooks in both local and international cuisines since childhood must be passionate about cooking and food.
Khun Pradinan was raised in Chiang Mai; very typical Chinese households at the time, when children were not distracted, like the present time, with iPads or iPhones. She recalled her early years, “I grew up learning that we have to work to earn money. Yes, I was given pocket money to go to school. On weekends, when I helped my aunts with their business, I felt very proud to earn my own extra money, even for only 20 Baht. As a daughter, I was raised to be familiar with domestic chores such as helping my mother in the kitchen. My father would on the other hand, took me to all his business meetings, so I was exposed to adult business conversations at a young age.”
She moved to Bangkok at 15 and graduated with the Bachelor Degree in Economics from Thammasat University. Upon graduation, she started her wealth management career in the banking industry, in local and international environments. Aside from Thailand, the professional banker has posted 10 years in Hong Kong and periods in Singapore. Simultaneously, she continued to fulfill her passion for cooking. In 2009 – 2010, between career moves, she enrolled with Le Cordon Bleu Bangkok. Started with two basic courses in pastry and cuisines, she ended up spending 1 million Baht to complete the intermediate and superior courses.
Recalling how she fell in love with food or passion for cooking, Pradinan’s eyes lit up and shared, “I was fascinated with the appealing presentation of dishes from the cookery books I love to read. They were so pleasing and much different from our own home cooking. When relatives gathered during the festivities, we cooked together a lot among the extended family. For me, as a 7 year old, helping out in the kitchen was a game of fun. My toys were the ingredients that I played around with.”
I asked Pradinan if she had any particular fond memories in the kitchen. She pensively smiled, “I lied to my mother when I was very young, naughtily cut my finger when playing with the knife chopping bamboo shoots. I told her it was a thorn from the rose garden. Another memory I treasure every year was the New Year. My mother would make fruitcakes as gifts to our friends and neighbours. I loathed whipping the egg white but loved to cut the nuts. In the old days before all these readymade curry sauces in the supermarkets, we have to make our homemade sauces. One of the dish that I serve in my restaurant “Fried rice with black chilli paste” is one of my original family’s recipe which I modified”.
None of her family members have owned a restaurant; Pradinan is the first one in the family while holding a full time job as a banker. What inspired her to take the risk as an entrepreneur, and above all with restaurants, which rely on hardware, right venue and equipment; and software, meaning people. Restaurant operation is a labour intensive endeavour. She answered with conviction, “As a private banker, everything is about attention to details when I deal internally, externally with my clients or with people that work for my clients. In addition, there are many issues that are time sensitive. I do not see any difference in applying this knowledge to the restaurant business. I can say that I love doing both in parallel.” She paused briefly and elaborated further, “It is like I have two channels of radio frequencies working separately on my professional career and my commitment to Khao. The two businesses are in different compartments, and I can direct my energies into both without interfering one another. I do not see either one is tougher than the other because I can disjoint to handle their own details.”
Pradinan took over Khao from the previous owner in 2018. She strongly believes that success does not depend on luck, but by genuine hard work, and recognising the right opportunity that comes along. “I chose to invest in an existing business because at that time, I was working full time in Hongkong. It would be a wiser move to take over a working operation rather starting out from scratch. In 2019, The Michelin Bib Gourmand awarded Khao as “good quality, good value restaurants”. The following year, we earned our first Michelin star as the ultimate hallmark of culinary excellence, which we have held until now in 2022. The obstacles that I encountered along the way seem countless at times. I believe that my strong team has helped me through the years. I also had to contribute tremendously effort in motivating them, and earning my respect. At the beginning, many were skeptical that I only wanted to own a restaurant in name only.”
Disclosing on the factors that have contributed to the success of Khao, “I have a crystal vision what I wish Khao to be. It is to be a Thai restaurant where Thais go. A good example is it is the place that overseas Thais returning home, and enjoys all the dishes that they miss while abroad, or real Thai recipes that they grow up with. My focus is on age old or lost recipes that we can find in Thai literature. I understand that some restaurants like fusion experimental tasting menu for photogenic instagram purposes. This is not what we pursue in Khao. Our chefs team is very motivated to learn and has clear direction on what we want to serve. We strive to present the best version of the original recipe to show the delicacy of our Thai cooking culture. Some dishes do not have recipe available but they are written in old Thai books. Shrimp paste soup is one of the dishes that I offer in Market Café by Khao at the Hyatt Regency Sukhumvit. We have to reconstruct this recipe with a twist in the ingredients while maintaining the quality.”
