THE FOODS FEATURED HERE MAY SEEM A BIT UNORTHODOX AND DEVIANT FROM THE ‘AUTHENTIC THAI’ DEFINED AND PROMOTED BY MANY, BUT WE BELIEVE IN ‘CREATIVITY’ AS THE INGREDIENT THAT THAI FOOD HAS ALWAYS EMBRACED AND THE TRUE REFLECTION OF THE FUN, LIVELY AND HIGHLY ECLECTIC THAI SPIRIT.
The attempts of both the governmental and public sector to bring ‘Thai food’ into the international arena with ‘Thai Cuisine to the World Stage’ being the catch phrase is nothing new. We have seen one government after another coming up with policies that dream to establish the ‘Food Innovation Zone’ or the ‘Thai Delicious’ center to function as a developmental center for the standardization of Thai taste and cuisine. It leads to the questioning of why the attempt aims only to keep the look and taste of Thai food traditional because frankly speaking, we Thais all know that Thai food and Thai cuisine can be much more fun and fascinating than just a definition one uses to define the ‘authentic Thai.’
Another interesting thing we find from exploring the food market and industry in Thailand is the ‘creativity’ that is enthusiastically used in every type of Thai food and cuisine. We see ever-changing ideas among street foods that never cease to excite as the food souvenirs developed to impress tourists (especially the Chinese) seem to be even more bizarre by the day to the point where we cannot help but wonder if people actually buy and eat them or is it just the entrepreneurs’ intention to have a little fun? Perhaps it is with the increasing demands of the consumers that producers search for ways to design new methods, adding to their products new selling points to fight competitors in the market, not to mention new emerging opportunities that are the byproducts of such rising demands. This is where ‘creativity’ steps in with its continually growing role and ability to add more value and strengthen the identity for a product. One of the examples is the eccentric and less popular genre of snacks such as worms and bugs where design is brought in to make the products more accessible. The leftovers from the food industry, from shrimp heads to waste fish meat, are given new value through creative ideas that bring new flavors and production processes. Technologies are brought in to make the most ordinary product such as coconuts more special, and even the most basic foods like fish balls are designed to look like cartoon characters (as weird as they might look) to attract the attention of consumers who are children.
TENDERIZED CROCODILE MEAT
The decision to add crocodile meat floss to the Watcharin brand renowned for its shredded pork floss products followed the demands of Chinese tourists who believe that crocodile meat helps to strengthen the immune system. Tail meat, which is the best edible part of a crocodile, is dried for three days under strong sun. Smashed by human hands, the meat is soft in texture and lightly sweet, giving a taste that many find to fall somewhere between that of pork and beef while the shelf life of Watcharin’s crocodile meat floss can last for several months.
TAO KAE NOI
Among the many food souvenirs available on the market, ‘durian’ and ‘milk tablets’ are probably at the top of the list for Chinese tourists who come to visit Thailand. Considering their popularity, it comes as no surprise that someone finally came up with the ‘durian tablet.’ Delicious and kind of impossible to stop eating once you start, the smell and taste of durian one gets from chewing Tao Kae Noi’s durian tablet (made of 95% Monthong durian meat) is the great selling point that has caused this snack to gain popularity by the day.
VACUUM FREEZE DRIED PAPAYA SALAD
Vacuum freeze drying is a process of food preservation technology that has gained wide interest within the food industry. With the ability to preserve the condition of the food by freezing and sublimation, the taste and smell of Vacuum Freeze Dried Thai papaya salad can be kept for as long as one year, making the famous Thai dish a good souvenir choice.
100% COCONUT WATER
Creating packaging that looks like an actual coconut to store a box of pasteurized coconut water, on one hand, does not seem to make any sense. But on the other hand, the creatively designed packaging offers a fun experience where one has to peel off the husk and crack the shell in order to drink the coconut juice, and is probably the reason for Pearl Royal being chosen as the winner of the 2009 Demark and G-Mark Awards in the Drinking Package category.
CRISPY SILK WORMS
Despite the fact that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has been promoting insects as sources of nutrition in order for people to finally consider them a type of perfectly healthy food, the look and doubtful hygiene prevent many of us from buying them at street food kiosks. Under the brand ‘Hiso’ with standardized manufacturing process and hygiene, insects have become products of a high value as the distribution means of these surprisingly delicious snacks are now more available and accessible than ever (not to mention the psychology behind the name of the brand: Hiso is the shortened form of High Society).
KESARA BAKERY SINGBURI
It has been almost 20 years since the Fish Festival was first held in Singburi province of Thailand. The event turned the province’s famous freshwater fish know as snakeheads into something far more extraordinary than a simple savory dish. The fish meat added to this fish-shaped cake (hence the name Snakehead Cake), at first bite, gives a texture and taste that reminds us of boiled taro, and not to worry, the fishy smell is all gone.
FRIED SHRIMP HEADS
Who would have thought that scraps from the seafood industry normally turned into animal food like ‘shrimp heads’ could be transformed into such a tasty snack that is now available in convenience stores countrywide. OKUSNO is a great example of how value is added to the overlooked material to create a creative and marketable product.
INSTANT DURIAN DRINK
With the demands for durian products from Chinese consumers still on the rise, Instant Durian Drink is conceived with the King of fruit’s flavorful sweetness and unique smell kept intact. This delightful instant drink makes the taste of durian more accessible and easy to eat while the manufacturing technique helps preserve the scent and prevent humidity from affecting the product during transportation.
CANNED SPICY CHICKEN FEET SOUP
AOM CHICKEN FEET SOUP
Canned food is nothing new. But canned spicy chicken feet soup is something. The mind behind this brilliant idea of making the famous dish more accessible to consumers is ‘Aom Chicken Feet Soup,’ one of the most popular late night restaurants of Kanchanaburi province.
Coco Easy, now available in raw and smoked flavors, is a brand of ready-to-eat coconut. A laser-cut technique is incorporated to cut the shell of fully ripe coconuts from a garden in Nakhon Chaisri. A pop tab is attached at the top, brilliantly turning the shell into a can for the ready-to-drink coconut water. With nature-given packaging, there’s no need to waste any resources.
CARTOON FISH BALLS
LUF (LUCKY UNION FOODS)
The use of cartoon characters to attract children’s attention never goes out of date. We are all accustomed to seeing these characters on fancy packaging, but the processed seafood products take cartoon characters to the next level. The fancy fish balls are made of pulverized white fish or surimi, which is processed into a specified shape, seasoned and colored to resemble cartoon characters such as a clownfish, cow, owl, duck and different types of fruit. As weird as they may look, these fancy fish balls are perfectly edible.
CRAB CLAWS AND SNOW SHRIMPS
We all know by now that ‘Kami’ or crabsticks are not actually made of crabmeat. But not many people know that this particular type of food is made of starch and finely pulverized white fish known as ‘surimi.’ Today, surimi is given a new look, turning the waste material from seafood production into more fun and interesting products known as ‘crab claws’ and ‘snow shrimps.’
INSTANT FRIED CURRY RICE
THE INSTITUTE OF FOOD RESEARCH AND PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT (IFRPD), KASETSART UNIVERSITY
The Thai curry dishes turned ready-to-eat snack has the title of the winner of the Rice Innovation Award 2007 as guarantee of its quality and taste. From the four original flavors, yellow curry, green curry, dried curry and fragrant yellow rice, the tastiness is ramified with new flavors such as Panang Curry, Hang Lay Curry, the famous stir-fried basil or Pad Kra-pao and Nam Prik Pla Tu (mackerel and seasoned chili paste).