NextGEN Gallery Plugin Not found

Food culture of resource-poor communities in northern Thailand | Ruth Tshin

Food culture of resource-poor communities in northern Thailand

Will you support me as I complete my last term with ECHO Asia in 2013?

Thank you for your support in 2012!

I’m raising an additional $7500 to cover living+working expenses for my last term in 2013.  I’ll be wrapping up these exciting projects. Please note – I cannot provide tax receipts.

  1. Collecting traditional recipes and writing a cookbook on how to eat the local vegetables we produce at the seed bank.  We will promote this resource with the ECHO network and among development organizations working on improving food security.  I need additional funds for research trips in northern Thailand, decease Laos and Burma.
  2. Supporting ECHO Asia’s local networking events, pill like the Tropical Agriculture Workshop in Chiang Mai and conferences in Philippines. 

Here are your giving options:

1. INTERAC Email Money Transfers

  • Recipient: “ruth@tshin.com“.  Bank: CIBC
  • Check if your bank allows this.  Go to interac.com for more info.

2. Monthly Donation via PayPal

  • You need a PayPal account for this
  • Monthly giving for 12 months duration

3. One-time Donation via PayPal

  • You don’t need a PayPal account for this  

4. Make Cheques Payable to:

  • Ruth Tshin
  • Send to: 1783 Sherwood Forrest Circle, Mississauga, Ontario L5K 2H7

A photo exhibition at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, ailment St. Catharines, visit this
Ontario, May 24-27, 2014, as part of the Canadian Association of Food Studies Exploration Gallery.

In collaboration with ECHO Asia Regional Impact Center.  Thanks to: Rick Burnette (Agriculture Director, ECHO International), Ratakarn Arttiwutikul and Abram Bicksler (ECHO Asia Regional Impact Center), and all the staff at Upland Holistic Development Center.  All images are copyright Ruth Tshin, unless otherwise noted. Please do not use without permission.


Globalization has affected marginalized and resource-poor, ethnic minority communities in northern Thailand, many who migrated in waves from neighbouring countries due to conflict.  The shift from dependence on subsistence farming for food and income, to market-based farming and livelihoods has led to loss of traditional knowledge, and in turn, a loss of cultural identity as subsequent generations assimilate into Thai culture.

I lived and worked for 5 years in community with people from ethnic minority communities in Chiang Mai province while setting up a centre producing open-pollinated seeds of culturally-significant plants for farmers seeking to be more self-reliant in their practices.  These photographs represent the daily meals and hours of food preparation with colleagues that thrust me into an astonishing food culture beyond typical Thai food.  This rich food culture is a way for my colleagues to celebrate their cultural identity, using diverse, seasonal ingredients sourced from nearby forests and using methods reflecting dependence on the surrounding environment.

Accompanying article: A Family and their Forest in northern Thailand.


 

Chiang Dao district, Chiang Mai province, September 2012 A farmer walks home through the forest after a day working in the fields.

Chiang Dao district, Chiang Mai province, September 2012
A farmer walks home through the forest after a day working in the fields.

Omkoi District, Chiang Mai province, February 2010 Photo courtesy of Niemeet Chompoothong Wedding celebrants enjoy a meal centred on rice in a communal setting.  Compared to jasmine rice favoured by lowland Thai, upland rice is grown primarily for consumption by ethnic minority communities in the mountains of Thailand and rarely sold in lowland markets.  The chubby, speckled grains are hearty and anchor the fiery chili pastes and forest vegetables stews cooked nightly in the communal kitchen.

Omkoi District, Chiang Mai province, February 2010 (Photo courtesy of Niemeet Chompoothong)
Wedding celebrants enjoy a meal centred on rice in a communal setting. Compared to jasmine rice favoured by lowland Thai, upland rice is grown primarily for consumption by ethnic minority communities in the mountains of Thailand and rarely sold in lowland markets. The chubby, speckled grains are hearty and anchor the fiery chili pastes and forest vegetables stews cooked nightly in the communal kitchen.

Mae Suai district, Chiang Rai province, December 2008 The cooking area is typically located inside a well-ventilated room attached to the family home.  The shelves suspended above the cooking fire and take advantage of the smoke and constant heat to preserve dried food products and next season’s planting seeds stored.  During the cold season, family members gather around the fire to socialize and enjoy cups of bitter tea.

Mae Suai district, Chiang Rai province, December 2008
The cooking area is typically located inside a well-ventilated room attached to the family home. The shelves suspended above the cooking fire and take advantage of the smoke and constant heat to preserve dried food products and next season’s planting seeds stored. During the cold season, family members gather around the fire to socialize and enjoy cups of bitter tea.

Bounty from the forest that make up to 80% of the upland diet: local mushrooms; feathery, garlicky-tasting acacia shoots; sweet-tasting chayote shoots and white galangal shoots.

Bounty from the forest that make up to 80% of the upland diet: local mushrooms; feathery, garlicky-tasting acacia shoots; sweet-tasting chayote shoots and white galangal shoots.

 

Vegetables are frequently eaten boiled and dipped in a spicy chili paste, like boiled bamboo shoots with wasp larvae harvested from the forest.  The diet of many upland communities is based on rice or other starchy staples and vegetables. Although a pig may be prepared for community celebrations, meals may not feature meat or other protein.  If eaten, protein can be sourced from the forest (small game, insects), rice paddies (fish, crabs) or small livestock (chicken, pigs) raised in backyards.