What next for Khao? The original branch of Khao is located on Soi Ekamai, which focuses on original Thai recipes. Pradinan was heavily involved designing the menu for the second branch at Hyatt Regency Bangkok Sukhumvit on Soi 13, which goes by the name The Market Café by Khao. The restaurant turned into a more fashionable venue and fine dining concept, serving dinner with age old recipes. She admitted that some of the dishes were adjusted 10 times to grasp the taste, and many more amendments to reach the ultimate version agreed by the team. It took six months to finalise the menu. Soon to be opened is her third branch in Central World on the 7th floor. She excitedly reviewed, “The new concept is “Khao’s favourite dish”. I want the new branch to embrace both Thai and international food. Many of us in Thailand grow up with popular Western menus like French fries, baked clams in butter or even spaghetti bolognaise. This will be the venue for families to enjoy where parents order the dishes they grow up with and share with their children. Youngsters can hang around and enjoy group feasting. Foreign visitors will find real Thai dishes where Thais go. In the pipeline, Khao is expanding to offer readymade sauces to be available in the retail market. With my years spent in Hong Kong and Singapore, it is my next dream to bring the concept of Khao to these two vibrant cities.”
As our time drew to a close, I was impressed with how Khun Pradinan was so very composed and cheerful throughout the interview. Her boundless confidence in dealing with business obstacles as she puts it, “I do not worry, nor feel stress or complain being tired. I would like to share with the Expat Life in Thailand readers, especially women entrepreneurs are to be on the alert, when opportunity comes knocking at your door, seize the moment and take the plunge.
I did when I acquired Khao and have not regret any minute of it!”
Author by Kathleen Pokrud
Photo credit by Jenny Chan and Teresa Biesty
When Kathleen Pokrud approached the embassy with the idea of publishing an article on Peruvian gastronomy, my wife and I were delighted to offer our immediate assistance, especially since the great rise of Peruvian cuisine in recent years has already made it a world reference.
When thinking of Peruvian food, the dish that will probably come to many people’s minds would be the famous ceviche. However, Peruvian cuisine has so much more to offer. The gastronomy of Peru reflects the wonderful biodiversity of the country: 84 of the 103 life zones on the planet are found in Peru. Separated by geography into three regions —the Andes highlands, the Amazon jungle, and a 3,000 km long coast to the Pacific Ocean— and with influences from European (mostly Spanish, Italian, and French), Asian (especially Chinese and Japanese), as well as African cultures, each of our dishes offers a unique history and distinctive flavors.
One of the staples of Peruvian cuisine is potato, one of the greatest gifts of ancient Peruvians to the world; 99% of potatoes cultivated worldwide can be genetically traced back to the Andes Mountains. Today, Peru has more than 3,500 varieties of potatoes, the largest in the world, and Lima is headquartering the International Potato Center.
In the last 30 years, there has been an increase in the popularity of many traditional and new Peruvian dishes. This boom is due, in large part, to the figure of a group of Peruvian cooks led by Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio and his belief that Peru is a “…great nation, with a great living culture, the result of centuries of métissage, and it is precisely this miscegenation that has made our cuisine a varied and diverse proposal that has finally captivated the international public”.
Today, Peruvian cuisine is recognized by the world, with many Peruvian restaurants included on the top of the World’s 50 Best List. In addition, Peruvian embassies all around the world are actively promoting the brand “Super Foods Peru” which consists of produces -capsicum, fruits, vegetables, grains, herbs, roots, and fish- that are exceptionally high in nutrients. Some of that Super Foods Peru is not well known yet in Thailand, while others, such as quinoa, blueberries, grapes, and avocados, are our important exported products to Thailand. Additionally, Pisco, the spirit of Peru, is another flagship product that Peru offers to the world.
I want to thank Kathleen for her initiative and hope that the article below will be an appetizing introduction for its readers to the fantastic and tasty world of Peruvian cuisine.
