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Coffee in Thailand, Part 1

Michael Babcock, Monday, April 1st, 2013

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

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

Espresso Machine

Thai coffee making machine

Coffee

Cup of coffee

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

Sign Close-up

กาแฟสด (kafae sot) sign

(Click images to see larger version.)

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

Local Stands & Coffee Houses

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

Coffee Stand

Thong Lo coffee stand

Making Coffee

Thong Lo barista at work

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

Coffee Sign

Sonnen Cafe in Worarat Market

Thai Barista

Barista at Sonnen Cafe


Coffee Stand

Sukhothai coffee stand

Stand Close-up

Close-up of stand

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

Coffee Beans

Coffee beans in Sukhothai stand

Sukhothai Coffee

Blue Mountain Coffee


Coffee House

Before Sunset Coffee

Barista 2

Mae Hong Son barista

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

Coffee To Go

Caffe Latte at Before Sunset Coffee


Sign

Sign to Samut Prakan Cafe

Coffee Stand 2

Stand in Imperial World

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

Sign Close-up

กาแฟสด (kafae sot) sign

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

Cafe

Samut Prakan Coffee House

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


See also:


Written by Michael Babcock, April 2013

Donuts in Thailand, An Informal Survey

Michael Babcock, Friday, February 15th, 2013

This is a blog about donuts in Thailand. Over the years, I’ve observed donuts in a number of locations, from chain stores to open-air markets. This blog shows some of the donuts I’ve seen over the years.

Colorful Donuts

From a Bangkok open-air market

As I’ve observed before, there has been a proliferation of western carbohydrates in Thailand over the 21 years I’ve been coming here. (See my blog, in a new window, Western Carbs in Thailand.) Although Thai kanom (snacks) are relatively healthy (they nearly all contain a healthy ingredient such as coconut milk, squash, taro, etc.), some kanom wahn (sweet kanom) can be very sweet – some Thais do have a sweet tooth. (Also see my blog, in a new window, Thai Sweet Snacks.)

(Click images to see larger version.)

It would appears that donuts are fairly popular. In January 2011 we happened to be visiting Siam Paragon shopping center. We saw a line of perhaps 50 or 60 Thais, out the door, and wondered what the fuss was about. Turns out they were all lined up for Krispy Kreme donuts; we saw people walking away with two large boxes of donuts. I didn’t have my camera but you can see a photo of the phenomena at Krispy Kreme Opens in Bangkok | everythinghapa (opens in new page). Thais were still lining up half a year after the stores official opening. Certainly, this reflects the inroads in Thailand of Western food chains, something discussed at Indigenization of Thai Restaurants Overseas: Part 1 – American Fast Food Chains in Thailand.

Selling Snacks

"Hawker" with "donut holes"

These days you can find lots of donuts in any shopping center. There are inevitably a chain or two – Mr. Donut and Dunkin’ Donuts are popular – but you can also find donuts in the ground-floor supermarkets (found in every mall) as well as in the many stores (usually a dozen or more) selling western-style baked goods. You’ll find them in open-air markets, from vendors on the street and even from hawkers carrying two baskets suspended by a bamboo pole. As with the first picture above (taken at a Bangkok outdoor market in 2008), the donuts are often brightly glazed.

The Thais also have some snacks that are very reminiscent of donut holes. In Oakland we have donut savant (link goes to their Facebook page in new window), which makes the best donut holes around.

Thai Snack

A Thai snack

Inside a Snack

Inside the Thai snack

Here are two pictures of a “Thai donut hole.” I bought this snack from the hawker shown in the picture to the above right in Sukhothai. They reminded me of donut savant so I gave them a try. They were somewhat sweet (deep-fried and glazed) and contain a mung-bean filling, shown to the left, that is barely sweet. They weren’t bad!

Another Hawker

Hawker with 3 snacks

Glazed Donuts

Glazed donuts

Here are two pictures from Ayuthaya back in 2004. These donuts were sold by the hawker in the left picture. There are highly glazed donuts in the front basket and more traditional snacks in the back basket: the backmost (white) snack is a traditional snack rolled in coconut shreds, and the middle snack is a type of fried dough.

