A few years ago, I got to interview Malaysian Chef See Cheong Yan and his Filipina wife, Tess, for the ‘Couples’ section of an old magazine I used to work for. To date, it remains one of my favorite interviews because the chef and his wife were quite a delight to talk to.
They openly shared the story of how they met (in school at Les Roches in Switzerland), their weekend family routine (the one and only time in the week that Chef See would cook at home), and their passion for gastronomy (so strong that they even passed it on to their two sons).
“At a very young age, the kids learned to eat food like foie gras, lamb,” shares Tess. “Their knowledge of food is wide because of early exposure!”
Chef See adds, laughing, “It’s very magastos (expensive)! I don’t splurge much on things, but when it comes to food, I do. Because that’s how it was when I grew up and that’s the way I do it now with the children. Basta (as long as it’s) food.”
The Sees also shared that they make it a point to travel at least once a year. “If there is something I can do for my kids,” says Chef See, “it is that I want them to be children of the world, not just of the Philippines. I want them to see what is outside, the culture of different countries, taste the food, visit the market, and then make comparisons back home.”
He also adds that one of his favorite things to do when in a new place is to go to the market. “I enjoy it a lot and it’s also when I create my menu,” he says. Visiting the market “is also a great way to experience local cultures and flavors.”
After staying in Chiang Mai, Thailand for a week, I couldn’t help but agree with him. In Chiang Mai, two things are never in short supply: Temples and Markets.
On the first few days of our trip, my friend J and I hopped from one temple to another. Twice, planned; the rest of the time, unplanned because almost every street we went to would have a temple situated nearby and we couldn’t resist going inside for a quick peek. By the third day, we were feeling “all templed out.”
We decided to hit the Warorot Market, known locally as Kad Luang, which is said to be Chiang Mai’s oldest and most famous marketplace. Situated a few kilometers away from the Thaphae Gate area where our hotel was located, there’s plenty to see (and eat!) in this multi-storey compound. There are fruit, vegetable and flower vendors selling fresh produce outside the buildings.
Inside, you’ll find everything from dried fruits and pickled products, to pre-made curries, spices, and packaged kâap mŏo (pork rinds).
It’s a great market if you’re looking for cheap clothes, fabrics and cooking supplies, as well as inexpensive cosmetics and handicrafts. My favorite part about Warorot, however, is the food.
I had been craving for Sticky Rice with Mango that day, and this lady’s stall definitely satisfied.
The sticky rice was still warm from the pan and the mango slices (drizzled with warm coconut milk) were so succulent they melted in the mouth. This sweet juicy goodness I wolfed down all by myself, and I even bought another order for later consumption at our hotel. On our last day in Chiang Mai, we went to Warorot before going to the airport to buy pasalubong (gifts) for our friends. I couldn’t resist—I ended up going to the same lady vendor. It was my last day in Chiang Mai, and I needed my sticky rice with mango fix before enduring the long journey home. :D Another market place we went to is the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar in Chan Klan Road. We went here on our last night in Chiang Mai, which I really regret because the place is teeming with things that make me happy: trinkets, paintings, handicrafts, shoes, pashminas, and jewelry.
I think I ended up spending my last hundred dollars here, which got me a lot of goodies to take home. One of the best things about Chiang Mai is that shopping here is incredibly cheap. I saw some pashminas that I was able to buy for 100 baht each, and they are of the same quality as the exorbitantly priced ones sold for P4,500 (3,300 baht) in a luxury mall in Manila. I was so tempted to buy a new suitcase and fill it with pashminas to sell a hundred times the price I bought them for. :D As with the Warorot Market, the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is quite huge. Next time I’m in town, I’d allot two nights to fully explore the place. And I will definitely make it a point to come back to this “outdoor spa” in the market’s food court, where I got the best massage of my life for a cheap 250 baht.
J and I treated ourselves to Thai Massages on our last night there, and we walked the entire three kilometers back to our hotel with lazy, goofy smiles on our faces. :D