Eat Responsibly Day at Bo.Lan

Each first Saturday of the month, the upscale, down-home Thai restaurant Bo.lan hosts a farmers’ market they dub “Eat Responsibly Day.” Located on Sukhumvit Soi 26 in Bangkok, chefs Duangporn “Bo” Songvisava and Dylan Jones’ commitment to slow, local, organic, and sustainable food shines at this market, which is held on the front yard of the restaurant.

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Tawn and I visited in early April. We arrived shortly before 11:00 on a hot morning that threatened rain, midway through the market’s run, which begins at 8:00 and runs until 2:30. At least a dozen local vendors were present, selling everything from produce to prepared foods. Here is a selection of what was offered:

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From Samut Songkhram province, one vendor had fluer de sel (sea salt – left) and palm sugar (right). These are two staple products made in the smallest of Thailand’s 77 provinces and I had to chuckle a bit as the palm sugar comes from the sub-district where I used to volunteer as an English teacher. Every time I went down there, it was all I could do not to return home carrying several kilos of the palm sugar. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I could have repackaged it with a nice label and sold it as an artisinal product!

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Another vendor was selling freshly-baked bread and jars of homemade roasted tomato relish. This relish was amazing, full of whole garlic cloves and cooked at a low temperature for several hours until the flavors combined beautifully. The lady who makes it brought the recipe back from Europe and has been making it for friends, who would wash and return their empty jars, asking her to fill them up the next time she made a batch. April was her first time at the market, and I certainly hope she returns.

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Maarten Kaspersma runs a busines selling microgreens, evenrything from mustard greens to carrot, kale to mizuna. The business name is Mr. Maarten’s Microgreens and you can find them on facebook.

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We bought a pair of trays. I recall that one was mustard but I don’t remember what the other was. They certainly make for an interesting way to spice up the flavor of salads or sandwiches. I could also use a pair of tweezers and artfully decorate a plate with them and charge an extra few dollars. (If I was charging for my food!)

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Joe Sloane of Sloane’s Sausages made an appearance with his grill. Joe has gained fame around Bangkok as a purveyor of fine pork products. He doesn’t yet have a retail outlet so he informs his customers whenever he has purchased a hog or two (always organic breeds that come from up-country) and has more products for sale. In the near future, he hopes to open a proper storefront so he has more processing space.

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Cumberland sausages and fresh chorizo. These were so nice, I see no further need for me to experiment with sausage making at home!

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Homemade sauces and onion relish with which to tart up your sausages.

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Fresh baguette from Le Blanc on Sukhumvit Soi 39 with a heap of onion relish, fire-roasted tomato ketchup, and a chorizo sausage. Heaven on a Saturday morning.

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Accompanying Joe Sloane’s sausages was galangal porter, brewed at home by our friend Brian’s Happy Cat label. Hopefully, he will one day turn this into a proper business and make his fine hand crafted brews available for retain sale.

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We stopped by the table hosted by Pattaya’s own Lulu and Daisy Goat Cheese company and bought two rounds of medium-aged goat cheese. Nice and tangy, we’ve been shredding this on salads for a wonderful, rich flavor and aroma.

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Organic, free range eggs. Not sure if I understood correctly that these came from hens that live on the restaurant’s property. Perhaps I’m mistaken. They were tasty, though.

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The restaurant does have its own mushroom hut and so we purchased mushrooms freshly harvested on-site. While it has been more than two years since I wrote a review on Bo.lan, at which time I found the food very tasty but the prices just a little dear, I have to commend the chefs’ commitment to local and sustainable foods. Quite an emphasis on quality!

Breakfast

When we returned home, Tawn whipped up an omelet using the eggs, mushrooms, goal cheese, microgreens, and tomato relish that we had purchased at the farmers’ market. Another Eat Responsibly Day will be held on Saturday, 5 May and will continue on the first Saturday of each month at Bo.lan restaurant, Sukhumvit Soi 26. I already have my calendar marked! 

 

Weeknight Dinner

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Potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, and rosemary, ready to go into the oven and roast for forty-five minutes.

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Some pork sundried tomato sausage I made earlier this month and froze. Boiled it for a few minutes in beer before putting it on top of the half-cooked vegetables to finish in the oven.

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Prepared a healthy salad of red leaf lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes with some feta cheese, dried cranberries, and pecans. Served with a Japanese style sesame dressing.

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The roasted vegetables and sausages come out of the oven, ready to eat!

 

Egg Sausage

One commenter on my previous entry about making sausage expressed surprise about sausage being a part of Thai cuisine. Sure enough, Thais like stuffed intestines just as much as about everyone else! After posting the entry, though, I learned from a friend about a unique Thai sausage used as an ingredient in a clear soup. The sausage is called “look rok”.

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It is made by filling sausage casings (intestines) with uncooked, well-beaten chicken eggs. Then you boil the sausage until the egg firms up. The sausage is then sliced and, if you want to be decorative, the cut ends are scored into quarters. The pieces are added to a clear broth that has minced pork and whole shrimp added to it. Looks quite pretty, doesn’t it? Seems like a lot of work, though, for just one ingredient in the dish.

