All posts by Tony

Pretty. Tasteless.

Hey Dan,

For my sins – and they must have been pretty big sins – my better half has taken to watching Masterchef of late. Yep. We’re inflicted with Australian Masterchef here in Thailand too. (Apparently it’s one of India’s highest-rating shows as well, so if a contestant of Indian heritage manages to stay on the island longer than he deserves…well, there’s your answer).

Anyway, yesterday’s challenge was to bake a cake. Not just any cake. But a cake of absurd dimensions, and one wearing one of Carmen Miranda’s hats on top too, the task of replicating which the contestants were given 4.5 hours to complete.

Apparently the bloke with the beard who is the mastermind behind said cake is some sort of legend in Australia. But as I don’t live there, I don’t give a toss. Arguably the same would be true if I did live there.

The cake – which seemed to be roughly the proportions of a standard bucket – looked pretty enough to be honest. But then they decided to cut it. And of course that was easier said than done with a 50cm-high cylinder of cake – they had to take a knife the size of a sword and slice away at its edges, then divide it up so everybody could have a taste of every one of the different-flavoured layers (of which there seemed to be half a dozen or so) and then scrape some of the décor off the top. End result? A plate of mush. Nice.

Now it’s not that there weren’t some nice-sounding elements to the cake, but I did wonder why we needed the kitchen-sink approach.

It struck me – as does Masterchef in general – that everything that is wrong with the current restaurant trade is being celebrated here.

Taste is rather a difficult concept to communicate via television, so in its stead we get visual presentation. Masterchef is merely a moving-picture version of Instagram, albeit with absurdly concocted and highly repetitive ‘drama’ to keep us watching.


While I’m perfectly happy to avoid drama in a restaurant, I am getting a bit tired of prettily-presented plates without any substance. You know, those minor culinary concerns like aromas and flavours.

Don’t get me wrong. Presentation is important – it is that first impression that can be hard to shake. It’s why you wear a tie to the office, rather than a tutu.

But here’s the thing: It isn’t the tie that does the job. If the bloke in the tutu is the best at what he does, and the guy in the tie is completely incompetent then eventually that’s what is going to be remembered.

And that, thanks to Masterchef and Instagram, is what we’re getting these days – we’re getting the guy in the tie/the girl in the pretty dress – but then when we taste the food, too often we realize that he’s a dope and she’s brainless.

They’re all show.

There’s no substance there.

It’s not a beauty contest folks. It’s food.

Let’s try to put the cameras away, and remember that flavours are important too, and maybe, just maybe, the whole industry won’t disappear up its own backside – a direction is seems to be racing, headlong.

World’s Best Bumpf


I thought you might be interested in this: It’s the World’s Best Tree!

No. Not the best example of this species of tree. Not the best species of tree.

The. World’s. Best. Tree.

This decision was made by a committee of appointed experts, without any apparent judging criteria, and that may or may not award second place to a tree in a different country – for a bit of variety, you know – after a ‘normalisation process’ is applied to the voting data.

Makes you want to visit the World’s Best Trees, just to post on social media, doesn’t it?

If you’re a sucker for this sort of thing, we had the announcement of Asia’s Best Restaurants recently. Fully nine of them are in my adopted home-town, but they include one that I’ll never visit again because it was so average, and another that…well, maybe, but only after a bit of arm-twisting.

It makes for headlines though. And it’s a great marketing tool for those appearing on the list. But I think it’d be better known as Asia’s 50 Hardest Restaurants to get a Booking For Now. Fortunately there are plenty of others worth trying that aren’t having the joy sucked out of them by serious foodies with their Instagram devices.

It is good motivation for me to get out and discover some others, at least.

You’re on track to see the launch of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants soon in your neck of the woods: Melbourne, April 5 – mark it in your calendar.

Read all about it in The Age here.

I’m rather impressed that the futility of the exercise was noted in the story: “Despite the absurdity of attempting to compare and rank millions of restaurants around the world the brilliant simplicity of the list made it an instant hit.”

