When spending any time in Chiang Mai, you will eventually hear someone mentioning a trip to Pai. It is a small town in the Mae Hong Son Province of northern Thailand. It sits in a valley on the banks of the Pai River. Pai is known for its laid-back atmosphere, bohemian styles, and picturesque scenic landscapes but often overlooked for its culinary attributes. Surrounded by some of the most gorgeous and fertile lands Thailand has to offer they can produce and grow high-quality ingredients.
Chef Ton owner of LeDu Bangkok whose restaurant rated #37 in 2017 Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, in partnership with the Reverie Siam spearhead this endeavor. The objective was to gather and use all local ingredients within Pai. So, we had the unique opportunity to follow the chef as he visited the local farms, from the manual harvesting in the rice fields to choosing livestock. All ingredients were locally sourced from organic and sustainable to construct an unforgettable luxury dining experience that would be hosted at the Reverie Siam.
On the first day of the trip, we stopped at Harvest Moon Valley. We were fortunate and got a guided tour by owner Khun Nui. Set a beautiful patch of fertile land, Harvest Moon Valley is a small farm located upstream closed to the local water source which remains pure and untouched by pollutants. This small farm is promoting sustainable, organic and macrobiotic farming. All the plants in this nursery specially selected by Khun Nui, who meticulously studies, experiment and looks after all the plants growing on the farm.
The drive from Chiang Mai to Pai is about three hours long, and we stopped at the Harvest Moon Valley farm before we even got to our hotels, needless to say, our group was feeling a bit drained. After checking into our perspective hotels, we once again gathered for dinner at the Reverie Siam. From the cheese and fruit platter to delicate lamb chops they put on a spread that not only rejuvenated us but left us satiated and happy.
The following day we loaded on to the van to visit Tuan’s rice farm which has been a leader in sustainable farming and educating local farmers. Mr. Yanyong Yadee has turned his home and his rice field to a learning and experimenting center for the community. Trying to promote organic and sustainable farming in the district. During this visit, he sat our group down and to give us a background on his farm and all the science behind into the research that he is doing. That is why all the rice that’s grown is packed and shipped to Chiang Mai University for further studying. Uncle Tuan has dedicated his time studying all the rice species in Mae Hong Son. In Pai alone, there are around 221 types of rice species!
After learning the science behind the rice fields, we went to see first hand about the hard work that’s put in collecting rice by hand. Manual harvesting is standard across Thailand, and it involves cutting the crops with simple hand tools like sickles and knives, however; it is labor intensive and strenuous work. Besides cutting you also need to thresh the rice crops by hand. This standard method is when you take rice and beat it against an object usually using a plant with low moisture which makes it easy to break.
After a thorough education on rice, we moved onwards to the next location Akira Garden. This little farm is located in Tha Pai Village, Tambon Mae Hee. Founded by Khun Yoon who is actively promoting organic and sustainable farming to the local community. Black Pig is one of the most common livestock you will see around Pai and what was one of the selected ingredients for dinner.
Chef Ton was collaborating with the award-winning resort Reverie Siam for this special event “A Season in Pai.” Using their facilities and kitchen staff to help create this lavish dinner. Each of the five courses prepared that night was paired with a fine specialty wine from international boutique producers. Tickets for this event were priced at 4,900 THB, but it included the wine.
This eye capturing dish that had everyone instantly oohing and ahhing was Sturgeon & Caviar from Doi Dam & Pai Rice wine. Paired with a glass of Fleury Blanc de Noir Brut NV – Champagne, France. The caviar was a little salty and fishy but not as pungent as I’ve had before, a sign that this was incredibly fresh. As the eggs popped on your tongue, the rich but sweet taste mingled well against the firm texture of the fish.
Local Free Range Chicken & Zanthoxylum had a bit of an extra surprise as Chef Ton came out with a big bag of sticky rice for the diners. Paying homage to a Thai classic of eating sticky rice with grilled chicken. This dish was paired with a glass of Simon Bize et Fils Savigny -Les-Beaune le Cru aux Vergelesses 2011, Burgundy, France. For the final main dish on the menu, we were served a local Black Pig with Pumpkin Curry sauce. Domaine Santa Duc GigondasTradition 2005 Magnum, Rhône, France was the pairing for this dish.
To maintain that the dinner was a success would be an oversimplification. Reverie Siam, Chef Ton with the support of Tourism Authority of Thailand sought out to showcase what Pai has to offer locally. It proved that culinary wise, this is a destination that should be on every foodie’s plans. It’s not just luxury restaurants that have access to high-quality products and ingredients but also the mom and pop shops, Pai is a culinary diamond in the rough waiting to be noticed. I am glad I did and expected me to be back for more.
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To Vist Chef Ton’s restaurant click on the link below