Friday, November 20, 2015

The Jim Thompson House in Bangkok

The name most synonymous with Thai silk is Jim Thompson, an American entrepreneur who was the founder of the world renowned Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company. His beautiful garden-enclosed compound, comprised of six traditional Thai teakwood houses transported from Ayutthaya and Bangkok’s Ban Krua community, echoed Thompson’s 30-year love affair with Southeast Asian art and its cultural heritage. An architect by training and an avid collector of Asian objets d’art, Thompson’s keen eye and flair for design breathed life into everything he touched. After leaving the military after WWII, Thompson settled in Thailand and dedicated the next 30 years reviving the Thai silk weaving industry, which was a dying art. He sought out artisans in the northeast of Thailand, where most of the silk is still sourced, and advised on what patterns and colours would sell, buying much of final product for his own shop in Bangkok.

His success story, however, has become one of Asia's most famous post-war legends. In 1967, Thompson went on holiday with some friends to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, when he set out for a walk in the surrounding jungle and never returned. His body has never been found, although rumours abound. Over the years following his disappearance, the Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company has grown and expanded to become not only 'the name' in Thai silk, but a complete 'lifestyle' brand exemplifying modern Thai style: clothes, upholstery fabrics, wall coverings, pillows, sheets, travel bags and much more, plus a small chain of Jim Thompson Restaurants & Cafés in Bangkok and Asia, plus one at the Jim Thompson House Museum, where we stopped for lunch before exploring the museum and shop. Since his disappearance, Thompson's home that was the 'talk of the town,' has become a National Museum dedicated to the preservation and conservation of Thailand's rich cultural heritage, and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand.

The hand carved wooden sign outside the Jim Thompson House Museum

Jim Thompson's House was comprised of 6 traditional Thai houses that he purchased, 
dismantled and shipped from Ayutthaya in the 1950's

Brick paths connect some of the houses which are set amidst verdant jungle-style gardens

View through the gardens to one of the houses

Large ceramic urns are set within the gardens, which capture rain water and 
become homes for wild greenery

A great collector of Asian art, the Jim Thompson House Museum is as much a home as backdrop for his fabulous collection that he acquired over his lifetime

Paintings, glass, ceramics and traditional Thai furnishings are part of the museum's collection

Thai lady weaving silk at Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson

The Jim Thompson Museum Restaurant overlooking the koi pond and set amid lush gardens

Cerulean blue ceramic urn filled with lotus flowers 

Woven silk menu at the Jim Thompson Museum Restaurant

With 38 degree heat, a cold Thai Singha beer was like liquid gold

Rice and nori crackers 

Prawn Spring Rolls served with chill-plum sauce

Thai Green Curry with Thai eggplants and sweet basil

Jasmin rice, an accompaniment to the curry

Pad Thai, traditional Thai-style fried noodles with egg, prawns and chicken

'At The Table of Jim Thompson' cookbook


Traditional Assortment of 4 appetizers:"Goong Sorn Klin, Cho-Muang, Goong Ma Praow Thod & Kang Khao Puak" 

Pineapple Fried Rice

Mussaman Curry with Australian Beef Tenderloin

Pla Ga Pong Sam Rod: deep-fried seabass topped with sweet, sour and spicy sauce

Coconut Ice Cream

Green chicken curry (Gaeng Gwuio Warn Gai)
Serves 2
Recipe courtesy of "At the Table of Jim Thompson"

1 cup coconut milk
2 cup coconut cream
4 tbsp green curry paste 
4 tsp grated palm sugar
2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
8 oz skinless chicken thigh meat
6 kaffir lime leaves, torn
2 small eggplants, cut into sections
1 red chili, thinly sliced for garnish, optional
1 handful of Thai basil leaves

Pour the coconut milk and coconut cream into a wok and bring to a boil. Add the curry paste and mix well. Add the palm sugar and fish sauce and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the chicken, lime leaves and eggplants, and simmer until the chicken and eggplant are cooked. Serve garnished with sliced red chills and Thai basil leaves.

Pineapple Fried Rice (Khao Pat Sapparot)
Serves 2
Recipe courtesy of "At the Table of Jim Thompson"

1 fresh pineapple 
2 tsp minced garlic
1 pinch salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp chopped onion
2 tsp curry powder
8 tbsp coconut milk
8 shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 tsp white sugar
4 tsp light soy sauce
2 tsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp raisins
3 cups cooked rice
2 tsp chopped green onion
2 tbsp coriander leaves

Cut pineapple in half and remove fruit, leaving 1-inch thick shells. Set pineapple halves aside for serving and cut the fruit into 1/2-inch cubes. Heat oil in a very hot wok. Fry the garlic and salt in the butter until fragrant. Add the onion and curry powder and mix well. Add the coconut milk and shrimp and simmer for 3 minutes. Season with sugar, soy sauce and oyster sauce. Stir, then add the pineapple, raisins and rice. Reduce the heat and stir-fry for another 2 minutes mixing well. To serve, spoon the salad into each pineapple half and garnish with green onion and coriander.