Say hello to our second Harney Holiday Desteanation, Bangkok! The capital and most populous city of Thailand with an estimated population of over 10 million, this international hub for everything from arts and entertainment to spicy cuisine, historic landmarks, street life and so much more has made it one of the world’s top tourist destinations. With so much to see and do, it’s no surprise!
Situated on the delta of the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok is a bustling major city with busy roads and canals used by millions for transportation, in addition to a more recent public transit system put in place to help offload the congestion. While in the city, you’ll want to visit landmarks like the opulent Grand Palace and “wats” or Buddhist temples -- there are more than 300 of these amazing, historic structures. For world-class shopping and dining, visit the upscale Siam area, or for a more “hippie” experience, check out Khao San Road, famous as a destination for backpacker tourism with its more budget-friendly accommodations, shops and bars.
Speaking of bars: Bangkok is well-known for its rowdy night-life and pub crawls. Street vendors hawking Thai cuisine are everywhere, and no visit is complete without a ride in a tuk tuk! These three-wheeled contraptions are a motorized version of old-fashioned rickshaws. The name “tuk tuk” comes from the not-very-smooth sounds of their engines. While they may not be the most comfortable ride you’ll ever take, they’re certainly a memorable one!
You probably didn’t know that the name “Bangkok” is most commonly used by foreigners. The Thai call their capital “Krung Thep,” which is the first part of its very lengthy official name which, in English, means “The City of Gods, the Great City, the Residence of the Emerald Buddha, the Impregnable City of Ahutthaya of God Indra, the Grand Capital of the World Endowed with Nine Precious Gems, the Happy City Abounding in Enormous Royal Palaces Which Resemble the Heavenly Abode Wherein Dwell the Reincarnated Gods, a City Given by Indra and Built by Visnukarm.” (Take that, Game of Thrones’ Daenerys Targaryen!) Before you try to memorize all that, you can just shorten Krung Thep as “City of Angels” and go along with your day.
When you’re ready to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city, the Gulf of Thailand is less than 30 miles from the city. Enjoy beaches and tropical temps pretty much year round. No matter what you want to do, Bangkok’s sure to have something that will have you raving about this most impressive City of Angels (sorry, Los Angeles, but we do love you, too!).
Our Thai-inspired and sourced teas reflect the sweeter tastes of Thailand’s people as well as some very unique tea properties.
Bangkok. The rich flavors of Bangkok are the inspiration for this tasty blend that combines green tea, lemongrass, vanilla, coconut and ginger.
Thai Silk Tea. The Phataraprsit family of mother and daughters have been making teas outside of Chiang Mai in northwestern Thailand for several years. This Thai Silk Tea is their signature tea. It is made by hand and, as they say, it is “silky smooth.”
Butterfly Pea Flower. Butterfly Pea Flower has been used for centuries in Southeast Asia and has recently been introduced to tea drinkers out of its native area of Thailand. The flower boasts a long list of Ayuverdic properties, and people love the bright blue color along with the fact that it changes color to a nice purple when some acid, like lemon juice, is added. The cup imparts a mild, earthy flavor.
Indigo Punch. Vibrant and full of crisp, fruity flavors, our Indigo Punch combines the delicate tang of rose hips and apple pieces. The earthy tones of the gorgeous butterfly pea flower make this a unique blend. Bright lemongrass, lemon peel and vivid raspberry round out the palate of this beautiful brew, along with natural honey flavor for a touch of sweetness.
Thai Rooibos. Rooibos gets spicy in this more exotic version of the popular herbal tea. We’ve added cinnamon, ginger, coconut and lemongrass for some wonderful kick.
For a true Thai tea treat, whip yourself up a Thai Iced Tea. This sweet and creamy beverage is wildly popular in Thailand and has made its way west to win a legion of fans here as well. Try it to see why.
