Phetchaburi: A small town with a big flavour
The seaside province of Phetchaburi, located 175 kilometers southwest of Bangkok, is already well-known for traditional art, heritage buildings, and natural wonders – but food culture is its newest claim to fame.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recently named Phetchaburi a City of Gastronomy under its Creative Cities Network. The central province is home to cultivators and farmers and has a long and rich history of producing palm sugar – a natural sweetener that can be found in almost every dish.
The UNESCO Creative Cities Network was established in 2004 and aims to promote cooperation between endorsed cities and encourage sustainable development. Cities can be recognized under seven creative categories: craft and folk arts, design, movies, gastronomy, literature, digital arts, and music.
Phetchaburi is Thailand’s fifth Creative Cities Network province, following Phuket as a Creative City of Gastronomy in 2015, Chiang Mai as a Creative City of Crafts and Folk Arts in 2017, Bangkok as a Creative City of Design in 2019, and Sukhothai as a Creative City of Crafts and Folk Arts in 2019.
“We are overjoyed that the UNESCO has recognized Phetchaburi’s food culture. Our culinary traditions have been passed down through generations. The recognition will inspire people to make Phetchaburi a great food destination,” Pranee Suksawang, a local sweet maker in Phetchaburi, tells Thai PBS World.
Phetchaburi province, bounded by the fertile gulf and a tropical landscape, is at a crossroads of geography, geology, fauna, civilizations, and cultures. In the past, it thrived as a trading post between the Malay Peninsula’s east and west coasts. With an abundance of supplies and a rich culinary tradition, the locals have created spectacular cuisine using indigenous ingredients.
“Phetchaburi has high-quality salt in Ban Laem, palm sugar in Ban Lat, and lime in Tha Yang. With our cooking traditions and fresh ingredients, we make delectable dishes,” Pranee adds.
In the seventeenth century, the royal court of Ayutthaya introduced new traditions and tastes to Phetchaburi, while new culinary techniques were brought from the royal court of Rattanakosin in the nineteenth century.
A nice balance of local fare and royal cuisine allows the people of Phetchaburi to stand taller and be a little prouder of their gastronomic tradition.
“When it comes to cooking, the people of Phetchaburi go to extremes. We seek pleasure in eating spicier heat, tangier sour and saltier salt combinations,” says Amnat Phu-ngern from the Uncle Thanom Palm Orchard in Phetchaburi’s Ban Lat district. “This could be due to the abundance of ingredients available for creating richer and more flavorful dishes. Running out of ingredients will never be an issue, so we use more than usual to achieve a bigger and bolder taste.”
Kaeng Kua Hua Tan (toddy palm curry), Khanom Cheen Thotman (fermented rice-flour noodles with fried fish cake), Khao Chae (rice soaked in water with a variety of side dishes), and Kuaitiao Nam Daeng (noodle in red soup) are among the well-known dishes that represent Phetchaburi’s gastronomic traditions.
Phetchaburi also is noted for Khanom Mor Gang (baked egg custard) Khanom Tan (toddy palm cake) Thong Muan (rolled sweet wafer), Alua (Thai meringue) and Thong Yot (super-sweet egg-yolks drop).
Phetchaburi’s designation as a City of Gastronomy will elevate it to the ranks of the world’s top food destinations.
“The addition of Phetchaburi to the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a Creative City of Gastronomy is much welcomed and could not have come at a better time, with gastronomy featuring as a key element of the new tourism marketing campaign “Visit Thailand Year 2022’,” says Yuthasak Supasorn, TAT Governor, of Phetchaburi’s newest claim to fame.