The Chatuchak Weekend Market

During my search for delicious Thai food I decided to go to a local outdoor market and see what kind of food and goods they had to offer. I woke up early on Saturday morning and hopped on the Sky Train to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. This is apparently the place to go and do some shopping with the locals. On my way I did a quick search online and found that it has over 15,000 shops and merchants selling everything from clothing to food to fine art to pets to souvenirs to even some very expensive antiques.

Photo by Brian Brindza

Photo by Brian Brindza

As soon as you get off the train you can see a bustling center of culture and commerce. Thousands of little canopy covered “stores” are set up and ready to sell you almost anything you can think of.  I headed into this large bazaar and instantly became disoriented, turned around and pretty much lost. As I explored (tried to find a way out), I thought that this is a great way to keep people walking around and looking at items.

The air is hot and steamy and all the shoppers are packed shoulder to shoulder in some spots. I believe pickpockets attempted to liberate me from my phone and wallet on at least two occasions. Brindza travel trip #37: keep your valuables zipped up like I did and you can avoid becoming a victim. I spent about eight hours looking at all of the stands including the pet area where you can buy everything from cute puppies and kittens to giant snakes, baby monkeys, and mini piglets.

By far, my favorite part was “haggling” the price with the shop owners.  It’s a fun game to play and I think they were enjoying it as much as I was. I picked up a few souvenirs for friends and family back home and got back on the train for the ride to my local residence. I’ll definitely need to spend another day there because there’s no way to see all that the Chatuchak Weekend Market has to offer in just 8 hours.

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Street Food 101

After returning from the sales meeting in Cambodia I decided to take a deeper look at Thai food and the different styles associated with each region. When it comes to the food they eat, the Thai people are heavily influenced by their bordering countries, yet it all still retains a similar style. They all highlight bold flavors and a mixing of other flavors with different textures. Spicy, sweet and sour, fermented, hot and cold and crunchy foods are used in a way that can only be done with Thai cuisine. It’s a complex symphony of flavors that will excite your taste buds and if you are doing it right, leave you a hot & sweaty but, very satisfied mess in the end. That’s usually how I gauge if the meal is good or not, my level of perspiration.

marketlunch

Photo by Brian Brindza

Every time I order something new I take a very small taste at first and test the spice levels to make sure I don’t burn my mouth. Thankfully most places let you decide the amount of heat to add to your dish. Customization is not just a Western preference. Each table will usually have a homemade chili sauce called Nam Phrik along with dry chili, fish sauce, and sugar. I usually like to heat up my meal with chili peppers and eat it the way it was meant to be eaten. HOT!

Finding a variety of different foods is as easy as walking down the block and choosing from the many stands that are selling different street foods.  Walking home from the Sky Train every night, I pass at least 15-20 of them selling Thai food from every region, along with fresh fruits, deep fried bugs, kebabs, samosas, and fresh coconuts.  The best part is a quick meal of Pad See Ew costs only 55 baht which is about $1.67. I could eat dinner out every day for a whole week and spend under $20. My goal for this week was to eat something different each day for dinner and it had to be street food.

 

noodledish

Photo by Brian Brindza

Monday:  Chicken Pad See Ew with Mango and Sticky Rice for dessert

Tuesday: Som Tum (Papaya Salad), Larb Moo, and a few roasted grass hoppers

Wednesday: Kai Yang, with side of steamed vegetables

Thursday: Khao Soi, with some kind of funky fermented vegetables plus Guava and Dragon Fruit for dessert

Friday: Khao Phat with an amazing Thai Ice Tea

Saturday: Kebab wrap with potato samosa and mint chutney (Technically cheating, but I needed a little break from Thai)

Sunday: Green Seafood Curry with Sticky Rice

 

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Sales Meeting Participant…& Tourist

We were all getting ready for our Regional Technical and Sales Meeting in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I would be showing our Pizza Panko product at the session and had very little time to pull it all together before we jumped on a plane to Cambodia. Back in the States I can make a pizza with my eyes closed. Here in Bangkok? Not so easy. Trying to find a canned pizza sauce was nearly impossible and locating a tomato sauce that I could try to turn into a pizza sauce was just as difficult. Sourcing the mozzarella cheese and pepperoni to complete the pizza build was an unbelievable chore. In the end though, I managed to find workable ingredients.

