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The best smoothie in Chiang Mai
How Mrs. Pa traded her computer for a blender: And why everyone in Chiang Mai is a lot happier
From rickety bamboo stalls to colorful neon carts, Chiang Mai is awash with fruit juice stands.
But of all the smoothie joints that dot the city streets, one stands out -- Mrs. Pa’s Fruit Shake & Bualoy stand.
From her pitch at the food market next to Chiang Mai gate, Mrs. Pa sees a constant flow of customers, both Thai and foreign, every night.
While she definitely knows how to make a killer smoothie, it’s not just her product that draws the crowds; it’s how she connects to her customers.
Former corporate to smoothie guru
Mrs. Pa hasn't always sold smoothies. She used to work in an office just outside the city, buying food in bulk to supply the bigger restaurants and stores in Chiang Mai, Thailand's "second city."
A friend of hers ran the smoothie stand -- until she met an American, married him and offered the cart to Mrs. Pa free of charge. It was a no-brainer, she says.
Mrs. Pa quickly traded in her computer for a blender and she’s happier now than she has ever been.
A winning combination
Walk up any day, ask for a fruit of your choice and then tell her to add whatever else she wants. Lime, mango and passion fruit was the last mixture I tried.
It was good. It always is. I’ve never seen another vendor cobble together a shake with such consistently delicious results.
Instead of just starting to sell smoothies from the day she acquired her cart, Mrs. Pa sat down with a pile of books to learn about how different fruits blend together. “Still a lot to learn,” she says, opening the fruit-filled page of a glossy book. “But it’s fun.”
Only the best
Part of what makes the taste stand out is the quality of fruit Mrs. Pa uses for the smoothies. She varies her morning buying routine depending on the season.
In March it’s strawberries first, from a tiny stall far outside the Old City’s gates. While berries are sold at the morning market, they’re far sweeter if they come directly from Samoeng.
Her precision isn’t limited to strawberries. At the morning market near the U.S. Embassy she visits a different vendor for each of her purchases.
Weaving through the rows quickly, she chats with each of the fruit sellers, laughing the whole time. Limes first, then oranges, melon and finally passion fruit.
Each is chosen meticulously, and piled high on her motorbike.
Going that extra step
Apart from choosing her fruit with care, Mrs. Pa makes her own sugar syrup at home. "Store syrup is no good," she grimaces. "They add chemicals to make it taste better."
She lugs the syrup and her fruit to her stand every night, balancing it on her motorbike with all the day’s fruit. From the minute she sets up, her cart is buzzing with customers.
Despite the crowds, if you’ve been there before she remembers exactly what you like, and what you don’t. And if you’ve been there more than a few times, you get a bear hug with your smoothie.
"I am happy to work here," she says with a smile. "Many friends, many customers, both Thai and foreign. And more foreign customers mean more English to learn."
Some time ago her cart was missing from the market for five days. It transpired that she was in the hospital.
When she showed up again at the end of the week, within minutes at least a dozen people had stopped by to ask if she was feeling better or if they could do anything.
What other smoothie stall has that kind of concerned clientele?
Pa Fruit Shake & Bualoy Stand, Chiang Mai Gate Night food market, 5 p.m.–11 p.m. daily.
Smoothies cost 15 baht (one-, two- or three-fruit combinations).
Most popular smoothie: Strawberry mango
Mrs. Pa’s favorite smoothie: Orange