With the opening of a new large Tesco Lotus store at Pearl Beach, we can argue that the homogeneity of globalisation has well and truly arrived on Koh Chang. It joins 4 other smaller express shops which are located in the major beach areas and wherever you find one of them, then the 7/11 franchise will mirror it. In fairness to 7/11, they were here first and have a whopping 11 shops, their front doors all driving everyone to distraction with that ping-pong electronic jingle, but then again, their tills never stop ringing either.
According to some quick research there are in the region of 6,500 in Thailand and boy, are they popular, a constant stream of adults and children, lots of children, snacking on junk food par excellence.
So after at first resisting, as did the mainland town of Trat, the Koh Chang locals have now embraced the convenience store with a vengeance, money no doubt helping smooth the way and they are here to stay. Thankfully, no real burger joints or KFC’s have made it across the water as yet, a Chester’s Grill in White Sand Beach being the only exception.
Local Fast Food
Our local veg shop, think corrugated roof, open front, large ice boxes, dogs sleeping in the discarded sweetcorn husks, is not to be outdone and is taking on the larger conglomerates with all their packaging and ready to eat processes by themselves putting all your curries bits and pieces in one bag, pre-chopped and washed. We have a handful of kaffir lime leaves, some pea aubergines, long red and green chillies (not fiery hot, but a good tongue warmer), lovely fresh green peppercorns and bamboo shoots cut into strips.
Only they are not bamboo shoots, but shredded pineapple stalks, an essential ingredient in a truly authentic local curry. Their taste is slightly bitter with no sweetness like the actual fruit and all of the curries you see in roadside curry shops will use them as a core ingredient alongside meats ranging from pork to chicken offal, boar, buffalo or even deer.
Back at home, all you need to add to your curry goodies is your own choice of meat and most importantly, the paste, but happily, that too is taken care of. The pastes are produced elsewhere by cottage industry locals and then sold in tiny plastic bags by your local shop.
People might argue you should make your own but these women know their onions so as to speak and their pastes are as real as you can get. What is also great is the paste will vary from place to place, each group of pestle and mortar pounders having their own recipe, so you can keep different ones in your fridge for subtle taste alternatives.
And that is that, throw them all together with a splash of fish sauce and you have fast food, very local, very Thai and if you get peckish before the next meal, you can always drag yourself kicking and screaming into one of those convenience stores and get a snack – chances are though, there will be a queue.
The paste used here is for red curry, nam prik gaeng pet, nam prik meaning paste or literally chilli thing, gaeng curry and pet spicy.
It is cooked without coconut milk in this style. Curry bag, 20bt, curry paste 10bt.