Buy it when you see it

After exploring the options for groceries in Hua Hin, I’ve started to favor the Makro Food Service store a couple of miles north of my apartment. Not that it’s an easy option.

makro3First, I have to walk about  half mile just to catch the public taxi on the main highway. The taxi drops me off at the front of the Makro lot. Once I’m done shopping and have everything loaded on my back, I then have to walk back to the highway with my load and wait in the sun for the taxi. Finally, when I’m dropped off at Soi 41, there is still the half mile to carry the groceries.

My other options are the Tesco store at the Market Village, which requires less walking, or, for fresh foods only, the fresh food market on Soi 70. However, going to the fresh market still requires a trip to one of the other two, so I don’t shop at the fresh market, even though it is probably the most fun of the three.

Both Tesco and Makra have fresh meats, seafood, vegetables and fruit (which I don’t buy because it’s too heavy to carry). But the variety is greater at Makro, there is far more room to shop (warehouse), fewer shoppers, and the prices may be a bit lower.

Two months ago on one of my first visits to Makro, I found a selection of microwave popcorn. As this is a budget “extravagance,” I weighed buying a 3-pack of the extra butter option, but it didn’t weigh much so I paid the price.

The popcorn turned out to be an excellent snacker and when I went back to Makro on my next shopping trip, I looked to replenish. Now, the previous trip, there was a large assortment of popcorn taking up significant shelf space. My assumption was that the store continually stocked popcorn.

Wrong! And I should have learned this from my travels, that what you see in the store one day may not be there the next, or even weeks or months later. There was no popcorn on display at Makro on any of my subsequent trips to the store. What one day had significant shelf space no longer was being sold, at least for the time being.

This applies almost exclusively to imported items. The store gets a supply of something, puts it up for sale, sells the product out, and then fails to restock the product.

You would think that would have been enough of a lesson, but two weeks ago in Makro I noticed they had a two-burner electric stove for about $40. This is not something I’ve seen here and would be the perfect replacement to the BBQ grill I’m currently using to cook everything from bacon, to meats, to potatoes, to spaghetti sauce.

stoveI lifted up the grill on the shelf. It was heavy and I knew I would already have a heavy lift going back. The hot sun on that last half-mile walk with all the groceries on my back also weighed in. I told myself “next time.”

Next time came this week. You will probably not be surprised to learn the store had no more of the stoves. Zero. Zippo. They sold however many they had and did not replace. At some point in time, the product may show up again, and if I’m lucky enough to be shopping before they sell out again I will deal with the difficulty of getting it back home.

I’m not sure how supply chains work on imported goods overseas but it sure is not like the U.S., where you can be mostly assured that a product you see on the shelves this week will be there next week. But I have experienced this is in several countries, including Costa Rica, Indonesia and now Thailand.

With all that experience, you would think I would have learned my lesson and bought that stove when I had a chance. Everything screamed that it would be a one-off for the store, although you would think that if they sell something so easily the stores would make an effort to resupply in a timely fashion.

After all, they all seem to be able to maintain their supplies of Snickers and M&Ms.


An Indonesian mall

The Avava Mall is about two blocks from my apartment, in the middle of the Indonesian population. It is where I had a “cream bath massage” two weeks ago and where I almost rented an apartment. The cream bath, incidentally, is a cream treatment and massage of your head – about $4.50. The mall is definitely for locals, as I was the only expat in sight. The pictures here are of a department store within the mall. Prices are much better here than in places where the expats shop. Wonder why.

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Bought this vegetable at the fresh market. not sure what it is but added it to a beef soup. Tasted like a turnip. The other picture is of pak choy and spinach (I think), with garlic, before cooking.



I tried, at least

This whole thing about adapting to the culture, the food, the this and that, can only go so far at times. Take for instance today’s attempt at making fish head soup. The name itself has frightened me away from trying it so far, but the dish does seem to be popular here. One time I even went for dinner at a place that specializes in various kinds of fish head soup. Sadly, at the time, they were sold out.

The local fresh market has a nice selection of fresh fish, including red snapper, tuna, and an assortment of other fishes, even rays. One time I bought a whole tuna and had it cut up, including the head. They slice the head down the middle, between the eyes. I thought I would freeze it and try to make some fish head soup. My next fish purchase was a whole red snapper, again with the head. Today, I decided to defrost the two beastly heads and cook some soup.

It’s a fairly simple recipe: boil the heads, discard all pieces, add vegetables, salt, cook some more. The smell was atrocious. (I don’t get to use that word too often, sorry.) It was awful. I was afraid the neighbors would complain.

Considering all the ingredients I had devoted to this dish, I wanted to give it a chance. So I tried of spoonful of the broth.

My next thought was “Where do I throw this out!”

I salvaged the potatoes and a white carrot-like tuber I bought today, although they are soaked in the awful fish liquid so I may end up throwing them out, as well. The pot with the soup and greens was carried down three flights and dumped in the trash area. The apartment smells much better now.

I’m going with a more Western-traditional grilled pork, baked potato, and cuke and tomato salad.