This week in SBS Food’s Blog Appétit – our round up of food blogs worth bookmarking – we bring you Austin Bush Photography.
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15 Jan 2014 - 11:47 AM  UPDATED 2 Sep 2014 - 2:22 PM

The American photographer’s eponymous blog takes readers to Thailand, where he has been living since 1999, and journeys throughout the Asian nation’s far-flung regions through its rich and varied food. Bush’s style is cultural reportage, expressed through vivid images and detailed accounts of local life, offering readers a rare, in-depth insight into the diversity of regional Thai food ways. It’s an engaging read and a great reference, and with recipes shared by local street vendors, they’re as authentic as they come. We caught up with Bush and here’s what he had to dish up.

“I love regional Thai food, including the food of Mae Hong Son province in the north-west corner of Thailand. Aside from being one of my favourite places in the world, Mae Hong Son is home to a unique local cuisine.

Mae Hong Son shares a border with Myanmar (Burma) and many of its inhabitants are Tai Yai (a Thai ethnic group also known as Shan), so this region’s cuisine shares a lot of similarities with Burmese cooking. Unlike most regional Thai cooking, Mae Hong Son dishes don’t tend to be overtly spicy; instead, they lean towards the savoury, salty and earthy. Also, like the Burmese, people in Mae Hong Son are fond of oil and often use garlic or turmeric oil as a condiment or dressing – unheard of elsewhere in Thailand. Soybeans are an important ingredient and used in fresh, dried or fermented form. Pork, especially fatty pork belly, also features in many dishes, as do tomatoes.

Admittedly, the dishes in Mae Hong Son are pretty obscure – they’re probably about as familiar to people in Bangkok as Sardinian food is – but they are generally pretty simple and, other than a few exceptions, don’t tend to rely on any particularly unusual ingredients or cooking techniques.”

 

I started my blog to…

“Promote myself and my work, but it soon became a habit. My day job is doing guidebooks for Lonely Planet – I’ve contributed to more than 20 at this point – but at least here in Thailand, I suspect that I’m better known for my blog than my guidebooks.”

 

The must-cook recipe on my website is…

Kaeng hang lay, a northern Thai-style curry of pork belly. It’s easy to make and delicious, and most of the ingredients can be sourced outside Thailand.”

 

I can’t wait to go back to…

Mae Hong Son to eat the local sweets. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but there’s an old couple there that make some amazing dishes that are pretty much only available in that province [see here].

 

My current food obsession is…

“Anything employing chouriço. I was in Portugual a couple years ago, and since then I have been cooking Portuguese food nearly every week. My current favourite is ervilhas guisadas à Portuguesa, a dish of peas, chouriço and egg. I use a recipe from an old Time-Life cookbook.

 

The drink that reminds me of home is…

“Good beer. It takes me back to my home state. I’m originally from a small town near Portland, Oregon – allegedly home to the most breweries per capita of any city in the US. A west coast-style pale ale, especially one with Oregon-grown cascade hops, is one of my favourite things to drink, and something that instantly reminds me of home.

 

The one thing I can’t cook is…

“Just about anything baked. Having spent a lot of time in Thailand, I’ve become used to a style of cooking that requires constant tasting and adjusting of flavours along the way – something that’s simply not possible when baking.

 

My favourite biscuit to dunk in a cup of tea is…

“Ginger snaps from Ikea. I lived for Sweden for a bit as a teenager and eating them reminds me of that time.”

 

My most sauce-splattered cookbook is…  

“1080 Recipes, the famously huge bible of Spanish cookery. Despite living in Thailand, I actually don’t tend to cook Thai food very often, and the recipes from this book are simple and sufficiently full-flavoured, even by Thai standards.”

 

The most difficult food to shoot/style and make look tasty is…

“Soup, as it’s often quite hard to show what’s going on beneath the surface. In Thailand at least, the crockery, setting and often the garnish have enough aesthetic character to compensate for this.”

 

Beyond your own blog, what are some of your favourite reads…

She Simmers is a good resource for those living outside of Thailand who want to make Thai dishes.”

 

Check out Austin Bush Photography.