Sukhothai Donuts

Sukhothai Donuts

Tops Donuts #1

Tops Donuts #1

Above to the left are more glazed donuts from the morning market in Sukhothai. To the right, are some colorfully decorated donuts from the bakery at Tops Supermarket at MBK center in Bangkok.

Western & Thai

Western & Thai together

Mae Hong Son Donuts

Mae Hong Son Donuts

These pictures are both from the market in Mae Hong Son. The leftmost picture again (as with the hawker above) shows western and Thai snacks sold by the same person. The left tray has very tightly rolled donuts in back next to powdered jelly donuts in the front. The right trays show coconut pancakes (kanom krok) sold in banana leaf baskets: truly the traditional is meeting the modern here! The picture to the right shows deep-fried donuts, some with sesame seeds.

Donuts in a Bag

Donuts in plastic bags

Plain Donuts

Plain donuts in Mae Hong Son

These are also from the market in Mae Hong Son and show small donuts sold pre-packaged in a plastic bag – 8 for 10 baht (about 35 cents at the time)! I tried these donuts – each one was about two bites: they tasted just like a plain cake donut back in the states. Not bad.

I should note that like Sukhothai, this market is frequented mainly by locals with just a few tourists; it is certainly the locals who are the target audience for these supposedly western sweets.

Tops Donuts #2

From Tops Market

Tops Donuts #3

Unglazed Tops donuts

Here are two more pictures of the donuts available at Tops Supermarket at the MBK center in Bangkok. My, they do like highly frostinged donuts! The ones to the right are less sweet.

Mr. Donut

Mr. Donut in a shopping center

Mr. Donut's Donuts

Mr. Donut's Donuts

There’s a Mr. Donut in nearly every mall in Bangkok. This picture is from the Imperial World in Samrong (Samut Prakhan) on the edge of Bangkok. There’s a Mr. Donut on the lower and the ground floors. I also see that there’s a big sign on the main floor announcing that “Dunkin’ Donuts is coming soon!”


See also (all open in a new window):


Written by Michael Babcock, February 2013

Thailand Trip – Favorite Moments, Part 2

Michael Babcock, Friday, July 6th, 2012

Kasma Loha-unchit’s small-group trips to Thailand offer many special and unique experiences. Here are some more of my favorite moments from her 19-day trip of Bangkok, central and northern Thailand. It is a continuation of my recent blog, Thailand Trip – Favorite Moments, Part 1

(Click images to see larger version.)

Resort Staff

The resort staff

Mae Hong Son Resort: Kasma’s trips to the north (including her 28-day Trip A and 19-day Trip B) spend several days in Mae Hong Son, both in the city and around the province. It’s a somewhat isolated city, up in the northwest corner of Thailand near Burma, and the Burmese influence is obvious (particularly in many of the temples). Mae Hong Son is notable, in part, for its large hill tribe population, mainly Lisu and Karen (pronounced “Gu-rian”). I love the resort where we stay. It’s nestled in amongst rice fields and is a peaceful, lovely place to spend 4 nights. Most of the staff there are Karen hill tribe women and their friendliness is much of the fun of staying here; we get to benefit from the many years Kasma has been on her tours and formed lasting relationships with people all over Thailand. We use this lovely resort for our command center as we spend the days exploring Mae Hong Son.
Mae Hong Son Resort

View from our room

Resort Sunset

Sunset at the resort

Many of the rooms have lovely views of the rice fields, such as the one above from our room last year. There’s a lovely area called the “Rice Terrace” where you can order a drink and sit and watch lovely sunsets, such as this one above.


Rice Field Walk

‘Rice field’ walk

Rice Field Walk, Mae Hong Son Province: On Kasma’s trips we’re often lucky enough to end up on excursions not planned in the itinerary. While staying in Mae Hong Son, we always take one day to go up the (extremely) windy roads to the little town of Ban Rak Thai (see below). This past year some activity in the fields directly off the road caught our eye. Kasma stopped the vans and off we went on a ‘rice field’ walk – though at that time of the year I believe it was soy beans. It was great fun, wandering through the fields on raised mounds in-between the crops, crossing over a rickety bridge, really just a few sticks of bamboo, over a stream, and meeting farmers and a woman resting in her home, right amongst the fields.
Crossing a Bridge

Crossing a bridge

Thai Farmer

Spreading straw


To the left we see the bridge we needed to cross on our impromptu excursion. The farmer on the right is spreading straw in-between the rows of crops.