It’s restaurant reviewing for the simple-minded social media generation! We’ve seen how well dumbing things down goes for American presidential elections, so now let’s ruin the restaurant industry too. And if the sheer number of wannabe Ferran Adrias ruining my dining enjoyment with their ill-advised foams and mismatched ingredients is any indication, it’s already happening. Picasso’s suggestion that you need to ‘Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,’ clearly applies in the kitchens of the world too, though it’s a shame so few aspiring chefs seem to agree.

But it is hard to argue with numbers: When the event was held in New York, it apparently “resulted in over US$73 million worth of coverage with a reach of 13,476,821,864.” Impressive, galaxy-wide coverage then, reaching nearly twice the world’s population? Does E.T. agree it’s finger-licking-good? Or just more marketing bumpf? I’ll let you decide – but remember 13b people/visiting aliens can’t be wrong.

In the meantime the World’s Best Elbow belongs to…

Reds, Whites, and Why I Have the Blues

Hey Dan,

Thanks to my *favourite* local supermarket (take a bow Tops ) I received an invitation to the second annual ‘Bordeaux Rendez-vous’ – a little tasting of 93 wines from Grand Cru producers in the region, with retail prices ranging from BHT1,420 (A$54) to BHT12,660 (A$478) a bottle.

I didn’t quite manage to get to all 93, but as indicated by the pricing there were a range of styles and quality on display. Highlights to my mind included a 2005 Château d’Issan (yours for a mere BHT10,530), a 2006 Château d’Armailhac (a snip at BHT6,130 – though to be fair, their château appears to be half-price too), and there was something utterly sensational when I first arrived that may or may not have been a 2006 Domaine de Chevalier (for BHT8,050), but I can’t remember exactly – serves me right for not taking notes as I did last year…

There were a few disappointments too, though had I been a man with a plan, I would have started with the more affordable wines and moved up from there. Also, as I’m not one of the fabled 1% who can afford extensive cellaring facilities (ahem), I found myself in a bit of a pickle – my limited climate-controlled space is reasonably fully stocked with rather nice Australian and Spanish reds right now (whites are definitely in short supply, but I’m not about to fix that with Bordeaux) – so no new purchases.

I did, however, have a few interesting discussions with the winemakers on hand.

Corks were one thing. Or 93 things, actually. Nothing so gauche as a Stelvin in sight here. One winemaker told me that the extra-long French corks he uses set him back €2.50 each – and that nothing could replace the sound of it being removed, nor the smell. He confided that his family also owns a winery in South Africa, and they do put their whites under screw caps, but not the reds.

I’d reckon that if you’re paying this much for wine, a screw cap adds just a little extra piece of mind. Still, it could be worse: the same guy told me that he had won a bet with his father, and the prize was a bottle of Romanée-Conti  (a bottle for which you’ll be lucky to get change from US$10k) and it was corked!

The other comment that took me by surprise was that “wine is all about marketing.”

The cynic in me thinks everything is about marketing these days, so it came as a surprise to hear someone with a Troisièmes Cru, or third growth ranking dating back to 1855 could sound so cynical – and disappointed – about it too.

But then, maybe he has a point. Even if he reduced his yield to two grapes per hectare and produced two bottles of perfect wine in a good vintage, he will always be a Troisièmes Cru. It almost seems a disincentive to invest. And the same could be said of the Premiers Crus: They’re going to sell every bottle they make anyway, so do they really need to try harder?

I guess that wine can also be a Veblen good.

That said, I’m happy to  trust my palate. I may never taste Romanée-Conti, but I’m not convinced I appreciate Burgundy enough to truly appreciate it – I could try a bottle of very good wine a day for a year for a similar price as a single bottle – even at Thai prices. That is surely a better plan, no?

Barcelona part 1…of many

Hey Dan,

Well it’s that Barcelona time again, and that means food. Seriously good food.

