Crazy about croissants
Seems Thais just can’t have enough of the French crescent-shaped pastry
Decades ago, if someone predicted that Thais would happily queue for hours to buy croissants just as they once did for Roti Boy breads or Krispy Kreme doughnuts, you would be forgiven for scratching your mind in disbelief.
Yet, against all odds, that’s what is happening right now. The current croissant mania is as amazing as it is real, and even more astonishing is that it started almost overnight. Today, Thai people stand in line at bakeries and wait for hours for freshly-baked goodies. Those savvy enough to pre-order the crescent-shaped pastries from their favourite bakers are sometimes forced to wait two to three months before they can sink their teeth into them..
Fortunately, with so many pastry lovers in search of genuine and “perfect” croissants, the delicious pastries have become easier to find throughout the country.
Croissants, the famous French breakfast pastry that actually originated in Austria, have been around for a long time. In the early 1970s, Saigon Bakery, Little Home Bakery, Dusit Thani Hotel, the former President Hotel and the Siam InterContinental were the only places that offered croissants and a variety of quality bread.
The practical choice is to pick croissants from five-star hotels as they are usually good though often a bit pricey. In 1997, Thai foodies had a chance to taste quality croissants at a very affordable price when French supermarket store Carrefour opened its doors in Thailand. At that time, a box of six golden croissants cost only 24 baht! Unfortunately, the French retail chain shut up shop in Thailand a few years back and their low-price yet delicious goodies have disappeared too.
Today, croissant lovers need not rely on five-star hotels thanks to the opening of several trustworthy bakery chains such as Paul, Eric Kayser and Gontran Cherrier, though here too the price can be steep. In addition, a lot of leading independent bakers have popped up in the capital and around the country including in Chiang Mai, Phuket, Nakhon Ratchasima and Khon Kaen.
“Even my hometown Khon Kaen has a famous croissant shop. A piece is priced at almost 100 baht. You can buy half a grilledchicken or two dishes of Somtam for that price,” says Khon Kaen native Arinya.
The more sellers, the more consumers
Over the past decade, the science of baking has greatly improved thanks to the arrival of formal French baking schools such as Le Cordon Bleu as well as famous chefs to teach the art of baking. The result has been an acceleration in the growth of French-style patisserie. Many amateur bakers have opened their own small business and started to offer croissants after completing their courses.
“The shape and texture of croissants have evolved a lot from the old days. Now they are round and plump with a buttery taste and mouth-watering aroma. In addition to the qualified western chefs who come to teach the art, we also have suppliers who import French and Japanese flour as well as good butter from France and elsewhere,” says Parisa Rojanajarukorn, an interpreter who has worked with Le Cordon Bleu Thailand for over 10 years.
Bakers point out that only a certain quality flour and butter produce satisfying results when baking. The croissant craze caused a shortage of flour last year when professional and novice bakers hurried to buy large quantities before supplies ran out as imports slowed.
“We’ve seen French-style pâtisserie and boulangerie trends before,” muses Supoj Lokunsombat, a former Swiss Air employee and travel writer. “Take the crepe for example. Even though it is advertised as a Japanese dessert, its original recipe comes from France. Or the burnt cheesecake from the Basque region (Basque burnt cake) that has become a must-have at almost every western dessert shop.”
Thanks to the power of social media, the craze for croissants has intensified. “At first, there were a number of people starting small businesses and selling small quantities. Then the trend escalated. People began noticing and shared their finds on social media and the message spread even further,” Parisa says.
Last year’s lockdown during the pandemic also made people crave delicious food and croissants were one of most sought-after items. The marketplaces on Facebook and Instagram witnessed a growing number of “bakery shops”.
“Sorry, this lot (of croissants) is finished, please wait and order next time,” is the message commonly seen on Facebook’s Chula Market Place when a baker opens a pre-order for croissants. The Facebook group is the marketplace of Chulalongkorn University Alumni and current students to help support small businesses and people affected by Covid-19.
Convenient and satisfactorily delicious
And croissants perfectly fit today’s business model. Bread snacks are dry and easy to transport and can be easily delivered via mail. With the growth of parcel delivery businesses, the delivery of goodies is much easier and faster.
Supoj also points to the initiative of Thais in creating many flavours and varieties of croissants. “Teenagers may dislike buttery croissants but they are sure to find other varieties that they like.”
Croissant lovers in Thailand can now munch on a variety of flavours, not only the chocolate or almond pastries most commonly found in French bakeries. There are green tea, truffle, Japanese curry, salted eggs and even Cabonara croissants.
Nor is there a rule to define the best tasting croissants. Perhaps the best summary is the conclusion that appears on the “All I Can Eat” Facebook page: “One should eat croissants with pleasure. Don’t get all serious about the flakiness and texture inside. Whatever kind of croissant you like, it is the best croissant for you”.