HE Fernando J. A. Quiros Campos
Ambassador of Peru to the Kingdom of Thailand
Peruvian cuisine is taking the world by storm with many restaurants in Peru now ranked among the World’s 50 best restaurants. Probably lesser known in Asia, documentaries on Netflix and cable food channels have started to raise awareness of Peruvian food culture. I recently spoke with Madame Ximena Rios Hamann, spouse of H. E. Fernando J A Quiros Campos, Ambassador of Peru to the Kingdom of Thailand, to learn about delicious Peruvian gastronomy.
Peru has been the winner of the World’s Leading Culinary Destination awarded by the World Travel Awards for eight consecutive years, from when the awards were introduced in 2012 until 2019, and in 2021. Our discussions included what makes typical Peruvian dishes so extraordinary and why it has become so popular among foodies as well as the culinary traditions of Peru, its undiscovered cuisine and how Peruvian cuisine is being exported with its cosmopolitan appeal.
Peruvian cuisine reflects the country’s history, with an exclusive variety of dishes. Madame Ximena explained, “The history of Peruvian cuisine dates back to the pre-Columbian, Inca and pre-Inca periods. The Incas are known for their unique agricultural and preservation methods. They developed their skills growing a variety of grains, potatoes, tubers and legumes on terraces, and these farming techniques have influenced Peruvian dishes up to the present. During the Spanish Viceroyalty, the Spanish brought African slaves to the Americas, and over the years, African culture influenced Peruvian culture. The slaves were talented in creating delightful dishes from discarded ingredients, and many of their creations have become well-known Peruvian dishes such as Tacu Tacu, frijol colado, and anticuchos (heart meat roasted on a metal or wooden skewer).”
Madame Ximena elaborated further, “The real gastronomic revolution of Peru arrived from the Far East when immigrants from Asia began to arrive. First were the Chinese, who introduced new frying techniques and ingredients like soy and ginger. Peruvian classic Lomo saltado is possibly where their influence is most evident as it is with Arroz chaufa, a rice-based dish that originated from the fusion of Chinese and Peruvian tastes. Later in the 20th century, when Japanese immigrants arrived to Peru, they introduced ways to prepare and cook fish and seafood, which has been elevated to an art form, as seen with ceviche (Peru’s national dish) and tiradito.”
Madame Ximena proudly declared, “Peruvian cuisine is one of the world’s best. Many dining venues in Peru are ranked among the World’s 50 Best Restaurants (https://www.
Lima is fast becoming the culinary capital of Latin America and a new global gastronomic epicentre. Peruvian restaurants are mushrooming around the world. Famous Peruvian chefs are building recognition on the world culinary scene. One well-known example is Pía León, who was recently named The World’s Best Female Chef 2021 (https://www.
The cuisines of Lima, the North Coast, the Amazon, Arequipa and the Andes as well as Novo-Andean dishes are waiting for every adventurous tourists who comes to Peru. Peruvian food offers spectacular cultural and biodiverse combinations of cooking techniques and ingredients, brought to the land from across the globe during centuries of migration. One would say that the cultural diversity of Peru’s cuisine is what makes it so special.
Peru is a land of unique delicacies with its abundance of extraordinary resources and inexhaustible larder of agricultural products. “Our diet is full of superfoods, exquisite fruits, grains and vegetables – exceptional products that stimulate the palate and wellness of the body.”
Madame Ximena explained, “Peruvian cuisine is also about family, where recipes are prepared by grandmothers who hand them down to mothers or fathers and then daughters and sons. Families tend to meet very frequently and often at a table. La sobremesa, the time after a meal spent at the table, is a precious time as well. It’s the opportunity for everyone to talk, many at the same time, and most probably about food.”
Peruvians possess real talent in conserving their traditional culture while seamlessly adapting to modern culinary styles. Peruvian food is characterized by variety. The more popular world cuisines, like Chinese and French, pose no threat to the diversity and richness of Peruvian cuisine. Madame Ximena explained, “Traditional Peruvian cuisine is Andean food. The most common dish that has been prepared the same way for 500 years is pachamanca. Pachamanca means, “earth oven” in Quechua. It is magic and serves as a tribute to mother earth. What makes it most interesting is its cooking method. First, the “oven” is built by digging a hole in the ground where stones are layered to create a dome shape, and then they are heated by burning logs. After the oven is heated, ingredients are added in layers: first the sweet potatoes, potatoes and oca, and then more hot stones on top, followed by a variety of marinated meats, after which come the beans and guinea pigs (cuy). Then, the oven is sealed with leaves, cloth and soil and left to cook and simmer for around three hours.”