In three nights and an extra day of marathon dining we got to Tickets, Bar del Pla, Restaurant Arume, and Cuines Santa Caterina before collapsing in an overstuffed heap. My double cheeseburger at Caravelle for lunch before even starting was probably not my best idea. But it is a good burger…maybe there’s a post on the casual dining scene later.

So first things first: Tickets. Here you have the Adrià brothers post El Bulli, so of course it is a foodie Mecca. Strangely, San Pellegrino only ranks it 42nd best restaurant in the world, but then that list is so flawed it is almost a joke.

What it does mean is that you’re lucky to get a seat at Tickets. Every day at midnight they open a day two months hence and if you’re online on their booking system  at that moment, and can figure out how the system works, you may just get a seat. This meant waking up at 5:00am on a Sunday morning in Bangkok. For you Australians life gets a bit easier.

I managed to secure a table for four at the very Spanish time of 9:30pm.

The first surprise is that Tickets is not some dimly-lit establishment with starched tablecloths, starched waiters and starched customers. The entrance looks like a theatre, the waiters are in ringmaster uniform, the lights are bright, and the place is buzzing. The nose-snubbing at formality is capped-off with a wall of Japanese waving cats behind the bar.

You get the idea that the Adriàs want to put on a performance, and that even the dullest foodies who are there to check the place off a list will get swept along with it.

You can choose your tapas a la carte, but the menu is so extensive that we just went with the kitchen’s suggestions.

Wine-wise the selection is not quite as extensive as you’d expect of a joint on the San Pellegrino list – then again, that list is pretty inconsistent in this regard too – but that’s okay as I’m on the steep part of the learning curve with Spanish wine, and am finding the reds from the Ribera del Duero region almost failsafe. Can’t remember what I ordered, but it was good, befitting the 50€ pricetag – that is at the expensive end from what I’ve seen so far.

But you’re not here for the wine: the food’s the star.


The first item to arrive looked like a cake – two bright red confections with cream between, and served on a cake plate. Turns out it was some featherweight beetroot meringue filled with horseradish cream, sliced into four at the table and meant to be eaten with fingers. Not your average start, and a sign of things to come.

The imagination that the kitchen displays is something else, and in ten or so courses the only real miss was a vodka-infused pear that looked like a urinal lolly, and my dining companions suggested this is what a urinal puck may taste like too. Odd.


Otherwise the relentless flow of dishes was superb. The tuna sashimi on a lime meringue stood out, as did the octopus, which was so good we ordered a second round.


The entire show ended on the third desert with some chocolate ice cream made at the table in a mortar and pestle and a jug of liquid nitrogen – again with the show.


In terms of creativity of cuisine, I’m blown away that San Pellegrino only ranks Tickets at number 42 – I’ve eaten at places higher on the list that don’t even come close. Then again, it is one of seven Spanish restaurants that make the list, and there must be pressure to spread out the prizes geographically, though perhaps not so far as Australia, which gets by with just the one…

The fact that it isn’t stuffy fine-dining probably works against it a bit in this arena too.

I’m less worried about that. The fine-dining rigmarole (and the serious foodies it often attract) can suck the joy right out of a meal. At tickets you get the happy informality of a corner tapas joint, with creativity of cuisine that is rare. Very rare.

It is a truly compelling combination.

Check out more Barcelona restaurant reviews (and more) at

High Steaks


Don’t you hate it when you’re not in on a secret?

For quite some time now, I’ve been on the lookout for a really good place in Bangkok for steak. But here’s the problem: What I don’t want is a ‘steakhouse’, or, heaven forbid, an American version thereof.

What I mean is a place that does the French bistro staple – steak frites.

Now I appreciate there should be less meat in my diet, but that only means that when I do have it, I want it to be good. Not big (refer to my disdain for American steakhouses). Not faddish (Wagyu, this means you). Just good.