AngKor Wat

Photo by Brian Brindza

The first meeting day was made up mostly of PowerPoint presentations, of which I participated in by giving a short overview of Pizza Panko. For dinner that evening, we went out to a local restaurant to experience traditional Khmer foods.  They are similar to Thai food but not nearly as spicy and seemed to incorporate more river fish than the Thai. It was good, but I guess I was expecting more.

After dinner we took in some of the night-life and went to see the Night Market and Pub Street. They are two very touristy places with lots of souvenir and gift shops, along with a few pubs. It was an interesting time but didn’t stay too late as there were more meetings and a trip to famous Angkor Wat the next day.

After a half day of presentations we were treated to a tour of the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat and a trip down the Tonlé Sap, a huge river and lake system that is very important to the people of Cambodia. Angkor Wat is a magnificent temple in the middle of the jungle that was built over a thousand years ago by a Khmer King. Pulling up to it was like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. We went on a guided tour of this massive structure and got a very detailed history of the site.

After the tour we got on a bus and drove to Tonlé Sap. There, we went on a boat ride and saw the floating homes of the Vietnamese people who helped the Cambodians defeat the Khmer Rouge. The tour included a very sad and detailed account of the genocide that took place in Cambodia only a few decades ago. It was a beautiful place that was just now recovering from some very bad atrocities.

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Photo by Brian Brindza

The last day of meetings was a very interesting one. Chef Hayden (Newly Weds Foods, Australia) and I were allocated 30 minutes to give a culinary insights presentation. We decided that since we’re in Cambodia we should feed the group BUGS!!! It was just a few scorpions, tarantulas and deep fried crickets, no big deal, right? Hands down, my favorite part of the whole trip was watching my co-workers take a bite of these crispy crunchy bugs I cooked them.  After torturing the entire group, we had free time to explore Cambodia. The Thai sales team took me in as one of their own and we went on a guided tour of more ancient Khmer ruins.

We got in a small van and were taken to Angkor Thom, the great capital city of the Khmer empire. It was a very large stone structure that was built over 700 years ago and had huge faces of the king and queens built into it. It was another breathtaking and amazing place. From there we went to Ta Phrom, a very old and just phenomenal temple. However, this one was a little different in that it was not fully reconstructed and had been left with huge trees and crumbled ruins. It had been used as an actual set for the movie Tomb Raider. After our time there, we headed back to the resort to pack up and head home the next morning.

Brian Brindza is a Chicago based Newly Weds Foods chef who for a few months will be working out of the Thailand R&D center and providing culinary support and coverage in the Asia/Pacific region.  Not only will he be exposed to new trends and ingredients from that part of the world but, he will be sharing his knowledge of US food trends with the group over there. This exchange of ideas is at the core of Newly Weds Foods commitment to bring new tastes from all over the world to your product portfolio. Follow Brian as he experiences Thailand and other locales first hand.

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Rain Storms and a Water Blessing

Finally settled in to Bangkok and trying to figure out all of the ins and outs of this area. My first weekend out on the town was dedicated to figuring out where I’m located on the map. With the advice of some of my coworkers I decided to get on the BTS (Sky train) and see some of the other parts of town. After doing some research I found Sunkumvit soi 38 is the place to get a variety of Thai street food.

soi38 street food

Photo by Brian Brindza

Hitting the streets and finding my way around on public transit was not as hard as I thought it would be.  I felt very out of place being a tall American on the train. I must have looked out of place too, because two girls were sneaking pictures of me on the train. After getting to my stop I walked down what most would consider a dirty alley, but it had “tons” of street vendors with amazing food, serving a mix of locals and even some western customers. I walked up and down looking to see what caught my eye as well as, what would be “safe” to eat.

