Founded in 2012, Chili Paste Tour is the creation of Ubon Ratchathani native and Bangkokian of 15 years, Chin Chongtong, who is also the main guide and cooking instructor.

The company takes its name from the English translation for nam prik, a vast genre of Thai relishes made by pounding with a mortar and pestle. A tiny bit of nam prik provides a huge punch of flavor, making it a staple in non-wealthy Thai homes going back many centuries. Nothing epitomizes Thai food quite like chili paste.

Saying Chin is a Thai food enthusiast would be a big understatement — nearly all of her free time is spent exploring, studying and experimenting with Thai cuisine. In her own kitchen, at country farms, at Bangkok’s street stalls, markets and anywhere else where people are serious about food (just about anywhere in Thailand), Chin can be found tirelessly searching for the best and most interesting ingredients and flavors.

With a sharp palate that tends towards the sour rather than the sweet, Chin feels that MSG and mass-produced seasonings are taking Thai food in a worrisome direction. Her penchant for obscure ingredients has shown time and again that a roadside weed can taste terrific. Though she doesn’t shun new ideas — indeed she often comes up with her own progressive culinary creations — she is naturally devoted to preserving the roots of Thai food.

In the countryside, Chin loves to visit farms to gain a first-hand understanding of the people who produce the raw ingredients of Thai food, and the land that fosters it. In the city, she seeks out and befriends individuals and families who have devoted their lives, or even generations, to perfecting just one or two dishes. As a child, Chin’s mother and grandmother taught her to forage for wild herbs, mushrooms and other ingredients in the forests of northeastern Thailand, instilling in her a profound respect for nature.

As a guide, Chin aims to be professional while also keeping things fun and relaxed; one guest remarked that she’s more like a host than a “proper” guide. She hopes you’ll feel like you’re being shown around by a local friend who happens to be an expert on Thai food. As a cooking instructor, Chin cuts no corners while teaching you to prepare dishes that you may not expect, using local ingredients that many people have never encountered. Above all, Chin cares deeply about the local communities that she frequents, which is evident in her friendships with the locals themselves.

Chin’s tours and cooking classes have often bee recommended by travel and food writers, including Richard Barrow and the authors of Thailand’s Best Street Food and Anne’s Kitchen. Guests’ online feedback has also been overwhelmingly positive. One of Bangkok’s most trusted local publications, Bangkok 101, said this about Chin:

“Chin is a dynamo, a one-woman street-combing machine with as much know-how of this country’s cuisines and cultural mechanisms as any chef this side of David Thompson—and more spirit than a Muay Thai prize fighter.”

A writer for the excellent food blog, Braised and Confused, had this to say:

“Chin takes the time to actually get to know the vendors she frequents, understanding more about who they are and what they doWhat I found particularly amazing about Chin’s method of working was her constant attention to detail, always making sure that every single dish she introduced to us was of the highest quality in both taste and cleanliness. Her ability to be flexible and adapt to our schedule and needs was a huge plus – when she noticed that I had a swollen ankle from a recent sprain, she worked a visit to her local Thai doctor into our tour, which was such an interesting experience, definitely not something from the books. That kind of service is pretty incredible.

Chili Paste Tour is a legally registered Thai company with all necessary licenses for conducting tours in Thailand.