Flavourful. Well-cooked (as in rare to medium rare). And tender (though this is somewhat overrated when people write about steak).

So it annoys me to discover that there is a French restaurant within walking distance from home that has apparently been there for years; that does pretty fabulous steak frites; and even has champagne by the glass for less than US$10, which is unheard-of in this town.

It’s so old school that it doesn’t have an official web page or social media presence.

Welcome to Indigo French Restaurant & Bar.

The arrival is typically Bangkok, in that the place is along a messy side-soi, but what you find is a rather lovely old house with a courtyard set with tables out the front. I’d have chosen the courtyard, but every table was set with an ashtray, so I knew that would be a mistake. And sure enough, a fat bald bloke was polluting the atmosphere with a cigar as we departed. Cigars are just so glamorous, don’t you think?

In any case, the interior is pleasant enough, despite the bar, which I suspect was shipped from France and reassembled on site in 1972.

The service is old-school too, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We were actually delivered our aperitifs before the meal, for instance. But old-school in the sense that your steak tartare is prepared tableside. (I didn’t look, but I bet they do crêpes Suzette at the table too). It’s that kind of place.

The menu is big physically, which meant trying to avoid treating the place setting – replete with arguably too much stemware – like tenpins, and in the sense that there was just too many options from which to choose.

Steak frites is an easy enough choice, however. And it was a choice we’d been hankering after, it being Good Friday and all. A decent enough wine list offered a Pomerol at a price that didn’t make me wince, which is a surprise in Bangkok too.

So, it was a good night all-round, and my new go-to place in Bangkok for steak has been found.

Do I know the provenance of the steak? Actually no. I hope it was from somewhere like the image above: cows that have eaten grass while living comfortably in the French countryside. American steakhouse fans should note that their ‘grain fed’ cows are penned in to disgusting enclosures and fed grains that they’ve not evolved to eat in order to fatten them up quickly. It is as close as you can get to industrial steak production short of this and I really don’t want either.

And as for health. This long, but well-considered piece hits most of today’s food neuroses right in the nose with some well deserved blows. It does, at first, suggest that the secret is: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” So maybe a steak is not a great idea. But it does point out that the French survive on a diet of saturated fat and alcohol and are generally healthier than both nutrition-obsessed and nutrition-oblivious Americans. So an occasional steak frites and a bottle of red is something I’m treating as a health tonic.





Will the pop-up pop off?



I stopped by a pop-up pizza joint in the Silom area in Bangkok recently. Not a bad pizza, though running out of fresh tomatoes and onions in a pizza joint seems a little out of order – I’m calling it teething troubles.

But making a proper pizza in a wood-fired pizza oven mounted in the back of a truck isn’t such a bad idea – even if the ingredients are mostly imported.

This lack of local produce should kill any claim Pizza Massilia may have to being a hipster business – any self-respecting hipster joint sources ingredients locally, didn’t you know? – that and the fact that it is a joint venture by a couple of Bangkok’s brand-name chefs.

Hardly livin’ the hipster dream then.

But just as the whole hipster look was easily appropriated from elsewhere, the hipster image can just as easily be appropriated by any corporate entity. MacDonald’s is already giving it a shot.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the food at Pizza Massilia, and for a parking lot it is an awfully attractive setting, but it does raise the question about why it isn’t in an actual building. There is not going to be any business conducted at all if it happens to rain, and rents are hardly at Singapore levels in this town (less than a third, in fact, so if you ever wondered why a coffee in Singapore requires a mortgage, the ‘landlord tax’ may well be the answer).

But the hipster trend may offer an answer to why a pop-up is actually a good idea.

