*in cooperation with Regione Puglia and Pugliapromozione

Savouring unexpected Italy in a three-day culinary event.

Eating superbly well is one of the great joys of travelling in Puglia. Whether dining on homemade pasta in a family-run trattoria, seafood in a waterfront market, or Michelin-starred cuisine in a fine-dining restaurant, you’ll find somewhere to suit your style. Puglia’s cuisine, a kind of blueprint for the UNESCO recognized Mediterranean diet, has its roots in dishes prepared with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients cooked according to traditional recipes.

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Presenting Puglia, its beauty and its agri-food traditions to the Thai public was the goal of Sawasdee Puglia 2022, the three-day event held in Bangkok in cooperation with the Puglia Region, Pugliapromozione, TICC – Thai Italian Chamber of Commerce, Chulalongkorn University and under the patronage of the Italian Embassy in Bangkok and the Italian Trade Agency.

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The 2022 edition was the second of the Sawasdee Puglia event and this year it was focused on Puglia’s food and wine heritage, emphasising in particular the traditions of Christmas cuisine and telling the story of Puglia in one of the liveliest and most beautiful periods of the year: a period to be discovered amidst rituals, stories and legends, special events, authentic villages festively decorated – and of course great food. 

The event encompassed a journey across the food culture of Puglia, disclosing habits and traditions linked to local ingredients, wines, places, and signature recipes expressing the best this Italian Region has to offer. 

Wheat and olive oil. From Castel del Monte to Santa Maria di Leuca, there’s no better way of tapping into Puglia’s culinary culture than by… getting your hands into a pack of durum wheat flour. This is the prime ingredient of the region’s famous orecchiette pasta, made so skillfully across the two seas, endless stretches of beaches and cliffs, hilly landscapes and even mountain ranges of the unexpected heel of Italy’s boot. Puglia is also the land of olive oil, and the largest Italian producer of this precious juice: with over 60 million of olive trees – of which over 6 million are more than a century old – this is the land where olive trees are regarded and protected as monuments: its Millennials are olive trees older than a thousand years, still yielding olives and considered as masterpieces of art with iconic, gnarled, and twisted trunks. 

Burrata cheese. In Andria, the city famous for its UNESCO Heritage site Castel del Monte, cheese-enthusiasts are spoiled for choice. Across the region there exist lots of fresh and aged cheeses, but a real highlight is burrata from Andria. This soft white cheese consists of bulbs of pasta filata (stretch curd) stuffed with shreds of mozzarella soaked in cream. It’s sold in delis and caseifici (dairies) across town. For more cheesy thrills head to Gioia del Colle for a taste of its gorgeous mozzarella.

Andria_Castel del Monte_ph Franco Cappellari

Itria Valley: meet lovers’ heaven. As well as its mythical trulli houses, the Itria Valley is famous for its fornelli (butchers’ shops where meat is sold, grilled, and served straight away). They’re casual affairs but hugely popular with visitors, particularly in Cisternino. Local specialties include gnumareddi (small rolls of lamb entrails) and bombette (balls of capocollo and salami, ideally from Martina Franca, stuffed with cheese).

Bari: a city for foodies. Puglia’s bustling capital is a paradise for street food fans. Wherever you go you’re always within easy striking distance of a bakers’ shop, a takeaway, or even a street seller, offering tasty local snacks. For a typical local bite, order a slice of the city’s celebrated focaccia. This comes with a thick, soft base topped with olives, sweet tomatoes, oregano and extra-virgin olive oil. 

Bari_Piazza Mercantile_ph Carlo Elmiro Bevilacqua

Peschici and the “trabucchi”. A feature of the Gargano’s seascapes are the traditional fishing platforms that pepper the coastline between Vieste and Peschici. Known as trabucchi, these ancient contraptions are anchored to the rocks and with their complex system of beams, ropes and pulleys were used to haul up catches of mullet, seabream, redfish, and mackerel. Nowadays, they form an atmospheric backdrop for sunset aperitifs and seafood dinners on the Peschici waterfront.

Otranto_Faro di Punta Palascìa_ph Paolo Laku

The millenary cuisine of Salento. With its roots in Puglia’s cucina povera and Arab-inflected history, “ciceri e tria” is a pasta specialty of the Salento. It’s a flavorsome and typically simple dish which combines chickpeas with strips of pasta, some of which has been fried to provide a crunchy texture. There are several versions which include breadcrumbs or fried bread or mix in salted anchovies.

Native grapes for remarkable wines. Over the past thirty years, native varieties of Puglia like Primitivo, Negroamaro, Nero di Troia, Bombino Bianco, Aleatico, Malvasia Nera, Ottavianello, and Susumaniello became internationally coveted. An itinerary through the vineyards reveals a heritage of flavors and knowledge, intertwined in a territory intimately linked to wine. From the most traditional and historic cellars to the recent and innovative ones – they are definitely worth a visit. Guests may sleep in the farmhouse with a view overlooking the vineyards, join in the harvest, have lunch in a barrel cellar, and, as wine tourists, enjoy flavorful events, from May to September. 

Bari_Piazza Mercantile_ph Carlo Elmiro Bevilacqua

For more information and to discover the events of Christmas in Puglia, click here.