I woke up like a kid at Christmas this morning. It was a morning I have been anticipating with overwhelming excitement since I heard about the new organic farmers market at Bo.lan. I heard about the first "market Saturday" at Bo.lan about a week too late back in January, but I knew that nothing would get in the way of making it there today. The market is entirely organic and is planned for the first Saturday of every month. Bo.lan is right in the heart of Bangkok, on Sukhumvit Soi 26. It's a bit of a hike down Soi 26 to get there, but the walk is a lovely one if you don't mind the usual roar of Bangkok's motorbike brigade.
Frank and I set out early, winding our way through back roads and stopping for breakfast as we made our way to the market. As soon as we approached the courtyard, I knew we would be thrilled with what we found inside.
A good organic farm market is something I find hard to do without at this point in my life. We were spoiled in DC, and I never lived anywhere in that city that wasn't within walking distance to a good weekly organic market. While I am so very thankful for the beautiful produce, particularly the tropical fruit (we make some killer fruit salads around here), available in Thailand, the widespread use of pesticides always gives me pause. It is clear that there is slowly becoming a market for organic produce but, just like in the U.S. a few years back (and still now, to some extent), organic produce can be costly and is viewed as somewhat elitist.
Bo.lan is clearly working to challenge those perceptions - the items for sale this morning were affordable and of extremely high quality. In a small charming courtyard, set back off the road, the market is small but full of gorgeous produce and a few specialty items that I have rarely seen elsewhere. The vendors are proud of their products, quick to tell us how things are grown and where their farms are located. We bought something from nearly every table, including a divine, creamy young goat cheese (the best I've tasted since we moved here) and a snack of a pulled pork sandwich on a house-made steamed bun that, had we not just filled ourselves full of breakfast, would have been well-worth purchasing more of.
We bought organic chicken and duck (!) eggs that made it home intact despite our roundabout trip home on-foot.
We talked for a good 10 minutes with a man selling the most uniquely flavored oils that I have ever seen. He was pressing black sesame seeds through a machine there in the market, and let us sample oils flavored with cinnamon, chili, and coriander. We bought a small bottle of turmeric-flavored oil to experiment with at home, but I suspect we will be able to dream up uses for many other flavors before we return next time.
On our way out we stopped to talk to a woman with a table full of basil, bright red tomatoes, and coconuts. She filled my bag full of organic produce for just a little over two dollars U.S. She even had packets of perfectly- portioned seasonings for tom yam soup. These packets with all the things you need for a big bowl of soup (lemongrass, chills, makrut lime leaves, galangal) are widely available here, but I have never been able to buy them organic, nor for so cheap (about 30 cents U.S.).
And, although I only use a little at a time, I can never resist the call of the other-worldly galangal, so we ended up with several of them by the time we reached home. (It's a relative of ginger, but with a flavor that is more sweet, slightly floral, and distinctly...Thai.)
To be surrounded by all of that beautiful clean produce and the proud farmers who grow it themselves was just about the best way I could think of to spend a Saturday morning. I'm a happy girl in Bangkok today, with a kitchen full of organic produce. Here's hoping this catches on and we begin to see more markets like this one around town.