The Holidays in Bangkok
Believe it or not, while the vast majority of Thailand is Buddhist, Christmas is extremely popular in Bangkok (although not so much in other areas of Thailand). Before you think of Thai families gathering around a Christmas tree on December 25, opening gifts and having a holiday meal, think again. There’s no celebrating on the 25th of December, and if that day happens to fall during the week, everyone just works like it’s any other day. But other than that, to see Bangkok lit up and decorated during Christmas is truly a spectacle to behold.
The best places to get your over-the-top Christmas decoration fix is at the upscale shopping malls and areas. Central World Shopping Center is one of the most popular spots for Thais and tourists during December. Central Square in front of the mall hosts a huge Christmas tree with fairy lights and oversized ornaments along with open-air beer gardens. The massive Siam Paragon, one of the most luxurious malls in Bangkok, has dozens of palm trees illuminated with colorful Christmas lights and displays. Other places to celebrate include EmQuartier, Bangkok’s newest and most upscale mall; Ratchadamri Road, where on a stroll you’ll see many fine hotels all decked out with Christmas trees and lights; and the previously mentioned hippie area, Khao San Road. If bars, live music and a party atmosphere are your jam, Khao San Road decked out in December finery is the place to be!
Not to be outdone by the malls and hotels (the holiday season is generally the busiest for Bangkok hotels), you can find floating restaurants and party boats taking revelers up and down the Chao Phraya River. And if you thought Santa delivering presents was special, how about elephants dressed as Santa bringing gifts?! Thailand’s national animal, elephants are beloved and have been known to don Santa outfits and bring presents to school children, carrying baskets with candy and gifts in their trunks. In 2020, they even brought face masks to help spread awareness about being safe during COVID. Those are some smart elephants!
While Bangkok loves Christmas -- and most of this was driven by increased Western tourism in the ‘80s and ‘90s which resulted in retailers realizing they had a great opportunity to sell merchandise, hotel rooms and more during the holidays -- there are no traditional Thai holiday dishes. That said, there are plenty of signature Thai foods! While you are likely already familiar with dishes like pad thai and satay, we thought we’d share three wonderful Thai recipes you may not be as readily familiar with that you can try at home. Enjoy!
Tom Yum Goong (Spicy Shrimp Soup)
This classic Thai soup comes in two types: clear or creamy, with the clear version being very lo-cal. As with all truly ethnic recipes, you may have to shop for some ingredients at a Thai grocery, order online or find an acceptable substitute.
- 10 oz. whole shrimp or prawns with heads and shells on (can substitute frozen, peeled if you prefer; if so, disregard instructions for broth regarding shells and heads)
- 3 C water
- ½ C chicken stock/broth
- 2 stalks of lemongrass, outer layers peeled
- ⅗” piece of galangal, cut into 4 slices (may substitute ginger and black pepper for the galangal)
- 5 kaffir lime leaves, torn roughly
- 2 Thai or birdseye chilis
- 3 garlic cloves
Soup Add Ins:
- 4 oz. oyster mushrooms
- 1 roma tomato, cut into wedges
- ½ medium white onion, cut into wedges
- 1 tsp sugar
- 3 tbsp fish sauce
- 3 tbsp lime juice
- Cilantro, for garnish
Creamy Tom Yum Option:
- 1 ½ tbsp Thai roasted chili sauce
- ⅓ C evaporated milk
- Peel the shrimp or prawns. Place heads and shell in pot, reserve meat. (Disregard if you’re using frozen/peeled).
- Use a meat mallet or similar to bash the garlic, chili and lemongrass so they burst open to release flavor. Add to pot.
- Crush kaffir lime leaves with your hands, add to pot.
- Add galangal, stock and water. Bring to simmer on high heat, cover, then reduce to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Strain the broth, discard the shrimp/prawn shells, etc., then return broth into same pot over low heat.
- Add onions and mushrooms, simmer 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, simmer for 1 minute.
- Add shrimp/prawns, simmer 2 minutes or until just cooked.
- Stir in sugar and fish sauce, simmer for 1 minute.
