I’ve spent nearly 3 years looking for Paleo and Weston Price compliant foods in Bangkok and Thailand with some quirks in the process. Sometimes you find out what you bought isn’t what you thought you bought. This happens for two reasons:
- It is often difficult to get reliable information on the food you buy here. Often you will be given a “Yes” from supermarket employees, and even the food companies themselves – when the answer should be “sorry, no”. You have to dig pretty deep to make sure you are getting what you actually want.
- Food labeling on products here is also often not clear. Local standards of what you can say on products and ‘stamps of approval’ such as ‘organic’ are not well regulated (or more importantly controlled). There are some brands that position themselves as ‘healthy’ and spend a lot on marketing and advertising, but may not live up to your expectations.
To avoid getting something you didn’t want you need to dig deeper and do more homework on what you are buying. This often means calling and pestering the companies who produce the products in the first place or better – getting to know them firsthand.
The good news: I’ve done all the work and research already so you won’t have to. And you can get everything on your shopping list in Bangkok – if you know where to look.
To get all your paleo, Weston A. Price and organic compliant foods you’ll make use of A) select supermarkets with imported produce B) organic supermarkets C) speciality organic stores and companies.
- Select supermarkets with imported produce: Gourmet Market (Siam Paragon, Terminal 21, Emporium), Villa Market and to a lesser extent Tops Supermarket
- Organic Supermarkets: Lemon Farm
- Specialty Organic Stores and Companies: Radiance Wholefoods, OrgaThai and Raitong Organics Farm
I’ve found it a lot harder to find items ‘reliably’ or in sufficient range to make it worth a shopping trip to Big C, Tesco’s Lotus and the organic supermarket Sustaina Organics (from Harmony & Life).
Now to the meat of the post…
Finding reliable and 100% grass fed meats has been the most complicated. Many times I have been told that meat from a butchers or specific farm is grass fed in Thailand only to discover on deeper digging that it was not.
The same issues also affect imported meat, as well as an additional sporadic problem with the freshness of the meat. A few times I have arrived home with fresh australian grass fed meat only to find that it wasn’t fresh and had to be thrown away – “an expensive mistake”.
So first let’s start with the “Sure Bet” safe 100% grass fed meats that you can get. From most reliable down are:
- Alliance New Zealand Grass-fed Beef (frozen): You can find Alliance grass fed beef in the frozen section of Villa Market. It has sirloin and T-bone cuts clearly marked with a green stamp “Grass fed”. Alliance (www.aliance.co.nz) has a solid reputation and there is no confusion over whether the meat is grass fed or not.
- Alliance New Zealand Lamb (frozen): Found in Villa Market and Gourmet Market in the frozen section. This is a guaranteed choice also.
- Alliance New Zealand Lamb (fresh): Alliance also has plastic sealed and branded lamb cuts at the deli counter in the Gourmet Markets.
Although it is not his main business Paleo Robbie, a paleo meals home delivery service in Bangkok, provides pastured and grass-fed meat for sale.
They have New Zealand and Australian cuts, but only the New Zealand is 100% grass fed (so you should ask specifically for a New Zealand cut). The New Zealand cuts are sourced from Ovation farms, and Silver Fern Farms. They are organic (free of hormones and antibiotics).
I haven’t tried this service, but have spoken with Robbie to verify the details, so if you do try it please share in the comments how it went for you.
The other sources that I’ve had less success with:
- Australian Imported Harvey Beef: At the fresh meat counter of all the Gourmet Markets they have grass fed beef available with several different cuts. These come from Harvey Beef (www.harveybeef.com.au), a company that deals with a range of grain fed and grass fed meat from external farm suppliers. Due to several issues with this beef I no longer trust or buy it:
- Several times I have purchased beef from the counter and found when I got home that it had an off-smell and was browned rather than red (a sign to check for unfresh meat).
- Unlike Alliance, Harvey Beef has no clear communication about the ‘grass fed’ quality of its beef and it is a company that works with all kinds of cuts and cattle. To my email enquiries about whether or not the beef was 100% grass fed or grain finished they replied “We have declarations from our cattle growers about the feed regime of the animals we process. But since the animals are not required to have a complete history in this regard, it would be impossible to give you any ironclad assurances.”
- Ku Beef (www.kubeef.com): Ku Beef is a local Thai experiment ran by a university for organic farming and raising of cows. The marketing and discussions with their staff led us to believe the cows were grass fed. However, when we tracked down the data on the meat we had bought via serial number it turned out it had been fed a diet of mostly corn and soy.
- Thai-French Butchers: There are a lot of posts on the Internet and in forums indicating this halal butcher has grass fed meat. However they don’t.
For your other meats like Pork and Chicken the best option I’ve found is the S*Pure Brand chicken and pork. The meat is from animals raised without antibiotics and added hormones. It can be found in Gourmet Market and Villa Market on both the meat counters and prepackaged in the fridges.
Probably the best benefit to living in Thailand for Paleo dieters are safe starches. There are a variety of convenient options available in the supermarkets. These include:
- Organic White rice: In Gourmet Market, Lemon Farm and Villa Market you can find a few organic white rice brands including Great Harvest (เกรท ฮาเวสต) and ไทไท Green. Lemon farm sells its own brand.
