Bangkok. Bright lights, big city. Sublimely flavourful food. Assault on the senses.
Noisy chaos. Foods doused in sugar, salt and oils. Pollution.
We love Bangkok for a myriad of different reasons, but it’s fair to say that keeping healthy in this city can be challenging.
City life anywhere is stressful, and combined with high air pollution and readily available, cheap and delicious food (sans ingredients list!), in Bangkok you’ve got a recipe for a lifestyle that ain’t so healthy.
Don’t even get us started on the influx of western fast food chains…
But not every Bangkokian is settling for not living their best life. We all know that person who can be found sprinting around Benjasiri Park every morning, or the one growing kefir grains from their kitchen-top counter.
Or the person that’s chosen to go paleo. That’s right; the people that have chosen to eschew rice and other grains forevermore.
“No rice?” You scream. “In Bangkok?!”
Yes, and before your eyes totally pop out of your head, it turns out that it’s not just another food fad but rather the chosen lifestyle for many expats and Thais who’ve chosen their health to be a top priority.
The principles of the paleo lifestyle have been around for literal millennia – at its boiled down essence, paleo is simply eating as our ancient ancestors did, which means the consumption of whole foods only. So no processed food or oils, no sugar and no grains.
You might think that going paleo in Bangkok could be a little tough, if not nigh on impossible; the diet itself is fairly restrictive and in a city where eating out is a daily occurrence, it’s pretty difficult to work out what exactly it is that you’re eating.
All we’re really sure of is that there’s a fair old amount of sugar and oils going in.
But however difficult eating paleo might be, the benefits are undeniable:
- if you’ve got weight to lose, you’ll lose it
- you’ll adopt a generally healthier lifestyle instead of a quick-fix diet
- you’ll eat plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids which are great for your skin, nails, hair and brain cells
- the high protein nature of the paleo diet means you’ll have plenty of fuel for exercise and general energy
- you’ll have better intestinal health and improved digestion after cutting out sugar, wheat and gluten
So, how to go paleo in such a city as Bangkok?
Sure, you could go it alone, but the restrictive nature of the diet plus the general cost of buying groceries versus eating out over here means that it’s all too easy to opt out of the hassle and simply revert back to your unhealthy habits before you’ve barely begun.
Conceived by Dutchman Robbie Verspui, PaleoRobbie is a paleo delivery service. They deliver the healthy, ready prepared meals of your choice to your home or office daily, as well as any other healthy, raw ingredients you might choose to cook with at home. Everything sold by PaleoRobbie is in line with relatively strict interpretations of the paleo diet and they guarantee to provide ethically-sourced ingredients that are healthy for you.
Essentially, they’re doing the groundwork – they source, portion, cook and deliver your meals. All you need to do is heat them up and eat it.
The meals are varied every day and there’s a brand new meal plan every week with plenty of options to choose from. You simply buy credits on the website and choose which meals you want to use them for, a few days in advance. The credits don’t expire and simply pass over to the next week if you don’t use them.
Recent meals include the Massaman Lamb Shank, Grilled Wild Salmon with Tomato Ragout and Chef’s Secret Roasted Beef Brisket. Their most popular dish was a recent Paleo Lamb Shoarma with a Tabouleh Salad, while Robbie tells us that beef dishes and salads always go down a storm.
Whatever you choose, you can be sure that PaleoRobbie’s meals always abide by the following principles:
- only ingredients approved by the Paleo diet
- pastured or wild animal meats only, free from antibiotics and synthetic growth hormones
- exclusively wild fish, vegetables, nuts and fruits
- no sugar, grains, legumes, cheap meats or fish, cheap oils or anything processed.
A photo posted by PaleoRobbie (@paleorobbiekitchen) on
Robbie’s philosophy is always to put health first when he’s compiling recipes and meal plans. We interviewed him recently to find out more about his business.
The man behind PaleoRobbie
What’s On Sukhumvit (WoS): How does the PaleoRobbie subscription model work?
Robbie Verspui (Robbie): The model is more like a pre-paid phone package.