Cooking: Making Sausages

Making sausages has long be on my “to try” list.  They say that sausages and legislation are two things you don’t really want to see being made, but I was curious.  On hearing about my interest in sausage making, Jarrett Wrisley, food writer and owner of Soulfood Mahanakorn invited my friend Chow and me to his restaurant for a sausage making tutorial.  This was much appreciated since I have neither a meat grinder or sausage stuffer attachment for my KitchenAid mixer.

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Halfway through the process, we have a few meters of sausage made and several kilos of bulk sausage left.  Which will run out first: the casings or the sausage?

Prior to starting out on the project, I spent some time learning about sausage making.  I borrowed a copy of Susan Mahnke Peery’s “Home Sausage Making: How-To Techniques for Making and Enjoying 100 Sausages at Home” from my friend Nat.  Then I did some browsing on the internet to find some recipes that sounded interesting.  The day before heading over to Soulfood Mahanakorn, I bought my ingredients, cut the meat into cubes and froze it (for easier grinding), and mixed the spices and seasonings.

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Chow and I met Jarrett at the restaurant just after noon.  First off, we enjoyed a casual lunch of freshly baked baguette, mustard, and ham that Jarrett had made in his new smoker.  Smoked with the cuttings from various Thai herbs, the ham had a fantastic flavor, perfect to set the mood for some sausage making. 

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First step – grind the meat.  I used two different meats, pork and chicken, to make two different sausages: Polish and chicken apple.  Chow made a third type of sausage, an herb and curry infused Northern Thai sausage known as sai oua.

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The ingredients for the Polish sausage: pork belly, pork shoulder, water, garlic, salt, marjoram, black pepper, dry mustard, and ground coriander seed.

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The ingredients for the chicken apple sausage: apple cider (reduced to a syrup), chicken thighs (with skin), dried apples, salt, black pepper, sage, dried ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and dissolved chicken bouillon.

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Chow made her sai oua using her grandmother’s recipe, or at least as much of it as she was able to pry from her grandmother’s cook.  The secret ingredients she is adding to the ground pork include shallots, garlic, cloves, kaffir lime leaf, ground coriander seed, salt, fish sauce, turmeric, dried chilies, and a mixture of southern and central style curry pastes.  And if you think there are any exact proportions to this recipe, you’re crazy!   

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Jarrett fries up a test batch of the Polish sausage.  He explained that his cooks will just taste the mixture raw to check the seasoning, presumably spitting out the mixture after tasting it.  I’m not sure I want to be eating raw pork, even here in Thailand.  Plus, since you will be eating the sausage cooked, it makes sense to me to actually taste it cooked.

After we tested all three mixtures and were confident we had the seasonings correct, it was time to stuff.  No fancy sausage stuffing machines here and certainly no synthetic sausage casings.  We used pig intestines fresh from the butcher’s, which had been rinsed countless times and treated with a little bit of lime juice to freshen the smell.

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While I generally don’t consider myself a squeamish person, when you are making sausage with natural casings, there is no getting around the reality of what you are doing: filling a previously excrement-filled intestinal track with ground meat and seasonings, with the purpose of cooking and eating them. 

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Eeew.  Reminds me of those acts where a magician pulls an unbelievably long scarf from his mouth.

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Fun stuffing.  Instead of using a stuffing machine, we hooked up the end of a length of intestine to a plastic funnel, tied off the other end of the intestine with some twine, and started stuffing.  It is labor intensive, although not quite as much work as you might imagine.  The biggest challenge is that you end up pushing lots of air into the sausage.  Later, you need to prick the sausage with a skewer to let the excess air out.

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Perhaps a new profile picture for me?  “I will stuff your guts!”

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After about an hour of stuffing, we ran out of casings.  The result was about 3 kilos, or 6 pounds of stuffed sausage, which I later tried twisting into proper links with a modest amount of success.  We used only about two-thirds of our sausage mixture, though, so everyone went home with links as well as some bulk sausage.

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Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the cooked links, due to operator error on my part.  (Note to self: you should not delete the pictures from your camera until ensuring they have actually copied onto the hard drive of the computer.)  I do have photos of one of my experiments with the bulk sausage: frying up patties of the sai oua and making sandwiches from them.

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Tawn was skeptical at first because “this isn’t how sai oua is eaten.”  Put it on a fresh baguette with some lettuce, tomato, carrots dressed in rice wine vinegar, a splash of fish sauce and a sprinkle of cilantro and you have a fusion between a Vietnamese bánh mì and Northern Thai sausage.  It tasted wonderful.

As for the overall sausage making experience, I would most definitely make sausage again.  The ability to control your own flavors and ingredients is worth the effort.  Next trip to the US, I’m buying a meat grinder and sausage stuffer attachment for my mixer.