Tea Tasting

Tea tasting

Ban Rak Thai – บ้านรักไทย: Ban Rak Thai literally means “Village Love Thailand.” It’s a little village nestled up at the top of Mae Hong Son Province about a kilometer from the Myanmar border. (Show in Google Maps.) The village was founded by ex-Kuomintang soldiers from Yunnan province who had to leave China when the Communists took over. The Thai government allowed them to settle here where they began growing tea and eventually became Thai citizens: the name “Love Thailand Village” reflects their gratefulness to Thailand for taking them in.

One nice thing about the village is that it will never be heavily-touristed: the road is too steep and winding for the big tour buses. Even in our mini-vans, we stop at one point on the way back down to allow the brakes to cool off.

Chinese Feast

Chinese feast

After reaching the town, we go to Gee Lee, the original and best of the tea-houses and restaurants. We start out by sampling (and buying) several kinds of tea: Oolong teas, green teas and a ginseng-infused tea.

We then have a Yunnan-style feast; and I do mean feast! There are delicious pork dishes, including skin-on, stewed pork leg (succulent and rich) and a tasty pork-belly dish. There’s a whole, fried fish, soup and a fresh tea leaf salad. The dishes in the picture are (clockwise from left), buns (to be eaten with pork leg), stewed pork leg, pork belly and an appetizer platter with sour pork sausage, thousand-year old eggs, egg rolls, pork ribs and cashews. After eight delicious dishes, we were well-gruntled indeed!


Thai View

Thai view

Drive from Mae Hong Son to Pai: Another strength of Kasma’s trips is that we drive pretty much everywhere. Not only do you get to see some beautiful scenery, you get a better sense of the country. Mae Hong Son province, in particular, is quite lovely and people who fly into Mae Hong Son city miss the scenic beauty. On one of the routes from Chiang Mai (via Mae Sariang) there are 1864 curves: a fact trumpeted on t-shirts you can buy in the markets. On our return from Mae Hong Son we travel via Pai and see some of the prettiest scenery in Thailand. We stop at a vista point where we saw the lovely view to our left. Along the way we stop at another place selling green tea and, if we’re lucky, also find delicious, fresh-grilled sour-sausage at the same stop.

Lisu Girls

Lisu girls

At one stop with fabulous views, we came across these Lisu girls, dressed in traditional garb, available to be photographed, for a fee. On this last trip, they approached Kasma and asked for a few baht and she told them: “I’ve already been to a village where I’ve taken plenty of pictures.” When they didn’t believe her, she showed them the images on the back of her digital camera. She asked if they’d like to have her bring them their photographs next year. The next thing we knew, they were enthusiastically throwing themselves in the air for us to photograph. And they will get their pictures this coming year when we pass that way again.


Wat Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai: Thailand is a Buddhist country and we visit many temples on our trip. One of my favorites is Wat Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai. It is said that if you don’t visit Doi Suthep, you haven’t really been to Chiang Mai. We spend a morning at the temple, seeing all the Buddha statues, the bustling activity and the Thai people offering incense and walking clockwise around the main chedi (the Thai word for stupa).
Doi Suthep

Buddha statues

Drink Vendor

Passionfruit juice vendor

To the left we see some of the Buddha statues that circle the main chedi. The vendor to the right is actually found at the very base of the temple before you enter the compound. She’s selling unsweetened passion fruit juice with the seed included. It’s a sour drink, quite refreshing.