You simply buy credits and use them as you go. There’s no expiration date on the credit and there are no minimum orders.
WoS: What was the inspiration behind setting up the company?
Robbie: I never really intended to start PaleoRobbie. In fact, I was about to leave Thailand and move back to my home country, the Netherlands. About 6 years ago I was struggling with my health. I had daily migraines, high blood pressure, I was severely overweight at 137kg, fell ill every other week and so on, so forth. At the time I was working in an office job for roughly 60 hours a week.
After a lot of different diets and exercise regimes with nothing to show for it, I was getting desperate and decided to give the Paleo diet a go. It instantly worked for me and I started to feel better within 2 weeks.
I quit my job to fully work on my health, relocated to Phuket with a group of friends and I’ve been Paleo ever since.
Unfortunately when I moved to Bangkok there was no concept of paleo here. Pasture-fed meat was hard to come by, pastured-eggs and wild fish were nowhere to be found, vegetables were of dubious sources and every time I ate out, I had to wonder which cheap oils they were using to prepare my meals or if they were adding MSG or sugar.
As a result I scoured the country for healthy ingredients and started to cook at home. But as you might know cooking at home is very unrewarding. It can take an hour or more with all the shopping, prep work and actual cooking to have a meal on the table only for you to finish it in 5 minutes.
To make cooking and hunting for ingredients a little more satisfying I started to invite friends over for dinner. They’d pay for the ingredients and I would cook. It started with just 3 friends in my living room, but within 1 month I found myself cooking for 14 people. It started to feel like a job, so I hired a chef and voilà! PaleoRobbie was born.
We’ve grown almost solely by word of mouth of many paleo enthusiasts and I’m very grateful for all the support I’ve received from the community since the get go.
WoS: What are the diet principles behind your dishes?
Robbie: I’m pretty strict about what we use in our kitchen. I go as far as banning any canned tomatoes, which results into us peeling 100 kg of tomatoes manually every week. It’s quite a chore, but making food from real, fresh, organic ingredients is just a lot healthier and most often it tastes better too.
A lot of ingredients are simply banned under the paleo lifestyle. This sometimes leads to exorbitantly high ingredient costs for a meal, but when health is a concern I think the cost shouldn’t matter.
For example the state of chicken is pretty abysmal in most places in the world and Thailand has a notorious reputation when it comes to raising plump caged chicken. This video explains how the farmed animals we eat get fat and it’s not pretty:
As a result, we went as far to work with a local farmer and asked him to raise chickens the paleo way – grazing on grass and eating termites, white ants and crickets. They have more than 15,000 square metres of grazing land and there’s not a cage or barn in sight.
Again it’s a lot of work, but our team takes pride in what they do and it makes for a lot of happy faces at work (most of the time!).
WoS: What are the challenges of being healthy in Bangkok?
Robbie: Aside from food choices, the environment in Bangkok isn’t optimal for a healthy life. The air pollution can be quite severe; albeit not China levels of bad. Also, just living in a big bustling city can be stressful.
In order to stay healthy myself I take frequent trips with my wife and kid to the countryside or one of Thailand’s many pristine beaches.
Since I worry slightly for my newborn about living in the middle of a 24/7 traffic jam, I have decided to turn our apartment into a small jungle. Currently we have over 16 indoor plants and it really helps with the quality of the air you breath.
WoS: What does your own diet look like?
Robbie: My diet is usually a big ass salad around 10am consisting of a huge bowl of salad leaves, olives, crazy amount of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, random in-season fruit and some wild smoked alaskan sockeye salmon or pastured-beef jerky.
I only really start to get hungry again at around 6pm when dinner is always a paleo meal from the menu or if I fancy cooking myself a big steak or a nice piece of wild fish with veggies with a glass (or 2) of not-so-paleo wine.
We decided to try a few meals from PaleoRobbie last week to see if they’re really worth the hype.
In short: they definitely are.
- Huge portions
- Evidently high-quality meat and fish
- All flavour, no filler.
The WoS dogs even enjoyed a dollop of Sweet Potato Mash with their kibble…