- Japanese Sweet Potato: In 2012 Bangkok was hit by sweet potatoes which became popular quickly and are now available in all the gourmet markets, some Villa Markets and Top Supermarkets. You can get the organic pesticide free versions in Lemon Farm.
- White Rice Flour Noodles: These can be found in all the supermarkets. For the organic chemical free version Lemon Farm has a couple of brands (e.g. Golden Lion Korat Noodle – เส้นหมี่โคราช ตราสิงโตทอง).
For your fermented foods including Sauerkraut, kimchi, gherkins and some other versions a local fermenter OrgaThai has the raw versions keeping all the good bacteria intact. You can also purchase OrgaThai produce from Radiance Wholefoods.
There is also packaged Natto and Kimchi to be found in Gourmet Market, Villa Market and Tops Supermarket. However, since the product information is in Japanese or Korean I haven’t been able to establish if the cultures are live. The imported kimchi from Korea in airtight sealed bags looks likely to contain live cultures.
Organ meats are the one item that I haven’t been able to find a completely reliable source for. But there are options.
S*Pure branded products found in Gourmet Market and Villa Market include Pork liver, chicken liver and chicken hearts. These are antibiotic and hormone free.
Paleo Robbie has Lamb Kidney available in the New Zealand cuts, and will get his first delivery of Beef Liver and Lamb Thalamus mid-June 2013.
Chemical Free Vegetables and Fruits
A wide variety of good quality chemical free vegetables are available in Bangkok, and some fruit.
After some experimentation and looking into the certification of the brands available I’ve settled on the following list:
- Best quality (Adam’s Organic and Natural & Premium): These brands have the japanese, european and U.S. certifications and the quality of their vegetables is always good. You can find them in the larger Gourmet Markets (Siam Paragon being the best) and to a lesser extent in larger Tops Supermarkets and Villa Markets. You can also find these two brands on the first Saturday every month at Bo.lan organics market. Finally Adam’s Organic has a stall at the Green Market every Monday at Amarin Plaza (Chidlom).
- Best convenience (CSA Munching Box from Raitong Organics Farm): Raitong Organic Farm delivers a 4Kg box of varied vegetable and fruit each week to your home. The quality is good and as they vary what they give you each week it helps to improve the variety in your nutrition.
The Royal Thai Project which you see in most supermarkets in the organics section looked like a good option but I was unable to verify what was chemical free. It seems some of their produce may be, but there aren’t any solid controls or certification in place to know for sure.
Eggs and Dairy
For those who have kept dairy and eggs n their diets the more Paleo friendly options are:
- Anchor Unsalted Butter: Anchor butter comes from Grass Fed New Zealand cows and can be found in Villa Market, Gourmet Market and Tops Supermarket. Personally I make ghee with this to avoid the milk solids, and isolate the benefits of butyrate.
- Pastured Eggs: You can order pastured chicken eggs as an addition to a CSA Munching Box from Raitong Organics farm.
- Organic Eggs: In Gourmet, Tops and Villa market you can purchase organic eggs. The chickens eat at least some corn but are free of hormones, antibiotics and the chickens are free range. The best brand is Natural & Premium.
Note: S*Pure eggs have been heavily advertised in 2012/2013 in Bangkok as ideally healthy. However, when you look into the details you’ll find brands like Natural & Premium tick far more of the organic free range boxes.
I have yet to find raw milk (unpasteurized milk) or raw butter in Bangkok as Thailand has laws against the sale of unpasteurized milk. Two companies that are cited as providing raw milk are Dairy Home and Butterfly Organic Milk, however when I spoke to them directly they confirmed that they do not. If you still drink pasteurized milk these are probably the better organic options (without hormones/ antibiotics added) and are available in Gourmet and Villa market.
Fish and Shellfish
Thailand is famous for its fresh fish and there is a lot of choice in the larger supermarkets such as Gourmet, Tops and Villa Market.
The issue to be aware of with these is that many of the fish are farmed in Thailand and may have come into contact with pollutants. There have been Formaldehyde scares in the past, to the point that Lemon Farm advertises its fish as Formaldehyde free. In reality all fish in Bangkok at the least are most certainly formaldehyde free as there are checks in place.
There is such a range available and it varies week by week so I use a simple rule for buying fish here: Ask at the fish counter if it is wild from the sea.
If you are a fan of salmon, you can buy wild salmon (Alaskan) from the larger Gourmet Markets (brand: Lochfyne).
Supplements and Vitamins
It can be a bit tricky to get supplements in Thailand, especially quality or more non generic ones, so I wrote up a separate post on the system I created that allows me to get anything I need. Read about how to get supplements in Thailand here.
You have access to most paleo, paleo upgraded and Weston Price foods in Bangkok. Shopping is a little more inconvenient as everything isn’t available in the one store.
I’ve got it down to an efficient routine with one visit to each of three supermarkets each week (Gourmet, Villa, Lemon Farm) and getting some add-ons through home delivery (Radiance Wholefoods, CSA Munching Box).
Have you found any of the missing Paleo or Weston Price items not on this page? Let me know!