Thai Dips

Two Thai dips

Kaeng Ron Baan Suan Restaurant in Chiang Mai: It’s not really possible to have a list of favorite moments from Kasma’s trip without including one of the many Thai feasts we enjoy. There are so many memorable ones; which one to choose? My favorite Restaurant in Chiang Mai is Kaeng Ron Baan Suan Restaurant – ร้านอาหารแกงร้อนบ้านสวน – literally “Hot Curry Garden.” It’s in a lovely garden setting; we usually go for lunch when it’s a bit less crowded. It has a number of northern specialties that we don’t find anywhere else.

The picture to the left shows a platter with various vegetables, sausages and fried pork skin with two dipping sauces. The green one to the left is Naam Prik Num – Northern Thai Roasted Young Green Chilli Dip; it is made with roasted green chillies and is very, very hot indeed. The reddish one to the right is Naam Prik Ong, a pork-based sauce.

Catfish Dish

Catfish dish

Another dish that is done very well here is Charcoal-Grilled Catfish, “Sweet Fish Sauce” and Neem Leaves (Sadao Nam Plah Wan Pla Duk Yang). It’s a dish you will also find as street food. It starts out with succulent grilled catfish, still tender and moist in the middle. It’s eaten with lightly boiled neem leaves, which, eaten by themselves, are very, very bitter. The sauce is a sweet and also sour and spicy mixture of shallots fried crispy in oil, tamarind, dried chillies and palm sugar. Eaten individually, each of these three components are fairly mundane. Put them together and you’ve got a wonderful explosion of flavors in your mouth – spicy-hot, savory, sweet, sour and bitter all at once, with varying textures from the neem, fish and sauce. It is Thai food at its very, very best. (There’s a good Bangkok Past article that includes information on this dish: On your marks get set go slow, by Suthon Sukphisit.)


Carved Dragon

Craved dragon

Lanna Wood Carving Museum in Chiang Mai: I’ll conclude with a bonus picture from a wood carving museum – Ban Roi An Phan Yang Museum – located at Chiang Mai-Sanpatong Road between kilometers 19 and 20. This museum is the labor of love of a Thai man, Charoui Na Soonton, who has collected numerous wood carvings to be displayed in his Lanna-style house. Walking through the museum, you walk through a warren of rooms filled with intricate carvings that leave you gasping in amazement. There are many bas-relief carvings from the Ramakien (the Thai version of the Ramayana), Buddha statues, elephants, goddesses, demons and more. It’s another one of those sites where Kasma goes that would be difficult to discover on your own; luckily, she’s found them all for us.

See How to Get There.


See also:


To see photos of Trip B, go to our trip exploration page and follow the links.


Written by Michael Babcock, July 2012

Mae Hong Son Breakfast

Michael Babcock, Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Whenever we’re in Mae Hong Son we head to a small shop by the morning market for our breakfast. Found on the small by-street leading into the market, it’s run by a friendly Vietnamese family and has several excellent choices to start out the day. As another plus, they make fresh-brewed coffee that is very good.

Kasma with Owner

Kasma and the restaurant Owner

The Mae Hong Son morning market is lively, colorful and fun; it’s definitely a blog for another day. Several online sites say it is found on Sihanatbamrung road near Wat Hua Wiang; When I loook at the map of Mae Hong Son it appears to me to be right off Nivet Pisan Rd. This restaurant is on one of the little alleys leading into the market, off Nivat Pisan Road (also transliterated as Nivespisan), as far as I can tell. There’s a bank on the left as you look from the street to the market entry with an archway over the alley: check out the pictures at the bottom of the page.

I’m going to include pictures of our favorite breakfast foods here and show the exterior and interior of the restaurant at the bottom of the page.

(Click images to see larger version.)

Vietnamese Eggs

Eggs, Vietnamese Style - Kai Gata - ไข่กะทะ

Close-up of Dish

Vietnamese Eggs (Kai Gata - ไข่กะทะ)

I call these Vietnamese Eggs, or Eggs, Vietnamese Style, because I’ve only had them in Vietnamese-run restaurants in Thailand, in Mae Hong Son and also in the Northeast. In Thai they are called Kai Gata – ไข่กะทะ. As you see in the photos, it consists of two fried eggs topped with sweet (the red) sausage, Vietnamese sausage, ground pork and green onions. It’s served with a bun with more sweet sausage. It’s a good, meaty breakfast.