Vegetables are frequently eaten boiled and dipped in a spicy chili paste, like boiled bamboo shoots with wasp larvae harvested from the forest. The diet of many upland communities is based on rice or other starchy staples and vegetables. Although a pig may be prepared for community celebrations, meals may not feature meat or other protein. If eaten, protein can be sourced from the forest (small game, insects), rice paddies (fish, crabs) or small livestock (chicken, pigs) raised in backyards.

Mae Chaem district, Chiang Mai province, January 2013 Loh, a Karen woman, and her son on the land her family has farmed for several generations.  In the background, her husband Singkham is harvesting a forest plant for supper.  Out of Thailand’s population of 67 million, more than 1 million are people from ethnic minority groups and primarily located in northern mountain communities.  Officially recognized groups include Karen (population 500 000), Hmong (160 000), Lahu (103 000) and Akha (46 000).  Source: Department of Social Development and Public Welfare, Ministry of Human Development and Security, Thailand (2002)

Mae Chaem district, Chiang Mai province, January 2013
Loh, a Karen woman, and her son on the land her family has farmed for several generations. In the background, her husband Singkham is harvesting a forest plant for supper. Out of Thailand’s population of 67 million, more than 1 million are people from ethnic minority groups and primarily located in northern mountain communities. Officially recognized groups include Karen (population 500 000), Hmong (160 000), Lahu (103 000) and Akha (46 000).
Source: Department of Social Development and Public Welfare, Ministry of Human Development and Security, Thailand (2002)

Mae Chaem district, Chiang Mai province, January 2013 A Karen boy chases a chicken next to forest products being auctioned off during New Year’s Day celebrations. In the foreground are a pumpkin, stalks of sugarcane and golden-green snowflake tree flowers harvested by the community.

Mae Chaem district, Chiang Mai province, January 2013
A Karen boy chases a chicken next to forest products being auctioned off during New Year’s Day celebrations. In the foreground are a pumpkin, stalks of sugarcane and golden-green snowflake tree flowers harvested by the community.

Preparing a stew made with vegetables harvested year-round in the surrounding forests.  Stewing, grilling and boiling or steaming are common methods for preparing vegetables throughout mountain communities in Southeast Asia, reflecting simple culinary techniques developed in the absence of expensive inputs like cooking oil, soy or fish sauces more readily available in lowland communities.   A simple stew highlights the astonishing flavours of whatever vegetables are seasonally available and incorporated: sweetness from fishtail palm heart; sour from tamarind leaves or local tomatoes; bitter from rattan shoots or snowflake tree flowers.  Seasoning staples include chili peppers, salt, wild herbs, and fermented soy beans to add a savoury dimension.

Preparing a stew made with vegetables harvested year-round in the surrounding forests. Stewing, grilling and boiling or steaming are common methods for preparing vegetables throughout mountain communities in Southeast Asia, reflecting simple culinary techniques developed in the absence of expensive inputs like cooking oil, soy or fish sauces more readily available in lowland communities. A simple stew highlights the astonishing flavours of whatever vegetables are seasonally available and incorporated: sweetness from fishtail palm heart; sour from tamarind leaves or local tomatoes; bitter from rattan shoots or snowflake tree flowers. Seasoning staples include chili peppers, salt, wild herbs, and fermented soy beans to add a savoury dimension.

The hearty vegetable stew made with slivers of white banana stem hearts, green flowers of the snowflake tree, and local sour tomatoes.  Thai cookbooks reflect the food culture of dominant and food secure lowland groups, rather than the minority and food-insecure groups in the mountains. Source: Food Culture in Southeast Asia, Penny van Esterik (2008)

The hearty vegetable stew made with slivers of white banana stem hearts, green flowers of the snowflake tree, and local sour tomatoes. Thai cookbooks reflect the food culture of dominant and food secure lowland groups, rather than the minority and food-insecure groups in the mountains.
Source: Food Culture in Southeast Asia, Penny van Esterik (2008)

Mae Chaem district, Chiang Mai province, January 2013 Loh’s mother prepares sits on the bamboo floor preparing vegetables for the evening’s meal.

Mae Chaem district, Chiang Mai province, January 2013
Loh’s mother prepares sits on the bamboo floor preparing vegetables for the evening’s meal.

A bowl of pounded, bitter rattan shoot chili paste rests on a rattan tray, ready to be eaten with dipping vegetables and rice.  Bitterness is a prized flavour as it signifies medicinal and healing qualities of the vegetable.

A bowl of pounded, bitter rattan shoot chili paste rests on a rattan tray, ready to be eaten with dipping vegetables and rice. Bitterness is a prized flavour as it signifies medicinal and healing qualities of the vegetable.

Mae Chaem district, Chiang Mai province, March 2013 Two young girls dressed in the distinctive white shifts signifying unmarried status in the Karen culture, walk home after the wedding of a cousin.

Mae Chaem district, Chiang Mai province, March 2013
Two young girls dressed in the distinctive white shifts signifying unmarried status in the Karen culture, walk home after the wedding of a cousin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *