Thai Turkeys for Thanksgiving

Thai Thanksgiving Turkeys

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Surprise! Thailand has turkeys too…

Unbelievable. There we were, my long suffering Thai teacher and me, arriving at Wát Chà-lĕrm Prágìat (วัด เฉลิม พระเกียรติ์).

And there they were. White turkeys. Two.

At first I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I mean, turkeys in Thailand? But I do know what turkeys are supposed to look like, so there was no avoiding that.

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I had my first real turkey experience back in my 20’s, when I leased a house in the hills of Virginia. A house which just happened to come with a 100 acre hunting camp. And it wasn’t just any hunting camp. It was a turkey hunting camp. With wild turkeys.

When I first arrived at the camp it was mostly just me, my Ruger, and all those turkeys. Somewhere.

Occasionally an old man would watch me through binoculars (but he didn’t count).

And sometimes the guys would stop by for a huge pot of Texas chili and a shooting competition, but mostly for the beer.

Thai Thanksgiving TurkeysEarly in the mornings, toting a Ruger souped-up with a magnum cylinder (rifles were for sissies), I would head into the woods in search of those promised turkeys.

I shot up a lot of cans and more than a few branches off trees, but that was it.

Sigh. For my year there, I had the pleasure of advice and turkey lore from the local hunters, but no turkeys. Not a one.

After the year was out, I came away with a few important turkey facts: Wild turkeys are crafty, careful, and clever; domesticated turkeys are not. And if you have any doubts, drop by a turkey farm to see what I mean.

Getting back to the wat… with a Thanksgiving post in mind, I was snapping turkeys just as dense as their North American counterparts (the domesticated version, obviously).

The two white turkeys would wander around in confused circles. I would follow. Snap. For each gobble, gobble, gobble, I would snap, snap, snap.

They eventually hide their wattles under the monk’s quarters.

Not wanting to take photos of rabbits just yet, I went in search of my Thai teacher. It wasn’t much of a search as her fondness for making merit makes her an easy find.

What about those Thai turkeys…

Chicken trunkTurkeys in Thailand are known as gài nguang (ไก่งวง). Gài nguang = chicken, trunk = chicken with a trunk (and not the traveling kind).

Curious, I looked up nguang (งวง) on T2E and found lom nguang (ลมงวง), which is Thai for tornado. Lom nguang = air, trunk = air with a trunk… hmmm…

When I asked Rikker about nguang (ไก่งวง), he shot back this sage advice:

And watch your tones. If you mispronounce it as ง่วง ngûang, it turns into ‘sleepy chicken’. Must be all the tryptophan!

Still curious, I googled to find that turkeys are not unknown to Thailand, and that expats living here are especially prone to raising them.

Thai turkeys are reputedly tough (not as luscious as the butterballs you might be used to). But if you still want to have a go at tough Thai turkey farm of your own, contact these people:

Animal Husbandry Research Center Tubgwang
A. Meung Saraburi 18000
Tel. (036) 357-362

อ.เมือง จ.สระบุรี 18000
โทร. (036) 357-362

Wát Chà-lerm Prágìat…

When you visit Wát Chà-lĕrm Prágìat, you get a mix of history thrown in. Using the bricks of a 17th century fortress built by King Narai of Ayuthaya (you can still see what is left of the fort around the grounds), King Rama III built the wat to honour his mother. (no longer online): The temple consists of a large ubosot (ordination hall), flanked by two smaller wiharns (prayer halls). All three buildings feature roofs with gables richly decorated using colored porcelain, giving them a Chinese flavor that was popular at the time.

The doors and window shutters are decorated with rather simple but elegant designs on black lacquer. Inside the ubosot there are pictures of the current royal family on their many visits to the temple.

The doors and shutters do indeed have elegant designs. Some of the most attractive I’ve seen actually. King Rama III was born in the year of the rabbit, so the shutters are decorated with rabbits. I didn’t discover the reason, but the doors have an intricate dragon design.

And even more mysterious, along the walls are beautifully coloured fish eating fish. The fish must have something to do with the Chinese influence, but what?

Thai Wat rabbits dragons fish

Let there be animals…

RabbitsThe monks quarters at Wát Chà-lĕrm Prágìat are tree-covered, which I’m told is quite unusual for modern wats.