Noodle Dish

Noodle Dish - Kway Chap

Rice Porridge

Rice Porridge - Johk

Kway Chap – ก๋วยจั๊บ – (note, Thai spelling does not display correctly with the font I have) is a type of noodle; it’s a flat noodle that curls up so that it looks like tubes when served. At this shop it is usually served with pork innards; this is a bowl that Kasma ordered for a trip member without the innards, though it does have pork blood. The innards are quite delicious and super healthy. The rice porridge (congee, or johk – โจ๊ก) can also be ordered with the innards.

Pad See Ew

Stir-fried Noodles - Pad See Ew - ผัดซีอิ้ว

Fresh Brewed Coffee

Fresh Brewed Coffee

The Stir-fried Noodles, or Pad See Ew – ผัดซีอิ้ว – are made with wide, fresh rice noodles. You can get them with pork or chicken. They make a very good fresh-brewed coffee here. The picture shows Kafee Sohd Rawn – กาเเฟสดร้อน – literally, “hot, fresh, coffee.” You can also get Kafee Sohd Yen – กาเเฟสดเย็น – yen meaning cold. Each cup is brewed to order. It is served “Thai style,” meaning it comes with a glass of tea as a chaser for the rich, dark coffee.

Condiment Set

Condiment set

Tangerine Juice

Tangerine Juice

Of course, you can add and balance flavors, as at any noodle shop in Thailand. To the left is the collection of condiments on the table. (See Michael’s blog on Thai Condiment Sets.) Also available, and shown to the right, is fresh-squeezed “Orange Juice” – nam som – น้ำส้ม. I put it in quotes because their orange is really more like a tangerine. Whatever you call it, this drink is very, very good: it is pure, unadulterated, unsweetened fruit juice. Very tasty and delicious.

Breakfast Shop

Front of restaurant

Restaurant Cart

Front of restaurant

This is our breakfast restaurant to the left. It’s right next to a store selling books and newspapers on its left; the store on the right is selling clothing. Look for the cart in the right-hand picture; the cart has a picture in the center of coffee with pictures of the the specialties of the restaurant in the 4 corners (click to see a larger image).

Street View

View towards the street

Restaurant

Inside looking out

The leftmost picture shows the view looking from just past the restaurant (which is towards the left, look for the stand) toward the street. You can see the archway in the middle of the picture. The right hand picture shows the view from the back of the restaurant looking toward front alley. It’s a very typical Thai store-front restaurant.

Menu 1

Menu with specialties

Menu 2

Another menu

These are the menus found on the wall of the restaurant. The blue menu (to the left) has the specialties: from the top down they are Vietnamese Eggs (kai gata), toast (kanom bang), Pork Blood (leuak moo), kway chap noodles, rice porridge (johk), fresh-brewed coffee, Nescafe and Ovaltine. The red menu, except for the bottom two items, are either fried rice dishes or dishes served over rice. We’ve never ordered rice dishes here: just the special items. I always have a hard time choosing: everything is done very well, indeed.


Written by Michael Babcock, 2012

Stewed Pork Leg (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Stewed Pork Leg Served over Rice

Pork Leg

Stewed pork leg

Kasma is currently in Thailand and I’m at home in the U.S. When she recently sent me this picture I got so hungry for pork leg that I had to cook it for myself.

This picture was taken on a recent tour to Thailand in the village of Bahn Rak Thai in Mae Hong Son province. The village was settled by Chinese expatriates who now grow tea. Kasma takes two of her trips up this village for a wonderful Chinese-style feast. This delicious, skin-on stewed pork leg is just one of the delicious dishes served.

Kasma teaches this recipe in her Advanced class E-2.


The Wednesday Photo is a new picture each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Three Karen Ladies (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Three Karen Ladies in Mae Hong Son

Karen Ladies

Karen ladies

This three ladies work at the resort where Kasma has her tours stay each year in Mae Hong Son. Nothing like a friendly smile to make you feel welcome! The Karen (pronounced “Gu-rian”) are one of the hilltribes found in Thailand.


The Wednesday Photo is a new picture each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.//www.thai