Due to the country’s geographic diversity, traditional Peruvian cuisine can be classified into three main regions: the coast (la costa), the mountain (la sierra), and the jungle (la selva). Peruvian food is often referred to as “Fusion food”, or comida criolla, due to its blend of Spanish, Asian, Incan and other European cuisine influences, which are integrated into the cooking.
On the topic of modern Peruvian cuisine, Madame Ximena introduced Gastón Acurio, “As one of Latin America’s celebrity chefs, he is one of the most important Peruvian chefs who has contributed to making Peruvian cuisine known worldwide. In a CNN travel interview, Acurio stated that Peru is a mix of indigenous cultures, Spanish colonizers and many immigrants who have come to Peru — Italian, Japanese and Chinese — and our food is a reflection of that”. He famously declared that he wanted “our people to feel that we were not condemned to imitate others’ cultures or others’ cuisines. We have a beautiful cuisine that deserves to be celebrated around the world.” Chef Acurio has achieved this goal with his empire of over 30 restaurants spread across a dozen countries.
She went on to say, “One of the modern Peruvian fusion cuisines is Nikkei, a combination of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine, using Peruvian ingredients but crafted by Japanese techniques. Peruvian and Japanese cuisine share common ingredients such as rice, vegetables and fish, which help create a natural fusion between the two. Nikkei cuisine a unique blend of meticulousness of Japanese preparation and presentation and the relaxed nature of Peruvian culture.”
“Novoandina is another modern Peruvian style cuisine. Dishes contain traditional, native ingredients such as quinoa, maca and yacón
Popular Peruvian dishes
Madame Ximena recommended, “The most authentic Peruvian specialties are to be found back home. Popular Peruvian dishes are made of four main groups, namely potatoes and roots; fish and seafood; quinoa and other cereals; and ‘cuy’, guinea pig, which is part of our dietary tradition.”
Potatoes originated in Peru. For centuries, potatoes were an important staple and primary energy source for Andean cultures. It is estimated that there are over 3,500 varieties. They differ in colour, shape, size, skin texture and taste, but all play a vital role in the Peruvian cuisine. Known as Causa, derived from the old Incan Quechua word kausaq, potato, its name means “giver of life.” In the most basic form, potatoes are served cold mashed, layered like a lasagne with avocado, hardboiled eggs and tomatoes, for example.
Ceviche is Peru’s national dish, which can be found almost in every restaurant there. There are lots of variations, but the original is sea bass soaked in lime juice, onion, salt and hot chillies. It is then served with a side dish of sweet potatoes and corn.
Peru is one of the most bio diverse places on earth, producing a vast variety of unique and nutritious foods. The most well known is the ancient Inca crop quinoa. Although often mistaken as a whole grain, it is in fact a pseudo-cereal, a seed that acts like a grain. Being a goosefoot, the plant itself is more like spinach and whole grains like wheat. It is often labelled as a superfood since it is not only gluten-free but also contains more protein, minerals, vitamins and fibre than many usual grains and seeds.
Flamed guinea pig has been a part of Peruvian traditional cuisine for around 5,000 years. The whole guinea pig is often barbecued or baked over an open fire, which creates smoky and crispy skin outside with juicy and tender meat inside. It is the staple meat of many households in the Andes while it seems unconventional to Western tourists who see this indigenous animal more as a domesticated pet.
Peruvian cuisine with its fusion of local and international flavours has gained a foothold in the global culinary scene. Although rooted in indigenous traditions, Peruvian cuisine has eagerly embraced influences from other cultures including European, African and Asian over the past several hundred years. The result is an exceptional fusion cuisine that reflects the nation’s multicultural history.
As our interview draws to a close, Madame Ximena encouraged all readers to visit Peru, “Apart from Machu Picchu and our iconic scenery, please come and enjoy the pride and joy of South America, Peruvian cuisine.”
