Finally! Bangkok gets authentic bagels
For 19 years, Eric Seldin has asked friends returning from overseas the same question: “Can you bring back some bagels?”
Getting really good bread in Bangkok is hard enough, and it becomes even more difficult when one tries to find the unique, chewy texture of a real bagel.
But now, Seldin’s bagel-borne frustrations are no more, and it’s all due to, well, himself, and a team of like-minded friends and associates who just opened the BKK Bagel Bakery.
“For the longest time, we had to do with bagels in Bangkok that were essentially just round pieces of bread,” says the career video journalist. “But a few years ago I had a stroke, and needed to find something else to keep me busy besides my video work.”
While chatting with compatriots and meeting new friends on Twitter, Seldin connected with Tri Kanchanadul, and the two began talking.
“We said it’s a crazy idea but decided to see what happened. As the project developed, we found a huge amount of interest in the Western community but also by Thais who enjoyed eating real bagels, which was a surprise, as thick bread and cream cheese really isn’t part of the Thai diet.”
Once Seldin and Tri decided to go for it, they needed to source a few key elements: namely, the equipment to bake the bagels, a location to open a shop, and, of course, the knowledge of how exactly a real bagel is made.
“We just started learning all we could and finding information wherever it was,” says Tri. “We talked with professional bakers, read as much as we could find online and did extensive trial and error research in my kitchen at home.”
After hundreds of samples, an exact recipe and baking method was agreed upon, and they invited plenty of friends from the United States –- especially ones from the east coast -– to get their input and make sure the recipe was producing the real thing.
To get bagels of the same density, consistency and flavor of the ones that have made the item a cultural mainstay in places like New York City and Montreal, the dough must first be boiled, and only then can it be baked.
The hot water turns the starch on the surface into a thin crust, which prevents the yeast in the interior from rising fully during baking, creating the dense, chewy bread that defines the treat.
The equipment was all bought locally, and staff bake all night in order to have a fresh batch ready to go for the morning rush.
The owners say the soft opening of the store in late February went well, with visiting New Yorkers giving the thumbs up and a roster of regulars and returning customers eager to load up despite having only bagels and cream cheese to choose from.
The store’s grand opening on March 1, however, included the BKK Bagel Bakery deli, turned the store from simply a bagel shop into a full-fledged restaurant.
Caroline Schule, the store manager, has made sure that BKK Bagel Bakery’s deli offers nothing but the best.
“We won’t be using any processed meats or chemicals,” she says. “All of our ingredients are natural and everything is made on the premises by my team and I. This includes things like roast turkey, pastrami, chicken, tuna and egg salad, salmon [lox], and even homemade cheesecake and desserts.”
Even the cream cheese is made fresh in Bangkok, and comes in plain, labneh, garlic & dill and olive.
“We want this place to be somewhere that people can drop by and hang out for a while, use the free Wi-Fi, and relax a bit,” says Seldin. “It’s a dream come true after so many years of a bagel-free Bangkok, so we’re very happy to be able to help people discover why bagels have become such a popular food back home.”
Bakery is located in Maneya Center, next to the Chidlom BTS station on Sukhumvit
Hours: Open Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m and Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to noon.
Tel: +66 (0)2-254-8157