Last year Alex Proud wrote a piece in The Telegraph about being ‘Shoreditched’; the UK version of Brooklyn or whatever other area around the world has been taken over by the bearded set and the process that entails:

“You find a previously unnoticed urban neighbourhood, ideally one that’s a bit down on its luck. Pioneer hipsters move in and coolhunters ensure it starts trending on Twitter. A year later, the mainstream media notices and, for the next 12 months, the neighbourhood is byword for urban cool. Soon property prices soar pushing the original residents out, the bankers (always a trailing indicator) begin to move in and a Foxtons opens. Finally, the New York Times runs a piece in which it “discovers” the area and the cycle is complete. The last hipsters move on and find a new neighbourhood to play with.”

So if you’ve actually got a hipster business – or even one that looks like a hipster business – it helps if you can relocate it easily enough to the next trending neighbourhood. And a pop-up is perfect for that.

In Bangkok nailing down the cool areas is rather difficult – they seem to change from one month to another, so not quite enough time for the New York Times to ‘discover’ it.

But there is one thing that the pop-up trend in Bangkok has failed to notice, and that’s the fact that just about every street in this town features a pop-up restaurant or two, or twenty.

pop up

Not a pop-up, apparently

My local corner restaurant is set up and completely pulled down and carted away six days a week. The greater irony is that they’re probably using local ingredients too (they’re cheaper, after all). All they need are beards and fixies and they’re set.

Until the next trend arrives.

In the meantime pop-ups are the height of fashion, and hawkers are not. Go figure.








Mango Mania


Being on a health kick of late, there’s a lot of fruit on the menu. I’m pretty good with that as a concept, particularly because we have so much good fruit available. Forget the sad cut fruit on your hotel’s breakfast buffet – there’s a world of fantastic fruit available in Thailand.

I don’t know about you, but mangos are pretty much at the top of my list. I know things have changed in Australia, where mangoes were once only a special Christmastime treat, but Thailand takes that extended season further, and we have them pretty much year-round. Thailand apparently produces more than two million tons of mangoes annually, and I’m doing my best to keep that number up.

You’d think that’d make me sick of them, but I am genuinely happy to eat mango every day. There’s a little market in the mornings on the Lumpini corner where our local restaurant sets up for the evenings, and a vendor there usually has two choices of mango – a sweet one, probably the local Nam Dok Mai variety, and a green one for salads.

The supermarket often has a wider choice of the local elongated varieties, some of them more than a kilo each! A smaller one that’s in season now is a hybrid between a Sunset and a local Thai variety that goes by Maha Chanok. They smell so sweet that it is like having a bouquet of flowers in the house, and worth it for that alone, which is good, because the better half reckons the taste is not that great and they’re a little stringy.

Another one with a super sweet aroma led me through the market by my nose to what looked like a Bowen mango, but instead one that goes by the rather romantic name R2E2. You could assume it was cultivated by a Star Wars fan, but apparently it was from Row 2 Experiment 2 at the Queensland Government’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Bowen research station.

It’s one of those rounded plump mangoes, with non-stringy, sweet and flavourful flesh. Amazing the difference from the slightly tarter local varieties. When I found a grafted R2E2 tree at a market in Samui last year I snapped it up.

My R2D2. Years before it fruits though…

And there’s another reason to love mangoes: while everything else in the garden is shriveling up after a month without rain, the mangoes are powering ahead. They seriously look as though they’re dormant for most of the year, and then when the conditions get hot and dry, shazam: loads of fresh growth. Love it.

I’m obviously a few years away from picking my own fruit, and am experimenting with sprouting some other seeds in the meantime, but hopefully one day in the near future I’ll have a nice extended home-grown mango season. In the meantime, it’s not as though I’m starving.

Beer snacks part 2

Hey Dan,

Spain and Portugal

Of course we do

Beer snacks you say? After two weeks in Portugal and Spain I think I can say these guys have a handle on beer snacks – especially the Spanish.

Okay, there’s some cheating here – tapas goes with beer just as well as with wine, and eating tapas (or pintxos, the tapas on a spike usually served on bread) is something of a national sport.

There are a few ‘standard’ items on a tapas menu like olives, anchovies, and calamari that are obviously good beer snacks, though hardly only available in Spain. The fact that it’s available on every corner means they do it with good ingredients though.

