In Testament to Good Taste by Bangkok Post
Today I would like to talk about a shop that may already be familiar to readers of the Louis Vuitton guide to Bangkok that came out recently The Louis Vuitton company have published many volumes in their guidebook series for various For example, in a section suggesting what to do with 24 hours in the city, readers are advised to start the day by joining the pre-dawn exercise session that takes place daily in Lumpini Park. From there they are encouraged to go for breakfast at On Lok Yun restaurant on New Road, near the Sala Chalerm krung cinema. This is a small and very old restaurant no air-conditioning-that serves an old-fashioned breakfast with coffee. A bit later in the morning it is recommended to visit the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Royal Palace, and then at noon to have lunch at a place near the Central Embassy shopping centre. For the afternoon, the guide suggests a trip to buy silk at the Jim Thomson shop, and then a visit to a spa followed by drinks and a 360-degree view of Bangkok on the roof of a 30+ storey hotel. Finally, the day might finish with a Thai meal at Nahm restaurant.Some other recommendations include Thai sweets and mango and sticky rice at an old sweet shop called Boon Sap. The place is not recommended so much for its ordinary old-style appearance but for the desserts that if offers, all of which are delicious. Readers are also advised to visit the Nai Soe Chinese restaurant not far from Hua Lamphong railway station, taste the hoy thawt (shellfish fried with egg) at the Nai Mong shop, and order a plateful of the famous phat Thai at a shop at Prathu Phee. These are a few examples of recommendations that have more to do with quality and atmosphere than with luxury.Getting away from restaurants, there is a spice shop located in a fresh market off Yaowarat at Jaw Jae in Chinatown that could hardly look more ordinary. The Louis Vuitton Guide urges a visit to the shop, and it is this place that I would like to write about today. Ran Nguan Soon Phrik Thai Traa Mue (the "Hand brand No.1" pepper store) in Talat Mai off Yaowarat has a big electric pepper grinder set out front, with a basin to catch the ground pepper. It looks like a standard grocery store. The Hand brand of ground pepper has been around for a very long time. It is sold both by weight, and finely ground in cylindrical tins with perforations for shaking out the required amount. Many kinds of other seasonings are also sold by the spice distributor, Nguan Soon, including those used in Chinese, Thai and Muslim cooking. The fame of the Nguan Soon shop runs deep among people who use spices and seasonings. In the past, anyone who needed to buy these items had to make a trip to the shop, but today the company's products are available in supermarkets everywhere. Visit Limprana, the owner of Nguan Soon, related some of the shop's history. His paternal grandfather came to Thailand from China to run a tobacco business at Saphan Han near Song Wat Road, where agricultural products were sold, he explained. Tobacco, different kinds of beans, coffee and pepper were all available there because they were uploaded at the pier nearby.It was his father who thought it would be a good idea to sell pepper, grinding it first so that it would be easy for the buyers to use. He pounded it by hand and sold it while sitting in front of a shop in the middle of Talat Mai packaging it in bags. The pepper sold so well that pounding it by hand became more than he could manage, so he bought a mechanical grinder at Woeng Nakhon Kasem (or the "Thieves Market") where all kinds of kitchen equipment were sold, and went back to selling the pepper in front of the shop as usual. With time the shop went out of business. Mr. Visit's father later asked his grandfather to buy the machine, and opened a shop that sold ground pepper and other spices, although the featured product was still the ground pepper. Now that Mr. Visit is running the store he no longer uses peppercorns from Song Wat Road. Instead he obtains them from Chanthaburi and has established a centre there to purchase them. He sells two kinds of pepper, black and white. The black type is made from pepper as it comes from the plant, with the corns simply dried. White pepper is processed, made by soaking the black peppercorns in water for three nights, after which the dark exterior fall away leaving a white kernel. The farmers who sell pepper understand the proper method of making the white pepper, so the shop is spared the task. Once the business was thriving and the company decided it was time to export its products, they bought land and built a factory to produce the spices and package them in packaging was envelopes and bottles. The packaging designed to be clear and easy to use, giving it a look that is attractively modern on the foreign market. Mr. Visit said Nguan Soon is now a market leader, and the company offers more than 200 kinds of spices and seasonings. About 80% of the products are sold on the domestic market with the remaining 20% exported.“We till maintain the original store in Talat Mai, because it has character that customers know and appreciate,” Mr. Visit said. "We're a little surprised that Louis Vuitton would include our shop in their guide. It might be just its old-fashioned character that they find interesting.
Brunch/ Sunday, January31,2016
By Suthon Sukphisit