And all through the shade of those trees, I found animals.

They were hopping, squawking, eating, and sleeping. And facing down nosy rabbits.

After 20 minutes with the wat’s menagerie, I came away with two useless facts: Rabbits are sneered at by chickens, guinea hens, and peacocks; Thai turkeys are antisocial too.

Btw: If you are interested, the photos of this wat will be slooooooowly going up under Wat Chalerm Phrakiat on my photoblog.

  1. I just saw the alert come in about Suk – it’s predicted to flood next week. That should be interesting. I was at the British Club when Silom flooded but it wasn’t too bad. Silom has low dipping parts that were heavily submerged but after a few hours the water was gone.

    But if I’m going to see the flood, I’ll have to go out looking for it as I seriously doubt it’d be in my area. In BKK, if you want to see a disaster, sometimes you have to make an effort. Hmmm… just like with the Red Shirts.

  2. I heard the other day that Bangkok can expect floods soon. I think, judging from Google Maps, it’s heading down from the north through Nonthaburi.

    Be patient, it takes a while! You may not enjoy it when it gets there.

  3. I went looking for signs of flooding in Bangkok day before yesterday. I did find some – across from Ko Kret island. But when I talked to the locals they said that it always floods there. Twice a day.

    Where is all the water that is supposed to be making its way here?

  4. Problems with electricity have been forgotten here for the time being as floods from several overflowing dams sweep through The Korat Province and on to Ubon. We haven’t suffered other than a temporary loss of mains water that nearly emptied the tank and the inaccessibility of the coops. However, our market town and Korat city have been under as much as 2 metres of water for nearly a week. The rains have eased off but there is no relief from the flood water. The strength of the currents suggest that the dams have been left open.

    I have made two entries on my blog about our local floods and there are some posts on my forum.

    I hope that everyone here is well away from this mess. What’s the Thai expression for ‘forward planning’? Is there one?

  5. Ah, electrics in Thailand… don’t get me started (but there just might be a post coming soon – soon after I have the 12th electrician over to fix what should be a simple job)

  6. I can empathise with you! Expat contractors, like the rest of us, rely in the end on Thai labour and Thai ways of doing things and adopt the same ways. One problem that I encounter, and it may be a rural thing, is that locals have no interest in aesthetics. If it works occasionally, it will do. If it’s broken, a bodge repair will do.

    I made a rare attempt to dig over a vegetable patch and stopped when smoke came up from the ground. I had put my English garden fork through an electricity cable laid inches below the surface to where my wife runs her businesses. When the electrician came to repair it I didn’t have the courage to watch what he did and retreated to the computer.

  7. I had similar, but with the British contractor, not his Thai workers. Before I ventured into a condo reno, I’d already developed a bit of the ‘mai pben rai’ attitude. But the reno tested my temper.

    One of the surprises came when the contractor injected his own insanity into the project (as if there wasn’t enough already). Doors meant to be white showed up brown because he ‘thought they looked better than what I’d designed’…

    He was a sweet guy, but at the end of the project we couldn’t wait to be out of each other’s company. And looking back, I’m sure his crazy decision to change my order was due to him tearing his hair out as well.

    With a project manager’s background, I was a hands-on client (I oversaw every little detail – totally running his printer out of ink, weekly). He had an untrained staff. The combination was guaranteed to be a living nightmare for him.

  8. Thank you. I’d make a fortune in Thailand if I did look like that!

    Yes, it’s a challenge to get people here to do things the way you want. They all seem to assume that we know nothing. One sign that I’m losing the battle is the laugh and Thai smile. Sometimes I have to walk away and leave them to it – or explode with frustration.

  9. If that’s what happened, then it’s a first on WLT. I will say that you look mighty fine in that silk 😀

    Getting things ‘our way’ isn’t easy in Thailand. After revamping a condo, I soooooo know. Even with a British contractor, things went wrong.

  10. I can only think that your blog picked the image from my blog. It’s a model showing off Thai silk fabric that was shown at an OTOP show my wife attended and I used on my blog and her website. I took the pic. myself. Darned clever today’s software! Of all the images that I have used, that one comes up!