Spain and Portugal 4

Olives and anchovy fillets; yeah, that works

Oh, and beer – well, the available almost everywhere on tap local Estrella Damm or (why is this everywhere?) Heineken – is cheap at somewhere between 1.30 and 1.50 Euros a glass. I must say I don’t mind the Estrella for a mass-produced beer. It’s a pilsner, so pretty easy drinking, and has a very fine, creamy head. Apparently the bottled stuff is nowhere near as good.

Also what’s interesting is that the whole microbrewery thing doesn’t seem so big here. One reason may be the pricing – when the majors are so cheap, competing is not going to be easy. That said, I did find a few nice, hoppy ales – Espiga Garage IPA and a Cervesa del Montseny – in a hipster bar in central Barcelona called B-Rita.

Spain and Portugal 6


What is hot right now – hotter than Hansel in Zoolander – is gin and tonic. Traditionally the Spanish make it in a large goblet full of ice, which makes for nicer presentation than the usual tumbler. The bar at the Hotel Urban in Madrid had literally pages of gins and tonics from which to choose, though at around 15 Euros I can see why they’re keener on serving these than beers.

At Carmelitas in Barcelona, the G&T selection was more limited, but at 7.50 Euros better value – and the bartender had a very heavy pouring hand.

But back to the beer snacks.

Jamon is like a religion in Spain, and when you get the proper jamon Iberico belotta (made from black Iberian pigs fed on acorns), resistance is useless. I’m a convert. It was on my breakfast plate, almost always a component of lunch, and on the pre-dinner tapas menu too.

Spain and Portugal 5

Do you have any jamon? Just another store in Madrid

Some Spanish friends tell me that their vegetarian friends eat the stuff. It is that good. With its strong flavour and saltiness, it is the perfect beer snack.

But deep fried – anything deep fried – is almost always something that goes with beer, and croquettes are the ultimate.

Spain and Portugal 8

Portugese style croquettes: Good, but there’s better

You get croquettes in different flavours, and bacalao, or salt cod, is pretty common. I had some in Portugal – though these were made with potato, rather than béchamel, which is the preferred Spanish method. The former were a bit dry and chewy, whereas the latter almost always yields a hot, creamy, salty, fishy mouthful. I’m hungry just thinking about it.

Spain and Portugal 2

Forget the flavoured croquets; I’ll have the jamon

But when croquetas are made with jamon, that’s a combination made in heaven. The ultimate beer snack? I think so.



Cocktail Hour(s)

Hey Dan,

Yes, it has been too long. Oops.

The New Year’s Resolution was to put in a bit more effort at meeting people in our adopted hometown, so the plan is to go to the opening of a paper bag if there’s an invite.

As a result we’ve been doing a lot of standing around at cocktail functions, and noticing just how badly they’re done a lot of the time. So, in no particular order, here’s a list of things to consider for your next function from a (slightly pickled) expert:


1 Finger food. Notice the name. It implies food that may be eaten using one’s fingers. Anything much bigger than a Ritz cracker is not really going to work. Roast meat is lovely, but not to be served in giant slices at a stand-up cocktail function. If you expect people to balance a glass, a plate, a knife and fork, expect broken crockery and glassware. If you’re doing it at home here’s the world’s simplest recipe: buy roast duck from your nearest Asian restaurant; cut into pieces and place on plain rice crackers; add half a teaspoon of hoi sin sauce and a little spring onion. Viola! Finger food. How difficult is that?



Martini = no fruit!

2 Drinks. Okay, while it’s called a cocktail function, usually martinis are sadly absent. (When I say martini I mean gin and a waft of vermouth; anything with more fruit than a twist of lemon is not a martini). Why is it a cocktail function, and why must I wear cocktail attire,  if there are no cocktails? Usually you’ll get wine of both colours and beer. If you’re lucky, one of the three will be palatable. Boozy types – yes, we’ve been to a few Austcham Thailand functions – will inevitably gravitate towards the service area. Set up a couple, otherwise those blokes in suits will have the effect of a black hole on light waves – nothing is going to get out. And here’s a hint: if you put the food and booze service areas in the same place in the venue, it’s going to get crowded there.