Story by Kathleen Pokrud
Photo by The Embassy of Malaysia and Tourism Malaysia
Foreword by Dato’ Jojie Samuel
Ambassador of Malaysia to Thailand
Once again, I would like to thank Ms. Kathleen for her initiative to help us to promote Malaysian culinary. Previously, an article about Peranakan food in Malaysia was published in Expat Life in Thailand. As a multiracial country, Malaysia’s colourful cultures are demonstrated through its food, including traditional and modern cuisines.
Malaysian food is a mix of outstandingly delicious food and an affordable price tag to match, there is something for everyone. Eating out in Malaysia is a real gastronomic adventure. In Malaysia, eating is agreed to be a national passion for all Malaysians. Food has been a regular topic in conversation. I believe that there is no place that is more truly Asia than Malaysia, especially when it comes to food and travel.
Needless to say, Malaysia is a beautiful and diverse country, which the food is a reflection of the many races that make up our country. From up north in Penang to down south in Malacca, you could explore the beautiful sights and even more delicious food at some of the best destinations Malaysia has to offer. Malaysia, Truly Asia indeed.
Dear readers, I hope you enjoy reading this article.
Malaysia is a country that celebrates its’ multiculturalism. This encourages the cultural diversity of Malaysian cuisine. Many culinary traditions coexist in Malaysia, such as Malay, Chinese and Indian. Similar to other countries, Malaysian food recipes are passed down through the generations and has evolved to suit modern day preferences and trends. The result is an array of enticing traditional favourites and modern offerings using a trove of local ingredients to suit multiracial palates. The term “Gastrodiplomacy” has been introduced to refer to how countries use their national cuisines to promote their countries. The Malaysian kitchen with their rich combination of spicy and flavourful cuisine is well placed to make Malaysia a food haven. I recently sat down with Datin Catherina Cherian Samuel, spouse of H.E. Dato’ Jojie Samuel, Malaysian Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand to learn how Malaysia is poised to be a gastronomical haven in Asia.
Malaysia as a country has brought together many different cultures. It is the heart of SE Asia. The food could be considered one of the most attractive and enjoyable experiences in Malaysia. I asked Datin Catherina what truly defines Malaysian Cuisine, “If there is one thing that unites all of us Malaysians; it is the love of good multicultural food that we have. Food has always been a vital part of the Malaysian identity. We pride ourselves on a variety of national dishes, which are consumed as a large portion of our regular diet. Malaysian cuisine includes Malay, Chinese and Indian food – a great mix of ingredients, techniques, and flavours. If you plan a trip to Malaysia, be sure to squeeze some time to explore the food. Also on the list of must try items are the food from East Malaysia which is located on the beautiful island of Borneo. The food there comprises of the bounties of the sea paired with locally grown grain, fruits and spices. Simple and fresh, the food in Borneo reflects the traditional knowledge of the natives of the land with influence from the Chinese and other immigrants who have called this mystical island their home for generations,
Catherina clarified further, “The food of Malaysia is known by the region they come from with each bearing its’ signature dish with unique taste and flavour. Some such favourites are satay with peanut sauce, asam pedas, kolok mee, nasi dagang, laksa and fish head curry. Rice and rice based noodles are the staples in Malaysian cuisine. As it is the norm in Asia, rice is usually eaten together with meat and vegetable dishes, curries and condiments. Malay food liberally incorporates aromatic spices such as cinnamon, coriander seeds, star anise, turmeric, nutmeg and candlenuts. Coconut is used in many dishes – rice, savouries and desserts. What gives the mouthwatering delicacies a distinct flavour is the skilful use of herbs such as lemongrass, ginger, galangal and leaves of turmeric, pandan and kaffir lime plants, In the northern states of Malaysia, the influence of Thai is evident in the preference for sticky rice, sweet desserts and mango incorporated in local dishes. In the east coastal states of Malaysia where fish is plentiful, keropok (fish snacks) are sought after by all.
On the subject on how Malaysian cuisine has evolved over the years, Datin Catherina explained, “The story of Malaysian food is part of the nation’s history, of course. From around the 12th century, the Straits of Malacca provided an important and busy travel route for merchants from China, India, the Middle East and Europe. They traded and exchanged their wares in the area that is now known as Melaka (Malacca) and Pulau Pinang (Penang). In the 15th century, Hang Li Po, a Chinese princess was sent to marry a Malaccan Sultan in an effort to strengthen relations between the two countries. The princess brought along an entourage of Chinese who settled in Malacca. These early Chinese settlers along with the Chinese merchants who plied that trade route ended up marrying local women and settling namely in Penang, Malacca and Singapore which later came to be known as the Straits Settlements. The Straits Settlements was the name given during the British rule from 1824 – 1957.
