The Fresh Loaf

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My Quest for Flour & Bread in Bangkok

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bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

My Quest for Flour & Bread in Bangkok

Four nights in Bangkok, Thailand. 

Accompanied by my business partner, our quest was to find a bulk flour supplier for my sourdough bakery in Siem Reap, Cambodia, called "Bäckerei". Other high priority items included paper bread bags, food-grade lye (sodium hydroxide) for pretzels, and brotformen (dough proofing baskets). 

Of course, I was also on the lookout for bread. Good bread, I mean.




Traffic was hectic in Bangkok, like most metropolitan cities. But what caught me off guard was the motorbikes zipping across and along the sidewalk. Many of them. Combine this common occurrence with the fact that drivers keep on the left-hand side in Thailand and you got yourself a paranoid person---me. 

Okay, never mind that.

My first major stop was at Bei Otto, a German restaurant, bakery, butchery, delicatessen, and catering company. The whole sha-bang!



Maybe I'm easily amused but I was in awe.

The bakery at Bei Otto had Vollkornbrot (whole grain bread), Mehrkornbrot (multi-grain bread), Roggenbrot (rye bread), Brötchen (German bread rolls), and Brezeln (pretzels). Let's not forget German sausages and miscellaneous goodies like Weisswurst-Senf (sweet mustard) and Quark (curd cheese)!

Bei Otto is what I envisioned my bakery to be. Well, not exactly. I prefer to run a much smaller company and would love to work with a local German butcher, cheesemonger, and beer brewer. A microbrewer in Cambodia is really stretching it but, hey, we're free to dream.

 

Next stops were a few supermarkets: Emporium, Tops Market, Central Market, Tesco Lotus, and Villa Market. Of the 5 supermarkets listed, Villa Market was the most interesting. By a stroke of luck, the "spokesperson" of Maison Jean Phillippe, a purveyor of artisanal foods, was present.

Maison Jean Phillipe offers French breads. All sourdough, even their pastries. At the Villa Market, I sampled their brioche---somewhat rich and buttery---and a charcoal-black batard. It tasted similar to... what you expect from a good, light, soft French bread.

Next up: Schmidt, a wholesale supplier of baking goods.





Now this was paradise.

I think I gasped out of excitement when I found brotforms, which I promptly bought. Very costly, but I'll have them replicated in Cambodia by wood craftsmen. I also purchased a kilogram (2.2 lbs) of lye pellets, which called for a second gasp upon notice.

Oh, and the flour... At first glance I could hardly keep the soles of my feet on the floor. Then I had a closer look.

Unfortunately for me, the majority of their flours were pre-mixes and not a spec of it shall enter my bakery. They did, however, have the rye and wheat flour I was searching for.




My business partner and I had a long discussion with the managing director of Schmidt. Getting the flours in bulk is not a problem. The problem is: getting the flours into Cambodia at a reasonable cost. This brings us to our final destination.

Near the border of Cambodia and Thailand is a cassava processing plant. If you don't know, cassava is a plant that's harvested for its starchy root, kind of like a potato. In various forms, it has multiple uses: food products, biofuel, animal feed, and so on. 

We contacted the owner of this processing plant to give us tips on how to export flours into Cambodia from Thailand. He was kind enough to meet us and we're very, very thankful for that.

As we departed, they gave us a bag of fresh cassava flour (also known as tapioca) as a farewell gift. They suggested that I experiment and try it in my breads---hey, why not? Maybe I'll invent a new product and popularize cassava breads in Southeast Asia.




While crossing the border from Thailand to Cambodia, my business partner (and dear friend) said to me, "I hope customs doesn't check your bags."

I shot back, "Why?"

Then it dawned on me. In my hand-luggage I had a bag of tapioca flour and lye pellets. These two items resemble something in particular. Suffice it to say, I was highly relieved to pass the borders without trouble.

All in all, my trip in Bangkok was fruitful. Not a complete success but a leap in the right direction. 

Thank you for the read and jolly bakings!

Zita

Comments

Julie McLeod's picture
Julie McLeod

I loved reading about your experience in Bangkok, Zita, and seeing what you discovered.  Thanks for sharing and best wishes as you continue planning for your bakery.

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Thank you, Julie. :)

FrenchNyonya's picture
FrenchNyonya

I have read your many posts and very excited to know that you are coming near to realise your dream..when I saw the picture of the baking tools and flours, I gasped too!! Heaven on earth!! but it is a shame that professional bakery shops carry mainly premixed flour. A chef of a big hotel once told me it is to ensure the quality of their breads as hotels normally have high staff turn over... As Cambodia is getting more and more expats, your bakery must be a godsend. 

Please share more about your journey of opening your bakery and wishing you best of luck.

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Your comment about hotels using pre-mixed flours resonates a lot of truth, I think. Some of the major hotels in Siem Reap, I discovered, use pre-mix flours for that very reason.

And yes, plenty of expats in town are already praising my bakery. It didn't even start yet! 

Thanks for commenting and wishing me luck. Always appreciated. :)

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Not bread related at all and not wanting to hi-jack ZIta's topic….

but

I am very curious to know about the expats in Cambodia.  Mostly - what is it about Cambodia that draws foreigners there to settle?

Janet

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

I don't know much about other parts of Cambodia but I can tell you a few reasons why expats are settling in Siem Reap.

Siem Reap is the home of Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. This temple alone draws in a lot of tourists, which means the locals end up learning English to increase their chances of employment. High traffic of tourists also permits foreign restaurants, spas, and resorts to thrive. And they're relatively cheap compared to establishments in "Westernized" countries.

Most locals are also friendly and welcoming in Siem Reap, including the expat community. Things are also simpler (yet chaotic) here, so if you have a distaste for urbanized cities or "modern living", you might like it.

I hope that answers your question.

Zita

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Thanks ZIta.  You have answered my question very well.  I hadn't realized you were so close to Angkor Wat.  Sounds like an ideal spot for your bakery. 

Take Care,

Janet

Syd's picture
Syd

Way to go Zita!  I have every confidence that you will realize your dream.  I share your enthusiasm for the baking goods stores.  We have similar stores here in Taiwan and I just love them.  I can spend ages in them and would sleep there too if only they would let me!

I wish you all the best with your endeavor,

Syd

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Thank you, Syd! 

Our enthusiasm for breads (and pastries) can make us feel and do strange things. To most people, your comment about sleeping in a baking goods shop will seem ridiculous. To me, it makes complete sense. It's truly paradise for a baker!

Take care and jolly bakings,

Zita

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi Zita,

I love shopping for baking items so getting to do a virtual tour in my home with you across the globe was a real treat for me and I didn't have to spend any money :)

I continue to enjoy your posts on how things are shaping up for you.  VEry exciting to see someone step out as you are doing especially somewhere where simple ingredients are hard to come by.  I do hope that getting flour to your bakery all flows smoothly - then nothing can stop you :)  

Take Care,

Janet

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

It's a fine pleasure to shop across the world on your behalf, Janet. ;)

I'm happy to read that you enjoyed my post. I love writing about and sharing my experiences regarding my bakery. It could be insightful, even inspirational, to individuals who are keen on opening their own bakeries. But as you can see, it's a lot of hard work and I hope they understand that.

Take care and best wishes,

Zita

wassisname's picture
wassisname

Great travel report, Zita!  Enlightening and inspiring.  Thanks for sharing!

Marcus

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Thank you, Marcus! :)

Zita

isand66's picture
isand66

Thanks for sharing Zita.  What an exciting trip.  Glad you didn't end up in a jail cell trying to smuggle in some flour!

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Thank you, Ian. I'm also glad that I wasn't thrown in jail for carrying flour. It would have been inconvenient and possibly humorous in retrospect.

Best wishes, 

Zita

Mebake's picture
Mebake

What a trip!

The German Bakery, the Baking tools shop (our Disney Land) and finally the Tapioca factory (Oh and the sodium hydroxide pellets). very inspiring photography, and writeup, Zita!

I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors.

Khalid

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

:) Thank you, Khalid. Likewise, I wish you the best of luck on yours.

Zita

twcinnh's picture
twcinnh

Hi Zita,

Best of luck with your business.  I enjoyed the images of Thailand; I used to travel there several decades ago and enjoyed the culture and community greatly.  But, yes it is an experience traveling the streets; it keeps you alert.

Beautiful country.

Regards,

Tom C

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Thank you, Tom. I haven't traveled extensively in Thailand but I can say that Bangkok was a beautiful city. Rich with diverse foods and people were surprisingly friendly.

Best wishes,

Zita

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Hi Zita  you may find this link interesting

http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/countryman/a/21862508/mill-bonus-for-wa-growers/ 

its about expansion of west australian wheat sales  and milling in Asia.

 also this link may be of interest too   http://www.interflour.net/introduction

 

kind regards Derek

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Thank you, Derek! Very interesting links. For sure I'll keep an eye on the Interflour Group. Perhaps their expansion into Thailand or Cambodia will broaden the product range in bakeries in both countries. 

Thanks again for the links. It's much appreciated.

Zita

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Zita.   Working in the international division and shipping bulding materials all over the world, the import /export of stuff, especially food stuff, is an interesting business to say the least.  Looks like you are starting to put things together.  Good luck with your bakery

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Interesting business, indeed. I didn't realize how complicated food import / export was, especially between Cambodia and Thailand. Nonetheless, I'll do my best to get what I need. My bakery depends on it. 

Thanks for dropping by, Dab. :)

Zita

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

an exporter of dough mix.  I was sitting next to a salesman on a plane years ago, and we had an interesting discussion about where they delivered their mix (airdrop in a remote arctic location) and the secrets of sourdough.  Don't know all the details but I hung on to his card incase I needed some flour dropped somewhere.  (What bread lovers do for their bread!)  They are located just outside Linz, Austria.  

http://www.backaldrin.com/Content.Node/int/news/press/kit/kornspitz.en.php

bakingbadly's picture
bakingbadly

Thank you, Mini Oven! Dropping flour in remote regions sounds wild! Anyway, I'll take a look at their website and see if I can do anything fruitful with them. 

Zita