- Add lime juice, then taste. Adjust sugar, fish sauce and lime to your taste.
- Ladle into bowls and serve with fresh coriander and fresh chili.
To Make Creamy Tom Yum:
When you add the sugar, also add Thai chili paste and evaporated milk. Then continue with the recipe.
Thai Green Curry
What would a collection of Thai recipes be without something made with curry! Spice up your holiday table with this savory chicken, vegetable and curry recipe with some red & green elements perfect for Christmas dinner! Features homemade curry paste which takes a little more effort but adds a lot more flavor than store-bought.
For the Green Curry Paste:
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- 1 stalk lemongrass, minced
- 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 loosely packed cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems, coarsely chopped
- ½ tsp ground white pepper
- ¼ C diced shallot or purple onion
- ½ to 1 green chile, sliced
- 1 tsp shrimp paste, or 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 ½ tsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ can coconut milk
For the Chicken Curry:
- 2 tsp peanut oil
- ¾ can coconut milk
- 1 ½ lbs. boneless chicken breast, or chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 handful green beans, or 1 small zucchini, or other vegetable of choice (green for the red & green effect)
- 1 medium red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
- 4 makrut lime leaves, or 1 tsp grated lime zest
- 1 generous handful fresh Thai basil, or sweet basil, optional
- 4 C cooked jasmine rice
Green Curry Paste:
- Gather the ingredients.
- Place all curry paste ingredients in a food processor. Use only half of the green chile. Process until all ingredients are blended and have a smooth consistency. Taste. If you’d like it spicier, add the remaining half of the green chile. Set aside.
- Gather the ingredients.
- Warm a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the peanut oil and swirl around. Add the green curry paste. Briefly sauté the mixture to release the fragrance, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Add the coconut milk to the wok. Stir well to combine.
- Add the chicken pieces stirring to incorporate. When the curry sauce comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Stir occasionally.
- Add the green beans, pepper and makrut lime leaves to the wok. Stir well to incorporate. Simmer until the vegetables are cooked to your liking. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly, either adding more fish sauce for salt or more lime juice if too salty for your taste.
- If using, add the Thai basil to the pan and stir well. Serve with the jasmine rice on the side.
Mango Sticky Rice (Khao Niaow Ma Muang)
This famous traditional Thai dessert brings together mango slices and sweet glutinous rice for an unlikely but delightful finish to a spicy Thai meal.
- 1 C Thai sweet rice (aka sticky rice)
- 1 ½ C water, divided
- 1 13.5 oz. can coconut milk, divided
- ¼ tsp salt
- 4 to 5 tbsp brown sugar, to taste, divided
- 1 to 2 ripe mangoes
- Sesame seeds or coconut flakes (optional)
- Soak the rice in 1 cup water in a medium pot for 20 to 30 minutes. Do not drain the rice.
- Add ½ cup more water, plus ½ can of the coconut milk, the salt, and 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar. Stir well. Bring to a gentle boil, then partially cover with a lid (leaving some room for steam to escape). Reduce heat to medium-low, or just until you get a gentle simmer.
- Simmer 20 to 30 minutes, or until the coconut water has been absorbed by the rice. Turn off the heat but leave the pot on the burner with the lid on tight. Allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
- To make the sauce, warm (do not boil) the remaining coconut milk over medium-low heat in a small saucepan (about 5 minutes). Add 3 tablespoons brown sugar, stirring to dissolve. Taste test the sauce for sweetness, adding more sugar if desired. Note that it will not taste as sweet once added to the rice.
- Prepare the mangoes by cutting them open and slicing each into bite-sized pieces.
- Scoop some warm rice into each serving bowl, then drizzle lots of the sweet coconut sauce over the top. It should look like an English pudding with custard sauce, with the rice swimming in the sauce. Arrange mango slices on the rice and finish with a drizzle of more sauce.
- Sprinkle sesame seeds or coconut flakes on top, if desired.