The British also attracted Chinese migrants to work in the tin mines of that era and to conduct business in the commodities such as rubber and spices. The early Chinese settlers contributed significantly to the prosperity and culture of these states. The food of the Chinese in the Straits Settlements is known as Peranakan food. They are delightful concoctions of Chinese food which include local spices and flavours, a testimony of how the early Chinese settlers had assimilated with the locals in the new country. Non Peranakan Chinese food has influenced Malaysian cooking through the wide use of garlic, ginger, rice wine, sesame oil and soy sauce.
As mentioned earlier, the fact that the fact that the Straits of Melaka was an important commercial route did not go unnoticed. In the 15th century, the Portugese invaded Melaka with the intention to monopolise the spice trade and spread Christianity. The Portugese too, influenced the food in Malaysia. There exists today the Portuguese settlement in Melaka which boasts of the food of their ancestors that has evolved to satisfy the tastebuds of their Malaysian descendants. Portugese devil curry, fish dishes and cakes are what we enjoy in Melaka. Following the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British colonial masters also influenced the food in Malaysia, namely in the Eurasian communities who make it a point to serve their traditional delicacies alongside rice and spicy curries!
Apart from the early Indian traders who settled in the Northern States of Penang and Kedah, the majority of the Indians and Sri Lankans currently residing in Malaysia are descendants of the people brought into the country by the British. A large number were brought in to work in the rubber plantations and the railways in the 19th century. A smaller group of educated Indians were later brought in to work in the local medical, educational and civil services established by the British. The Indians brought with them a noteworthy influence on local cuisine with curries, biryanis, roti’s and snacks such as murukku which are served at all festive occasions regardless of ethnicity.
Datin Catherina commented frankly, “I would say Malaysian cuisine deserves more global recognition than it currently has. It is not as well known as Thai, Korean and Japanese cuisine. Nonetheless, I believe that, real food enthusiasts will appreciate the true flavours and at the end of the day our cuisine always stand out among the ‘foodies’. You have not truly experienced Malaysian cuisine until you thrill your taste buds with all the good food we have to offer.”
There are Malaysian restaurants in major countries around the world. One such popular restaurant is the Papparich restaurant that serves Malaysian favourites such as Nasi Lemak and Chicken Rice in Australia, Singapore, Brunei and in the US. In addition, we are proud of the Reunion Malaysian Café and Kitchen in Washington DC that has grown significantly since its opening, serving Nasi Lemak, Nyonya Laksa and durian crepes to homesick Malaysians and gourmet eaters in the US. In addition, we have Malaysians who are very passionate about introducing the world to the rich flavours of Malaysian cuisine. Food experts like Chef Wan, Malaysia’s celebrity chef and Ping Coombes, the past winner of MasterChef UK are prominent figures. We are very grateful to have them promoting Malaysia cuisine abroad.
As it is with other countries, Malaysia’s food culture or trends must have changed quite significantly over time. Datin Catherina explained, “The Covid 19 pandemic has caused a drastic change in the lifestyles of Malaysians since early 2020, and this also meant a big change for the Malaysian diet too. It has become quite obvious that Malaysians are increasingly driven by health concerns and want their food to contribute to strong and healthy bodies. We are seeing a trend towards healthier eating. Malaysians are more conscious about their food consumption; hence healthy eating will continue to be a huge part of food trends.”
She elaborated further, “Given the fact that most urbanites have very little time to cook on a daily basis, the eateries offer pick-and-go food where such wraps, sandwiches or poke bowls on their way back from work or even during busy lunch hours. Malaysians are also known for their ”Mamak restaurant culture” and it is especially popular among the young adults. These are Indian Muslim eateries that offer fast service at reasonable prices. Best of all, they are open 24 hours a day, making them an easy and convenient choice for people from all walks of life.
