Me in the ‘supermarket’ of the Institute of Food Research and Product Development (IFRPD) of Kasetsart University in Bangkok is like a big happy kid in a candy store. Arrays of delicious, healthy snacks, cookies made from textured vegetable protein, or ‘Protein Kaset,’ sweet fish sauce syrup for green mango, fresh noodles, fresh soy milk, and arrays of ready-to-cook sauces to hopefully elevate my home-cooked dishes.
Above: Crunchy and delicious cookies, some with Protein Kaset as an ingredient.
My first experience exposing to the IFRPD was lunch. A friend whose daughter goes to Kasetsart University Laboratory School (Satit Kaset) bought me some delicious Thai dishes from ‘Sahapot’ Restaurant or the IFRPD-run canteen. The dishes were delicious and I, of course, asked for the location. We went there ourselves for lunch several times and found out that this is the place that pioneered the creation of the popular ‘Protein Kaset’ – the meat substitute from soy meal that has been a staple for those wanting to skip meat for over 60 years.
Evolved from the Or Sor Ror (Arharn Samret Roop or Ready to Eat) Organisation, a part of Ministry of Defence back in 1955, the IFRPD developed from being a wartime food research organisation to the one with missions to tinker with Thailand’s annual agricultural surpluses, by creating new delicious innovations out of the annual crops, adding to their values. As it turned out, I stumbled upon this gem through a to-go curry brought over by the generosity of a friend.
Protein Kaset aside, the IFRPD is a breeding ground for a wide array of delicious innovations. The place, after all, is run by over 50 food scientists and researchers who are on the lookout for new possibilities. Rice surpluses have been turned into new delicious items. For example, rice crackers in various flavours, rice pop and rice crunches, or Thai-style cereals if you will. Or, if you want to make a tasty dish of Pad Thai or Gaeng Som – the two Thai dishes that require a real knack of a balanced, but not boring, flavouring, you can buy their ready-to-cook Pad Thai and curry sauces, available in sachets, ready for your own whims.
Above: The supermarket at IFRPD, Kasetsart University, features their food innovations, including tropical fruit concentrates, crispy snacks from Thai rice, egg noodles, soy milk, sweet fish sauces and so on.
In this episode, we had a chance to talk to the current director of the IFRPD, Dr Sombat Chinawong, who walked us through chapters of this fascinating place. For those with delicious dreams to create your own products, this is the place you will have to visit. IFRPD is the place where solid food science and knowledge can be merged with the zealous entrepreneurial marketing demands and skills. Apart from food consulting, they also offer cooking classes, restaurant management class and food testing services for those wishing to register their new products with the Thai Food and Drug Administration.
For those not into the business side of the food can also come and enjoy breakfast and lunch served at Sahapot Restaurant (weekdays only from 7.00 – 14.00). Apart from their daily specials, ranging from stir-fries to curries over rice, I particularly like their clear-broth fishball noodles with minced pork.
Above: My all-time favourite is their clear-broth noodle with extra fishballs.
For more information about the IFRPD, visit their website at http://ifrpd.ku.ac.th/en/home/index.php, or stay connected via Facebook at สถาบันค้นคว้าและพัฒนาผลิตภัณฑ์อาหาร
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