Monday, October 04, 2010

A Bangkok dairy diary

I was never very conscious of dairy in my diet until I came here. I suppose that might have been because I hadn’t given it a second thought. But when you’re served condensed milk with your tea it’s difficult not to fantasize about cow’s milk (skimmed, please) as an essential ingredient in your diet.

The Thai diet doesn’t include dairy products though thankfully - as I can’t imagine tea without milk in it - it’s purchasable in local supermarkets in all its variation: fat, semi and skinny. Condensed milk is popular over here; it lasts forever and nothing is too sweet for a Thai tooth. As time has passed, I’ve become more tolerant and if I’m out and about I’ll shrug and pour a tiny bit of condensed milk into my tea if that's all that's on offer. Still, it’s never going to become a habit, not even to avoid smelling like dairy. (I remember being mortified when I discovered that Thais think white westerners smell of cheese/milk. Actually…I’m still a bit ‘ewugh’ about that.)

Cheese is a staple too – particularly now there’s a vegetarian in the house. It’s so versatile but most of what we bought here was rubbery, bland and expensive. We met a French family when we arrived here. Son was a good friend of their elder boy and one day when I must have been withdrawing from the lack of decent cheese, I asked Son to enquire where they bought their cheese. They’re French, I thought, they’ll know some secret cheese emporium… Son came back with a French shrug… ‘France’ was the answer. They told Son they don’t bother… I still get a yearning now and again but it’s also so fattening unless it’s a corker, I won’t waste the calories.)

I grew up on good strong flavoured varieties like Stilton, Camembert and cheddar that could make your eyes sting. Limburger made an appearance too, mostly for the kudos of being able to get it in your mouth without being utterly repulsed by the smell. Still, I like mine ripe; knocking on the cupboard door if possible. Husband and Daughter are cheese wusses. Although I’ve tried to train Husband in the delights of the stinky foodstuff he still shudders at some of the memories he has of my family’s cheese plate. The anecdotes are unpublishable here.

Son and I were very pleased to discover, two weeks in a row, some particularly tasty Camembert in one of our local supermarkets.

We’ve had a lot of pleasure out of the cheese; a sneaky wedge here, a sandwich there. Even the necessity for me to eat it on rice cracker rather than bread hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm. We’ve also had quite a lot of peripheral enjoyment: watching Daughter’s expression when she opens the fridge because the Camembert shouts out its presence with a particular pungency. We’ve had endless amusement devising ways of getting her to inadvertently smell the cheese. ‘Hey, Daughter,’ we’ve said full of faux enthusiasm, ‘check this out.’ She turns around only for us to shove the tub under her nose: we’re rewarded with that face again. Such fun.


Catherine said...

I'm a cheese fanatic. I worked part-time in a cheese store going through uni. And two years living in Pau, France helped my cravings along.

Being in SE Asia is tough for someone like me. On Borneo I was lucky to have pilot friends, who would bring in cheese often (wine as well - gold in a Muslim country).

Thailand has much more to offer than Borneo ever did. But as you said, it's still lacking in British cheeses. The sharp British cheddars are my favourites, next to the smelly French ones.

Villa, Paragon, they only touch on some nice cheeses and miss others by a mile.

Two weeks ago an Italian company contacted me via my site. My resources for Thai living aren't that developed yet, but they wanted to be included. It's a good idea as that page attracts a lot of visitors. - online Italian delivery store.

I checked their prices against Villa's and they came up cheaper for similar products. So I ordered cheese, pasta, and a few bottles.

The cheese was HUGE and gorgeous. Better than anything I've ever had from Villa. I had to cut it into 3 pieces to freeze.

I'm not sure how I'm going to swing it on a site with a Thai language focus, but I'd like to feature them at some point.

SE Asian markets can't be easy on cheese sellers. And after tasting their cheese, I wish them well.

Jenny Beattie said...

Catherine, that's fabulous information thank you. They're really close to me - is there a retail outlet too or is it only mail order? It's physical purchase, really, isn't it? I want to be there looking, smelling and possibly tasting... Thanks for the info though.

Queenie said...

With you on this - I loooooove cheese, the stinkier the better.

Lane said...

Daughter and Husband don't know what they're missing.

Stinky cheese is a major component in a balanced diet:-)

Carol said...

I like stinky cheese as long as it's not too stinky! Chris once bought some at a French market which was so strong that one whiff actually made my eyes water....later that day he chased me around the kitchen with a bit of it and shoved it up my nose!! It was all I could smell for weeks (and I've still not entirely forgiven him....especially since he was doubled up and crying with laughter at the look on my face!)

C x

Chris Stovell said...

Goodness, what an eye-opener (eye-waterer for some too!)! All that time in Bangkok without a good cup of tea or stinky cheese within reach. And another ewwww! at the thought of folks thinking we smell cheesy. Not nice!

Megan said...

Oh gosh, cheese was one of my major food groups before I moved here (only about two months ago!)--the stinkier, the better! Japan was almost as bad as here, cheese-wise, but Osaka at least had a Costco, which was a serious lifesaver!

Jenny Beattie said...

Queenie, yum; with wine...

Lane, indeed.

Carol, that made me laugh. I did not stick it up daughter's nose.

Chris, tea made at home is okay; tea made in Starbucks is okay too. Some places... well, my standards have to drop.

Megan, welcome. We got our good Camembert in Villa on Sukhumvit 33 but you've paid extortionate amounts before you get it home and find out if it's any good...

Debs said...

I can't imagine not having milk or cheese (especially of the stinky variety - the cheese that is).

Giggling at the thought of your poor daughter.

LilyS said...

You are bad, I have to admit I am a bit of a cheese woos when it comes to the stinky stuff. I was a veggie for 4 years and I couldnt have lived without it.

Jenny Beattie said...

Debs, we are bad aren't we? At least we didn't try to stick it up her nose...

Lily, there are some lovely strong cheddars though, aren't there?

BEAST said...

Just two more blog posts and the cookies will be gone forever!

You owe it to all of us to blog faster.

Even the word veri. 'dessestr' is tormenting me anagramatically.

Anonymous said...

try HomeMade-Cheese Co.

They make all fresh and natural Premium Cheese adn Yogurt products and also middle eastern dips and deliver home around Bangkok.

Just go to their website to order and for info and contact: