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!