Monday, 12 November 2012

Monday Feature:Thai Manna

I've had many dreams in my 30 years of life. Many have come to fruition, others have not…yet. One of my dreams is to travel the globe and experience vast cultures, beyond my bubble of North America. I've had a taste, being fortunate enough to travel to Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and Papua New Guinea (none of which were resort experiences, but real, down in the dirt experiences), and those travels have only sparked my desire, of travel and exploration, to grow to an unmatched intensity. I have but to fan the spark and watch a blaze erupt.

The dream: to backpack Europe and parts of Asia with my husband. Not only to explore and experience the immense culture found through customs, clothing and dance, but most especially through food. As I have said in many other posts, I do love my food. Thus, the discovery of new palates across the globe is only natural and desirable.

With the growth of our little family to include an, oh so adorable, little girl, this venture has not become impossible, just a bit more difficult and may have to wait a time longer before fulfilment will be realized. But that doesn't mean that I can't indulge in exotic tastes from around the world. I continually run into others who have travelled around and had those experiences first hand, and willingly share their knowledge with all they meet.

Yes, there are restaurants aplenty that offer cuisine from around the world. But how do we truly know what we're eating is actually what we would consume if we were in the heart of that country, sitting at the local market cafe or across from a local, in their home, who had just prepared a common dish from their country? We don't. We all just trust. However, just because the sign said "Chinese Buffet", doesn't mean the food before us is actually served and eaten by the locals of China. I've heard from many who have travelled through Asia, that the Asian food eaten here is nothing like the food eaten there. So how do we trust these restaurants that claim authentic, ethnic food? Take a step back from the big chain names and generic buffets, and go to that small cafe, complete with a total of 4 tables, run by that sweet couple who have immigrated over and prepare their cultural foods themselves. Or try some homemade food from that friend who has travelled through those countries and tried the food first hand, in the local setting.

This brings me to today's feature: Thai Manna. Out of all the Asian countries, I can honestly say that Thai food is my most favourite. It's fresh, flavourful, and gives the feeling of comfort food, yet is filled with fresh produce and spices that offer a more healthy alternative to greasy, oily foods found at your nearest buffet.

Thai Manna offers you a way to prepare you very own, authentic tasting Thai food, right in your own kitchen! Umm…yes please!

Let me introduce you to your new best friend, owner, creator and the food genius behind Thai Manna, Michelle Chick.

Michelle is one of those individuals who have been to the heart of the Thai culture, experienced their food first-hand, fell in love with it, and when she came home, decided to share the beauty of Thai food with the rest of us. Michelle recalls, "While we were still dating, my husband, Tyler, and I took a trip and backpacked throughout South East Asia for a year, where I learned how to make as many great dishes as I could."

"When Tyler and I returned to Canada, I was just excited to recreate what I'd experienced and I would find all of the exact ingredients to make them perfectly. I wasn't planning to do anything with it when we got back (other than cook my way into an engagement ring) but after serving a bunch of Thai dishes to friends and family, and getting great feedback, I figured it was time to see if we could do something with it."

Thus Michelle ended up making a few makeshift kits for some friends one year for Christmas, and the storm of ideas went from there.

It wasn't a fast transition and didn't happen overnight, but like anything of value, building Thai Manna to what it is today took time, a whole lot of energy and some love.

"I was in the corporate world for a long time and when Tyler and I had our first boy, we decided that we'd really like for one of us to be home with him, for as long as possible."

"I never really know what our next step is going to be, as doors open and close for us all the time. Opportunities that I never would have even thought of, will present themselves, while other times, places I thought we might go get flooded with red flags. As we near our slower season, we're working on a couple new products and business ideas. One day, I'd like to see us on a menu at some local restaurants." Which would be amazing! In my opinion, having tried three different kits, any restaurant that carried Thai Manna's food on their menu would be better off for it.

As is the case with any business venture one may embark on, Michelle couldn't have done it alone.
"I have some of the greatest people in my life, that anyone could ask for. I love the team we have, as everyone has a heart for what they're doing, for our customers and for our food. We could never have gotten this far without them."

"With help from many friends that (really must) love me so much, we were able to pull together everything from a beautiful website, logo, packaging, and most importantly, perfecting our recipes (thanks to a test group of some seriously critical girlfriends)." Sign me up on that one! :D

Michelle also had help crunching the numbers, which, unless you love numbers, can be quite boring. She claims that without this crucial help, she's still be "locked in a room, trying to make my numbers balance." Michelle's friends have been by her side late at night, packaging kits, and early on the cold mornings, getting ready for markets. "There were times when Tyler just couldn't have one more conversation about whether or not tonight's curry was a little too garlicky, compared to last night's, but he's always been the voice of reason when my "box" gets a little too big to think anymore outside of. He's also there to push me forward when the current hurdle looks as big as Goliath."

Michelle finds that one of the most rewarding parts of running Thai Manna is you, her customers!
"Farmers Market customers are generally a very real group of people that will let you know exactly what they think of you and your product, right then and there. We've made several changes over the years, based on their feedback, and because of that, our kits just get better. I'm absolutely inspired and motivated by their support, encouragement and even criticism. It seems like just when I'm feeling a little stuck as to where to go next, I come into contact with a customer that has a story of where they heard of us. Be it a friend that loved the kit they got as a gift, a sibling that forced it on them, a co-worker that wouldn't share their leftovers, or a daughter-in-law that really impressed them, till they found out her secret. I even got a Christmas card from a family last year. It amazed me that people come to thank us for what we do. I get thanked for doing this! It blows my mind ;)"

Michelle continues, "I love how our kits have developed. With so many different tastes, allergies and personal food choices out there, we're close to being able to cater to everyone's needs." With Thai Manna's kits, you can decide on the spice level (which is great when cooking for multiple people who like different spice levels, such as my husband and I. Hayden adds some of the chilies into his own bowl of curry, so his has a kick and mine has none), how salty or sweet, you can choose from our regular or light coconut milk, and you can add any of your favourite meats and/or vegetables. If you prefer a less starchy meal, Thai Manna's kits are great on a bed of spaghetti squash too!

Thai Manna's kits are gluten, dairy, egg and preservative free. Though they don't provide a seafood free option normally, Thai Manna will take special orders for their curry paste by the cup.

Thai Manna currently carries 4 curry kits, in small and large: Red, Green, Panang and Massaman. The Massaman curry kits are seasonal and absolutely delightful, if I may say so myself! I just loved it, with it's hint of cinnamon and warm, comforting spices. Although I admit, the green curry kit is still my favourite.

This year, Thai Manna has started offering a Lemongrass soup (yum yum) and a Pad Thai. The Pad Thai has been my husbands favourite kit so far. You'll just have to try them all to find out which one you like the best! 

Thai Manna also offers 1 cup of their special curry paste and other hard-to-find ingredients in bulk, which can be picked up at the Kingsland Farmers Market, anytime during regular business hours. If you would like the seafood free curry paste, it can be specially ordered by contacting Thai Manna by either email or phone.

"This Winter we're looking at rolling out something a little different and we're really excited about this one. If you ever come over for dinner, this is the one I'm going to impress you with."

I'm so intrigued and, I don't know about you, but I can't wait to find out what is up Thai Manna's sleeve! It's sure to surprise and please us all.

Please visit Thai Manna's website at for more information on kits and links to markets where you can purchase them.

If you have any further questions, or to order seafood free curry paste, please email Michelle at or phone her at 403-998-7049.

Go to Thai Manna's facebook page here, and "like" it to stay up-to-date on markets and news on new kits!

You can find Thai Manna, year round, at the Kingsland Farmers Market: 7711 Macleod Trail S (just a few minutes South of Chinook mall, in Calgary), Thursday - Sunday, 9am - 5pm.

Thai Manna was also a part of the following markets this past Summer: Millarville, Bearspaw, Hillhurst/Sunnyside and Northlands Farmers Markets. Michelle plans to be at all of them again, kits in tow, next Summer as well!

Ok, now the part you've been looking forward to. Your Growing Green special PROMO CODE!!!
For the week of November 15th - 18th, 2012, simply mention that you are a follower of Growing Green and read about Thai Manna on my blog, and you can get one of Thai Manna's small, lemongrass soup kits for only .50 cents! This is an incredible deal that you won't want to miss out on! Go into Kingsland Farmers Market anytime this Thursday - Sunday, and you can sample all of Thai Manna's curries and pick up your soup for a delicious supper. Hope you enjoy!

What's your favourite ethnic food?

Next week's feature hint: No more crying

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