Preserving the traditional Malaysian cuisine and local favourites are important to us because they are part of our heritage, “With the new generation living a fast paced life and being more health conscious, traditional and laborious methods of preparing food need to be reconsidered. The challenges are to maintain the original taste of food whilst taking cognisance of the need to incorporate healthy cooking methods and minimising cooking time. As we are aware, food and tourism go hand in hand. Other than sightseeing, islands and beaches, the food offered has brought many visitors to our tropical paradise.
According to Datin Catherina, “The authorities such as Tourism Malaysia and Malaysian External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) have organised events around the world promoting traditional Malaysian food as an attraction to tourists.
Nasi Lemak: National dish of Malaysia
In Malaysia, Nasi Lemak is what we would call comfort food. You can find Nasi Lemak in almost any eatery, be it at street vendors, restaurants and hotels. This humble dish comprising of coconut infused rice served with a spicy anchovies sauce has grown to include a long list of accompaniments. The most popular one is chicken and beef rendang. These chicken and beef dishes were, in the past, reserved for festive occasions. Comprising of meat slow cooked with aromatic herbs, spices and large quantities of coconut milk, it has found its way to the heart of locals and foreigners alike.
As our interview draws to a close, I agree with Datin Catherina, “Malaysian food has similarities with those of its neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei and Singapore as we use similar raw ingredients which are found abundantly in this region. However, in terms of tastes and flavours, cooking techniques and preparation methods our food differs. To the discriminating palate, Malaysia is a food haven not to be missed!
Story by Kathleen Pokrud
Photo by Jenny Chan
I was delighted when I heard that Kathleen intended to publish an article about Luxembourgish cuisine. Is there a better way to present a country or fall in love with a nation than through gastronomy? We are what we eat and the soul of a nation can best be understood through its cuisine. Culinary traditions and national dishes tell us a lot about the history of the people who invented them, adapted or adopted them and passed them on through generations.
Geography has put my country in the middle of Europe, at the crossroads of Germanic and French cultures and influences. No wonder our cuisine incorporates both traditions. Foreign influences have been plentiful as Luxembourg has been a country of immigration since the very beginning of the industrialization at the end of the 19th century. The new citizens from Italy, Portugal and Spain have added a refined Mediterranean touch to the more rustic dishes passed down through generations of farmers and artisans. Today and thanks to a dynamic services sector, my country has developed into a truly cosmopolitan melting pot with half of our population holding foreign passports. This has not only added new smells and new tastes to our cuisine but also strengthened culinary culture and the joy of sharing cooking traditions. Most of our friends are ardent and enthusiastic hobby cooks and proud to share their recipes. The love of my fellow citizens for excellent food is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that Luxembourg holds the highest concentration of Michelin stars per capita in Europe. The first Woman Chef to receive “le Bocuse d’Or” the highest distinction in the world of cuisine – named after French Master Chef Paul Bocuse, was awarded to Léa Linster of Luxembourg already in 1989 – after she got her first Michelin star in 1987.
The love for fresh and tasty ingredients is perhaps what best defines our cooking. As a result, once you are in Luxembourg, be it in a restaurant or around a family table you are immersing yourself in the culinary traditions of Europe. As in every true melting pot and multicultural society, these traditions do however not simply coexist side by side but together they create something new and exciting while never denying their origins.
Therefore, I am happy that Kathleen wrote about Luxembourgish food, both traditional and at the same time a delightful fusion of European influences and Mediterranean refinement and always open to new experiences and adventures.
I do hope that you enjoy reading this article and rest assured, if ever you feel the craving of wanting to visit the place that produced this wonderful dishes, we will not only make you feel very welcome. You will feel at home.
GRAND DUCHY OF LUXEMBOURG
Embassy in Bangkok
Luxembourg is a cosmopolitan country in the heart of Europe. What shall visitors expect from the cuisine of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg’s capital as a multicultural country? I was invited by Madame Louise Åkerblom, spouse of HE Jean-Paul Senninger, Ambassador of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg to the Kingdom of Thailand, for a food demonstration at her residence to learn about Luxembourgish dishes.
Family bistro or gourmet restaurants, Luxembourg offers a varied array of cuisine with a fabulous mix of cultures and flavours. Many of Luxembourg’s traditional cuisine reflect the Grand Duchy’s farming heritage and location between Germany, France and Belgium. The different immigrant communities from all over Europe and beyond also influence their food.