3 Venues. These types of functions are bread and butter for hotels, and most event organisers don’t have enough imagination to see past them. There are other options. In Hong Kong recently we went to an event at Umami Concepts, which is pretty-much a large two-room apartment with a big semi-commercial open kitchen. Stand-up cocktail party? Check. Cocktails even. Also cooking classes, events like olive oil tastings, and a decent place to film cooking shows, so I expect it’s rather busy. It’s a great idea in Asia, where space is at a premium, and because it was essentially run by the chef, with one waiter doing the clearing duties. Good thinking.

Now if you’ll pardon me – it’s getting close to the  cocktail hour and I need to suit-up.






I’ve Got Crabs!



Hey Dan,

It was so nice to see you in Koh Samui, aka ‘The Big Smoke.’ Okay, the Big Smoke bit a relative thing, but when you can only get to the shops once a week, as is the case for those of us staying on remote islands, that weekly shop becomes important.

As the boy who usually goes grocery shopping twice a day (the first time to get the ingredients for a meal, and the second time to get the ingredients that I forgot, usually the main ones: the steak; the pasta; the eggs; anything that cannot be substituted with something from the cupboard) I can only try to describe a day’s shopping in Samui.

Transport is the first challenge – we need to organise a boat for the two-way trip, and a rental car.

Then there’s the list of destinations we need to hit. This week it was (in roughly this order): the nursery; the hardware store; the petrol station; the roadside seafood vendors; the French butchery; the wine shop; lunch with you and your good lady wife; the supermarket that does dry goods and half-way decent bread; the supermarket that does seafood, meat and fresh fruit and veg; the French bakery; the roadside fruit and vegetable vendors. Then all the goodies get piled onto the boat and away we go. Easy, right?

As I write this, the day-trippers have left. I’m breathing fresh air. I can just hear a boat in the distance over the lapping waves. And the colours are so vibrant I have to tear myself away to turn back to the screen. It is definitely worth the effort.

Crabs (1)

But from a grocery perspective, there are highs and lows…

The highs have to be the seafood. I love the guys on the beachfront strip in Nathon with their fresh crabs. We were about to choose a couple of blue swimmers from the table on ice, when the nice vendor pointed out she had some live ones. Excellent. I suspect she saves the rest for the rude Russians (I’ve watched it happen). A kilo of live crabs for 420 baht – very likely that’s the farang price, but I really don’t care.

We cooked the crabs (about 8 mins each in a big pot of water on a rolling boil), and scoffed down a couple with a crisp chardonnay that night.


The third crab we saved for a spaghetti marinara that went something like this:


8 Tiger prawns, peeled, headed and deveined (reserve shells and heads)

2 medium squid, cleaned and cut into rings

1 cooked crab, smash claws and pick meat (reserve shells)

1 can tomato pulp

1 large pinch of saffron

1 splash white wine

1 splash olive oil

1 brown onion, diced

1 clove garlic



250g squid-ink pasta, cooked per instructions


-heat olive oil in a pan, add prawn and crab shells and cook over a high heat until fragrant. Add 2 cups of water and simmer for 15 mins. Strain out shells, and reserve liquid, adding the saffron


-Cook the onions over medium heat until clear, add garlic and cook a minute longer

-Splash in half a glass of white wine.

-Add stock (above) and tomato pulp and reduce.

-When it reaches a saucy consistency, add squid and cook for five minutes.

-Add prawns and cook a further five minutes.

-Add crab and chopped parsley and warm through.

-Stir in the cooked pasta.

It’s rich, seafood-ey, tomato-ey and bloody nice. This much is probably nearly enough to feed four!