As I mentioned in my previous post, I used to live here in Phuket Town Thailand back in 2011, for about 8 months. This was a transformative time for me because it was at that point in my life, I really started the ritual of cooking for myself on a daily basis and actually enjoying it. In previous years, I became a slave to the food delivery game in New York City, because let’s face it, it’s so damn easy! I never really thought out a weeks worth of meals, and cooking wasn’t anything I remotely considered enjoyable. Then, when I left to travel South East Asia in 2009, I became just like any other backpacker- at the mercy of street food, whatever was cheap and delicious, and easy to come by. Not always the healthiest options are had when you’ve been on a 12 hour bus ride and you just need ANYTHING in your belly. Once I slowed down and staying in one place (Phuket Town) for a decent amount of time, I decided I badly needed to overhaul my relationship with food and take complete control of what went into my body. Let’s face it. 99.9% of what you’ll find to eat in Thailand is delicious, but there’s always going to be that question mark of ingredients, cooking oils, etc etc. That’s when I started making daily runs to the local farmers market in the center of town.
So during this current trip, I thought I’d go back with a camera and give you all a glimpse at where I used to do the bulk of my business and document what the food shopping process is like for most Thais. Yes, there are certainly tons of western style super markets, and they are (sadly in my opinion) becoming more and more popular with the upper and middle class. The down side to this is the influx of processed foods into a culture that’s eating style and recipes don’t call for it. All sorts of western foods are now the norm in Thai people’s diet, such as chips, processed meats, instant noodle cups, and dairy products. This is responsible for a sky rocketing increase in obesity and health issues never before seen in Thailand.
But I digress, the good part is that many many many families still rely heavily on the local market to do their own cooking, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Especially since most of Thailand is still rural and doesn’t have proximity to the big supermarkets.
The market I used to frequent the most is the Phuket Central Market. It’s certainly not the biggest or busiest, but it gives a good representation what Thai’s buy and eat regularly.
Fresh veggies make up the majority of what’s for sale, as it should be! Here you can spot sprouts, cucumber, basil, Thai eggplant (what you normally find in green curry) Chinese kale, long green beans, and some daikon.
Different species of squash,tomatoes, peppers, fresh black pepper, and limes.
Traditionally, Thais shop for their food on a daily basis, so there are stations where you can buy cut up stir-fry materials all ready to throw into the wok! So convenient.
Its hard to tell the scale of these broad beans, but they were MASSIVE! at least a foot or two long.
One of my favorite things about being in Thailand is the abundance of tropical fruit, and the cheap price tag that comes along with it. It’s currently mango season, and let me tell you, you’ve not tasted heaven until you’ve had a perfectly ripe Thai mango. Nothing from Central/South America even comes close. Eating one is like eating pure candy.
The same goes for young Thai coconuts. I’ve drank fresh coconut juice from I think, 13 different countries now. NOTHING compares. There’s a reason why all I buy back home is Harmless Harvest …which comes straight from Thailand, unprocessed. I’m spoiled for life!
What is this prehistoric looking object you say? It’s the infamous Durian fruit. I have to admit, I’ve never actually tasted any, the smell is absolutely revolting. Like hot garbage. Hotels and public spaces have signs up everywhere warning that there’s “No durian allowed”! That’s how smelly it is, but alas, it’s a delicacy here. I will make a point to try some before I leave this time around though!
Moving along into the area most recognizable in Thai cooking, the spice section!
It takes a lot of ingredients to make fresh curry paste! Food stall owners will make their own in the morning and you can buy as much as you want. Saves time and money! Thai cuisine is so flavorful and complex because the objective is to always incorporate 5 characteristics into any recipe: sweet, sour, spicy, salty and bitter. I feel like cooking Thai authentically is so difficult because it takes a ton of practice to get this concept right and balance all these elements properly.
Pounds and pounds of dried shrimps and fish. If this grosses you out but you love Thai food, you better check yourself! All sorts of this stuff goes into that curry you love, whether you know it or not!
All sorts of bean and nut varieties.
How gorgeous are these pastel colored eggs?! The farmer must have several hen species.
Aside from shopping, the market is ideal for finding adorable children to photograph. How refreshing to see children playing outside with ‘Play-Doh” and not in front of a parent’s iPad?!
There’s usually lots of food stall selling ready made snacks too. Corn on the cob…not Paleo friendly, but still pretty.
And where ever there’s food in Thailand, there’s animals! Trying to see if this kitty is interested in some chicken satay.
Not so much, so I fed it to this sweetheart (p.s. I miss my dog!) The abundance of street dogs in Thailand is a hard thing to swallow at first. But I try to look on the bright side, and think that after all the years of my travels through developing nations, even with the increased likelihood of health problems and everything else a feral animal faces, they genuinely seem happier than domesticated animals who are riddled with depression and anxiety from being cooped up, under-exercised and mentally under-stimulated. If this is an issue that pulls at your heart strings (as it does mine) THIS is a wonderful charity and works to improve the lives of Soi (Thai word for “alley”) dogs in Thailand. Go sponsor a dog or make a donation to help them continue their wonderful work!
Gotta keep out that intense Thai sun from spoiling the food!
If you visit Thailand, I HIGHLY recommend straying from your beach resort (if that’s the speed your at and not a backpacker). Wandering out into a real market to witness the way the locals conduct their day to day lives is the perfect way to get a real sense of authentic culture, no mater which country you’re visiting. I’d recommend visiting a Thai market in the morning before vendors run out of the best produce and such. If you’d like to visit this one, here’s directions!
Phuket Town Central Market
Ranong Rd. off off Yaowarat Rd
Phuket Town, Thailand
I should have a new recipe up soon, from the items I purchased during this visit. Stay tuned!