Sitting down at a small table, I was approached by an older Thai woman who didn’t speak any English. She handed me a menu completely in Thai. Using the little Thai that I did understand, I ordered some Larb Moo, and Som Tum, a classic Isaan meal of spicy ground pork and sweet spicy papaya salad. Most Thai restaurants in the West reflect Bangkok-style cuisine but, authentic Thai food varies from region to region based on geography and local history. The food of Isaan has more in common with that of Laos and is known for being very spicy and pungent, seasoned with fresh herbs and fermented fish. It also features some of Thailand’s spiciest salads. I was only half way through my meal when it started to look like I’d soon be experiencing my first Bangkok rain storm. It quickly started pouring buckets, and I decided it was time to head home.

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Photo by Brian Brindza

On Friday I was asked to join the Newly Weds Foods Thailand 25th anniversary celebration. Little did I know I was about to get a huge dose of culture. I arrived at the manufacturing plant in Bang Phil and saw  a huge tent covering a number of Thai themed food stations that had been set up. I was in heaven from all of the new smells and sights I was taking in. As I walked to the front door, I noticed the reception desk was gone. In its place were bright red floor mats and nine pillows arranged for seating. Everyone was taking their shoes off so I followed their example. I was told we were about to sit down and pray with monks.  I was about to be a part of a Buddhist blessing with monks! Having never participated in anything like this before, I felt very much honored to have been invited to partake in this ceremony.

I was very excited to see this happen and of course had lots of questions. Nine monks entered the room and sat down. The room had filled with all of the Newly Weds Foods Thai employees, so I kept to the back of the room trying to take it all in. After an hour of monks chanting in Pali, one of the monks came in to the crowd and blessed each individual with water and a prayer. It was a very unique ceremony to be part of, and an experience I won’t forget. I was feeling blessed and ready to take on another weekend adventure, so I headed home to good old Sukumvit 11.

Brian Brindza is a Chicago based Newly Weds Foods chef who for a few months will be working out of the Thailand R&D center and providing culinary support and coverage in the Asia/Pacific region.  Not only will he be exposed to new trends and ingredients from that part of the world but, he will be sharing his knowledge of US food trends with the group over there. This exchange of ideas is at the core of Newly Weds Foods commitment to bring new tastes from all over the world to your product portfolio. Follow Brian as he experiences Thailand and other locales first hand.

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Welcome to Bangkok

Brian Brindza is a Chicago based Newly Weds Foods chef who for a few months will be working out of the Thailand R&D center and providing culinary support and coverage in the Asia/Pacific region.  Not only will he be exposed to new trends and ingredients from that part of the world but, he will be sharing his knowledge of US food trends with the group over there. This exchange of ideas is at the core of Newly Weds Foods commitment to bring new tastes from all over the world to your product portfolio. Follow Brian as he experiences Thailand and other locales first hand.

The view from my new apartment

The view from my new apartment (Photo by Brian Brindza)

I’m finally on my way to Bangkok!  We left as early as possible to avoid the chaotic traffic, made the flight, and I was comfortably on my way to my new home. I was nervous and excited like a kid on his first day of school. We landed in Bangkok and I was taken to my new home on sukhumvit soi 11, a busy street full of street food, tuk tuks, restaurants and night life.

muaythai

Photo by Brian Brindza

After getting unpacked I was met by David Dawson, Newly Weds Foods’ Commercial Manager. He had offered to show me some Thai culture. He took me to my first Muay Thai match. It was a huge, hot arena and apparently this was a big fight night because the place was packed to the rafters with old Thai men yelling and making bets with each other. It was definitely an interesting experience. After seeing seven fights and the main fight we exited to the bustling street to try some different street foods. The sanitation may have been a little suspect but I dug in and had a few sausages on sticks with some cabbage and Thai chili peppers. I was instantly in love with Thai street food. After a long day I went to bed to get ready for my first to the new office.