    I can easily find a butcher here but there’s a humane way to do it and I would want the oven ready turkey to look the way the farang like, not splattered onto a dish the Thai way. We’ll get there but it’s early days for us. Thais will seem to listen and then do what they want so I have to be careful. We have chicken farms near here that produce for export so an employee from one of those might be the answer.

    If there’s a market I’m sure that we can find a way.

  11. Excellent! An expat raising turkeys was exactly what I was looking for when I wrote this post. For butchers, can’t you show them a book with diagrams? I’ve had to do that in several countries when I wanted meat cut just so.

  12. Turkeys are kept, usually in small numbers, all over rural Thailand. They are hard to spot unless you go slowly down the village sois and ask the locals.

    The lack of ovens in Thai homes leads people to hack them to pieces and fry them in the same way as chicken and pork. A waste in my opinion.

    The taste is different from butterball supermarket examples for two main reasons. One is that they are not usually the factory type broad breasted whites that are too big to walk after six months. The other reason is that they are often not given the high protein feed that turkeys need. Many just have to scratch around like gai ban.

    We started a flock this year and, at present, have twenty two with twenty five eggs under broody hens. They free range on our land, have high protein feed and are fully inoculated. They will be for sale as live birds because my wife is Buddhist and I don’t want the mess – unless we can find a butcher who will process them properly. There is a steady interest from buyers and we have a queue for the first birds that we shall sell. We are happy to offer the use of our Siemens oven to enthusiasts!

    If anyone is interested in knowing more about our turkeys, post here and I’ll do my best to answer. We are south of Korat city near to Wang Nam Keow if anyone wants to take a look at our flock – or rent the use of an oven!

  13. That sounds like the very first advantage of living in Bangkok that I have ever heard of 🙂
    Thanks for the tip, will look into it. Though cannot really imagine buying one for the very occasional roasted / baked meal, no matter how inexpensive it is. I’m a simple person…. single as well, with about zero free time…. I learn to go without if that’s what it takes.

  14. Betti, if you lived in Bangkok, you would have a friend with an oven 🙂

    Counter top steam ovens are not expensive. Better yet, they are good for you.

    I have a built in oven at my place but I’ve never used it (ovens in the tropics make condos too hot).

    My steam oven does the trick instead.

  15. If I knew anyone who has an oven, we would be instant friends 🙂 but I think I would make pizza first!
    thanks for the tip 🙂

  16. Betti, I hope you find your turkey. Suggestion… if you can’t find a place to purchase individual pieces, can you borrow a friend’s stove to cook a whole turkey? One of the handy things about cooking a whole turkey is being able to freeze up the rest for meals to come.

    Talen, I can see how you could forget sickly turkeys. It was difficult enough to get my mind around Turkeys in Thailand, let alone ones in a bad condition.

    I don’t remember the exact directions as we were just stopping off on our way home from another – the big Chinese wat I was telling you about earlier, Yi Ling (I’ll write about it later).

    But I did find directions online – Wat Chalerm Phrakiet sits right on the west bank of the Chaophraya River. The easiest way to get there is to take the Chaophraya Express Boat service to the Nonthaburi Pier, then hire a long-tailed boat for the short trip up to the temple.

    I didn’t go via boat, but by taxi. So for me, it’s a point and shoot affair.

  17. Cat, After our chat I was going through some pictures and found out I lied…I have seen a Thai turkey. They were at Million Years Stone park. The park was so impressive ( not ) that I had forgotten about them. Sickly birds they were too.

    Those are spectacular designs on the doors and shutters of the Wat. I can’t wait to see the rest of the pictures. When you get a chance Cat if you could shoot me the address or directions to the Wat it would be much appreciated…You know I love Wats and this is one that must be on the list.

  18. Sorry about getting pragmatic – anyone has a clue where to buy turkey meat in Chiang Mai? Not the whole turkey from Rimping – that’s bigger than my fridge, almost, just half a kilo of turkey breast or thigh, once in a while. I miss turkey meat so badly, can only get it in restaurants at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Would also be grateful for tips on which restaurants serve turkey all year round (hopefully there is someplace out there that is not a five-star luxury establishment).
    Thank you.

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