In her television series, Marion's Thailand, popular chef Marion Grasby returns to Thailand to cook for her relatives; an experience that was particularly sentimental for the chef who became a household name after participating in the second series of Masterchef.
"My favourite place to cook during the show was my mum's village, Nakhon Chum. It was so special to be cooking for my grandma, aunties and uncle. And my grandma even had seconds of my green chicken curry, so I know she must have liked it," said Marion.
Nakhon Chum is a long way from the hustle of big city Bangkok. The village where her mother's family live is located in rural Thailand, where many locals enjoy modest lives. There are certainly no whizz bang commercial kitchens here; it's all woks and flames but the secret to the wonderful cuisine are the ingredients sourced from the markets that were harvested fresh. Marion's mother, Noi, who is also a professional chef and source of inspiration for the former journalist also travelled to Nakhon Chum for the family reunion and to enjoy the delicious cuisine prepared by her daughter.
Marion tells Flight Centre the most surprising location she visited when filming her television series that's broadcast on Foxtel's LifeStyle Food channel was the region around Hua Hin, which is noted for its floating riverside market.
"Some of the areas and markets we filmed at around Hua Hin surprised me with the quality of food and ingredients. I've always thought of Hua Hin as purely a beach holiday kind of place so it was lovely to explore it's food culture too," she said.
"Visiting a sweet shop owner at the Don Wai markets near Bangkok was so inspiring. The owner was a fourth generation sweet maker and she was so happy and passionate about everything that she did. She inspired me to always keep smiling."
During her recent Thai adventures, Marion headed to the beach at Pran Buri, where she observed the fresh seafood caught by local fishermen before she barbequed prawns and squid and served her dish with a spicy Nahm Jim Sauce. On a coconut plantation, she watched a monkey collect the coconuts so that she could make a Thai Red Curry with Chicken and she also explored the meat market at Cha-Am to cook deep-fried pork belly. In the final episode of the series, Marion cooked Nam Prik Kapi with acclaimed local chef, Chef Chumpol and prepared a parting meal for her family that included a whole fish steamed in banana leaves and a prawn and banana blossom salad.
The one question we had to ask Marion, who also has launched a range of Asian ingredient kits and is forging a culinary career around Asian flavours, is why she considers Thai food so delicious?
"I think it's the spicy, sweet and sour flavours. When all these flavours combine it makes for such a dramatic eating experience. When I'm at home, I love to eat my mum's Khao Tom Soup. It's a type of Thai rice porridge with garlic, coriander and ginger. It's so soothing," she said.
"If I had to give advice to travellers wanting to enjoy authentic Thai cuisine in Thailand, I think the street food is where you'll always find the best Thai food. But you do have to be careful. Choose a street cart that's busy with lots of people because this means their fresh food will be turned over quickly."
Even when Marion travels for pleasure, she still can't resist exploring the cuisine of foreign countries and indulging in a gastronomic expedition.
"I love holidaying in Asia! It's very hard to pick a favourite country but my most recently travels have taken me to Japan and South Korea. There is amazing food in both these countries."
Marion’s Thailand – Tuesdays at 8.30pm on LifeStyle FOOD only on Foxtel