Madame Louise explained the history of Luxembourg cuisine: “Traditional Luxembourg food reflects the geographical position between France and Germany, between Latin and Germanic countries. In the 20th century however, with large immigration from Italy and Portugal, the contemporary Luxembourg cuisine became a melting pot of intertwining influences.
The residing population is almost at a 50/50 rate of Luxembourgers and non-Luxembourg nationals. Most traditional Luxembourg dishes are of peasant origin. This reflects the heavier labour-intensive origins of the country, in mining and agriculture.
We like to joke that it combines the best of German (quantity) with French (quality). Today, with our economy dominated by the service industry, the cuisine has become more sophisticated, lighter and very varied. Environmental issues also influence more and more – locally produced, organic and vegetarian is now part of the menu in most restaurants.”
Madame Louise added further, “It would probably be hard to find a Luxembourg Restaurant somewhere else, but in the neighbouring regions you can find some special dishes on the menu. In the US Midwest, where there is a relatively large community of Luxembourg people, there are restaurants that proudly display a Luxembourg heading on their menu alongside seasonal food festivals.”
The Mosel region with its white wine has definitely inspired the nation’s national cooking. Many dishes from other countries have a Luxembourg take. The French Coque au vin –is in Luxembourg coque au Riesling (i.e. with white wine).
The Belgian mussels – served in wine or cream sauce – well in Luxembourg it is wine AND cream. The Italian Cappuccino has whipped cream on top instead of steamed milk.
You can find Thai spices in a “Bouneschlupp”- a traditional soup with green beans, potatoes, bacon or pork sausage. Italian tomato sauce waltzes with “Kniddelen” – our potato dumplings. You will also discover Indian curry in a “Rieslingspaschteit” – a meat paté in dough form.
Luxembourg has a lot of seasonal dishes, or special foods for different holidays. Very popular in early spring is a salad dish made from the pale parts of the Daffodil leaves, then comes White Asparagus – the thicker the better – with hollandaise and cured ham. Rhubarb tart is also a quintessential food of springtime. The heavier dishes with potatoes and cabbage are more winter comfort food.
Popular Luxembourg Dishes
The country’s cuisine combines rustic German heartiness, French finesse and a little Iberian flavour for good measure. Dishes often incorporate meat, fish, potatoes, dashes of cream, and wine.
Gromperekichelcher is a potato cake, or patty, with onions and parsley, often served with applesauce. One of the most popular foods in Luxembourg, these delicious crispy fried potato cakes can be found on sale at markets or fairs almost everywhere throughout the country. Grated potatoes, chopped onions, egg, flour, parsley and salt are mixed together and shaped into flattened patties and fried. They are best eaten piping hot, straight from the pan.
Another cherished dish of Luxembourg is Bouneschlupp. It is a soup consisting of green beans and potatoes with bacon or pork sausage. Depending on which region you are in Luxembourg, the thick soup may vary to include carrots, celery, leeks, onions, milk and cream.
Many people in Luxembourg consider Rieslingspaschtéit, a meat pâté in dough, as a culinary tradition. Pâté is a common paste made from meat, which is spreaded on bread and often eaten with pickles. This log-shaped meat pie is made by encasing a coarse pork pâté or terrine in a Riesling-flavored aspic and then baked in pastry. Rieslingspaschteit is seen as the queen of pies in Luxembourg and you can find them in practically every bakery across the country. People enjoy this delicious and hearty pie served cold and sliced and, preferably, with a nice glass of Riesling.
Some may consider Judd mat Gaardebounen as the national food of Luxembourg. This hefty and heart-warming dish is smoked pork collar (Judd) with big fava beans (Gaardebounen). The recipe calls for the smoked pork neck to be soaked overnight in water. The next day, it is placed in a pot with vegetables and spices like bay leaves and cloves, and then cooked over low heat for several hours until it is soft and tender. When the meat is ready, it is cut into thick slices and placed on a bed of creamy broad beans and potatoes.
As our interview draws to a close, Madame Louise enthused, “Luxembourg is a small country. Our traditional food has evolved, and refined without losing its roots, it is still very much recognizable, but with a touch of new and maybe a little lighter.”
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.
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!
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 Rotgipfler, Zierfandler 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.
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.
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.