The next day I went on a tour of the plant and saw all the different equipment they use. Then I went to see the Thai New Product Development team and meet the people working with me. They were all very enthusiastic, welcomed me and had a lot of questions for me about America. It was a little overwhelming and difficult at times to understand the accented English they spoke. The most confusing part was seeing everyone’s name tags and then having them tell me they have a different name. The Thai way is to have a nickname when you are younger and then use it your whole life. It’s going to make sending emails difficult! After work I settled in and go some rest for my weekend adventures in food.

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The Journey Begins

takeoff

Photo by Brian Brindza

Brian Brindza is a Chicago based Newly Weds Foods chef who for a few months will be working out of the Thailand R&D center and providing culinary support and coverage in the Asia/Pacific region.  Not only will he be exposed to new trends and ingredients from that part of the world but, he will be sharing his knowledge of US food trends with the group over there. This exchange of ideas is at the core of Newly Weds Foods commitment to bring new tastes from all over the world to your product portfolio. Follow Brian as he experiences Thailand and other locales first hand.

The journey to Bangkok was not an easy one. I left Chicago early on Sunday morning with two large bags and a small back pack. Everything one would need for an extended trip.

My family and girlfriend drove me to O’Hare Airport to see me off and say goodbyes. I made my way through security and got one last Italian Beef sandwich before I left. That’s when the first hiccup in my travels happened. After sitting on the runway for 45 minutes the pilot announced we needed to return to the gate due to a mechanical issue. Would it be a 10 minute delay…or 10 hours? That was the question and the answer was more the latter, which had a ripple effect on the rest of my trip. After six hours of waiting we finally made it in to the air. The 15 hour flight was not as bad as I thought it would be, because of the free movies and long naps. The best part of the flight was when the pilot came on the intercom and told us we were directly over the North Pole. Needless to say, I was ready to land when we arrived in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, my original connecting flight to the Philippines was long gone so I headed to a hotel to sleep for a few hours before catching my re-booked flight in the morning.

The next day I woke up early to get to Manila. Newly Weds Foods was participating in a conference and I was going there to help prepare some new product concepts for review. Thankfully, this flight was on time and everything went smoothly. I took the shuttle to the hotel and met with several Newly Weds Foods Asia/Pacific compatriots to discuss the product presentation scheduled for later in the day. At the conference we prepared all of the products and set up a display for everyone to taste the new concepts. It was a great success and I was very impressed with our Asia/Pacific team. I was very happy to work with them, and look forward to the next time we collaborate.

flightpathOn the third day, I went to our Manila manufacturing plant. Trying to make it without getting hit by a Jeepney or all the other insane drivers was an adventure in and of itself. I went on a plant tour and saw the new R&D labs. I was also able to provide some constructive input to the culinary center Newly Weds Foods is building on-site.  After that I went on a Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) dine around at Market! Market!, a huge six story shopping mall with QSRs stacked on top of each other. I stopped in Philippine based Jollibee and its other concept brands like Chowking, Greenwich Pizza and Red Ribbon. We finished up the visit with a stop at Wendy’s to test out the new Spicy Smack Down Burger. The whole trip was very interesting because I never realized how western the Philippines are as far as fast food goes. After sampling so many different QSRs it’s easy to pick up that the big trend in the Philippine fast food game right now is bone-in fried chicken, spaghetti, and of course hot dogs. Later in the day I was taken out by the Newly Weds Foods Manila staff and treated to some Philippine food and night life. I had to pack it in early because tomorrow I was off to Bangkok, my new home for the next three or so months.

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Welcome to the Newly Weds Foods Blog

Welcome to our blog. Pretty soon we will start filling this with exciting articles about recent trends, where Newly Weds Foods will be, how you can connect with us and other fun articles about our company and our innovations.

Check back at the end of September when we bring you our first series of articles about our American chef’s assignment in Thailand. In an effort to further educate our chefs on world trends and flavors, we will be sending one of our Chicago chefs’ overseas. Learn and grow with him as he reports on his experiences with food, culture, and new tastes.

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