Feast Thailand takes food tours to the next level
Words by Bruce Scott Photos by Julia Offenberger
Enterprising tourists with a “taste” for adventure inevitably want to “eat like a local” at some point whenever they visit a new place. In Hua Hin there is actually a food tour called Eat Like a Local, and it’s just one of the several innovative dine and discover tours operated by Feast Thailand Food Tours.
The company, which only began operations in September of 2016, was started up by Leigh Higgins and her husband. The pair moved to Thailand from Melbourne last May, and they chose Hua Hin as a location for a number of reasons—mainly because in the 25 years they’ve been visiting Thailand on and off they’ve grown to like this particular town, but also because there’s already plenty of food tour companies operating in Bangkok but no one doing this same sort of thing in Hua Hin.
“The premise for our food tours is about showing people some things they may know, but also introducing travellers to dishes they don’t know,” Leigh points out. “It’s not about the weird and wacky, but food you would order again on your own. It’s about good flavours, but also about educating travellers about Thai food.”
The company offers a number of specialized excursions (information about each is available on the company’s very informative website), but a good place to start is the Foodies Food Tour, which is priced at a very reasonable B1,500 per person. The tour begins with a traditional Thai breakfast before moving on to a guided tour through Hua Hin’s famous 100 year-old Chat Chai wet market, where guests can graze a bit—sampling food that is cooked or prepared fresh. The package also includes an early dtam sang (à la carte) lunch, a chance to make your own som tam (papaya salad), and several other surprises along the way.
Apart from the food, there are lots of other nice touches that are covered by the fee, including pick-up and drop off from your hotel (as long as it’s in the Hua Hin area), an English speaking guide, and a survival kit which includes a map of the tour itself, two plastic spoons, and one wooden skewer—and these utensils come in handy when sampling nibbles in the wet market.
As our group assembles itself one sunny Sunday morning, we are first introduced to Kate, who will be our English speaking Thai guide. After a breakfast of rice porridge, patongo (fried dough) with pandan custard, and a fortifying café boran (Thai roasted coffee with condensed milk) we set off to explore Chat Chai market, where every imaginable sight—and smell—is part of the experience.
In our group of six there are no actual tourists (surprisingly). Instead we are a mix of expats, ranging from relative newbies—just over a year living in Thailand—to one fellow who’s been here 16 years. However, all of us come away from the market experience learning something new; whether it’s how to prepare mieng kham (a sweet and spicy Thai snack wrapped in a betel leaf), or how many toppings other than mango can be added to sticky rice, or how khao chae (rice soaked in cool fragrant water) is prepared and consumed.
The tour includes a bit of walking between all that eating, which is good, and concludes with a stroll up Naeb Kehardt Rd (see our related story on pg. 58). Here we sample the dtam sang lunch—in our case a delicious trio of chicken soup, shrimp curry, and spicy minced pork with basil—before moving on to some succulent braised duck in fragrant spices at Ratama restaurant.
Our 3.5 hour tour concludes with a full-on midday meal at Baan Thong Kam, complete with homemade som tam (we helped make it), a few more meat salads, sticky rice, and a glass of bright purple peaberry drink. In total we must have sampled over two dozen different items since our outing began, and we are all stuffed to the gills.
It’s been an excellent day out, and as Leigh rejoins our tour near its conclusion I ask her about how she chooses the restaurants and food stalls featured in her various packages.
“This aspect is critical,” she admits. “It’s not only about finding restaurants or vendors that have great tasting food, but that food needs to be consistently good, and the standards have to be high when it comes to food preparation and hygiene. We tasted and visited every place several times, talked to the owners, and looked at how they operated. Our Thai staff were also crucial in this decision making process as well, as they also would only eat where it’s tasty and prepared fresh.”
For more info call 03 251 0207.