BANGKOK — They say Russia is between Europe and Asia, but is fully neither and rather its own category. And so between the dense, dark ryes of Germany and the fluffy, sweetened milk breads of Asia are the Matveenkov’s crunchy, yet moist sourdoughs.
“Sourdough Bangkok,” a humble family-run bakery cafe which opened in November, has gained a cult following for tangy bread lovers even in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
“At some point in the 90s, all bread became crap because of commercial yeast,” Olga Matveenkova, 39, said. “All this bread is Russian heritage and recipes, with just flour, water, salt, and starter. People from different countries have told me that this is the bread of their childhood.”
Sourdough Bangkok is founded by Olga and her husband Andrei Matveenkov. Their daughter Daria can be found skipping around the roomy tables on some days.
If dropping by, do not forget to take home a Classic Wheat sourdough loaf (120 baht) or a Wheat Loaf with Seeds (160 baht). To put it simply, a loaf takes two days to make, since no commercial yeast is used to hasten the process.
The result is a large loaf crunchy on the outside, moist and springy on the inside, naturally low in gluten. The author herself has been to the cafe several times before deciding to review it, and found that the breads were very light for Asian stomachs, and even aided in digestion.
“Ours is 100 percent sourdough. Some bakeries may label a bread as sourdough even if they only use five percent. There’s no law about that,” Olga said.
Rye sourdough loaves are also available (180 baht), and take one day to make. Lovely, round golden sourdough brioches (120 baht) are only available on the weekends and take a whopping 42 hours to make.
If planning to have some coffee and a chat with a friend, the cafe is very reasonably-priced, with most dishes under 200 baht. The avocado open sandwich (200 baht) served with a slice of classic wheat sourdough, a smear of truffle, and a mix of avocado and cucumber chunks, topped with two poached eggs.
Vegetarian borscht served with rye sourdough is just 120 baht and incredibly filling (“It’s like a stamp of Russia, like tom yum for Thai,” Andrei said.) For more Russian-ness, blinis are also available (100 baht).
All coffees are under 100 baht, such as the iced cappuccino at 95 baht, and TWG teas are also available at 130 baht, going well with macarons (50 baht) which come in coconut, matcha, lemon, milk chocolate with salted caramel, and strawberry.
From Island to City
The family started baking sourdough in 2019, after they were unable to find the kind of bread they wanted in Thailand. Upon encouraging feedback from friends, they started supplying bakeries and supermarkets on Koh Phangan.
“If I eat bread with yeast, it becomes like a brick inside my stomach,” Andrei said. “But with this bread, I have no problem at all. I’m not uncomfortable. I’ve eaten half a loaf every day for 1.5 years, and didn’t gain weight like I did with other breads.”
Even amidst the pandemic, the Matveenkovs knew that their bread needed more space to rise – and so moved to bangkok in June in order to start their cafe in November.
“We didn’t come because of the pandemic, but because we needed our natural business to grow. We’re lucky to make it,” Olga said. “I was surprised that so many Bangkokian people know about sourdough. I thought our clientele would be foreign, but it’s 50/50 Thais.”
Their starter dough is one and a half years old (it doesn’t have a name, though). Even when the family was travelling around Thailand, they would bring the little starter in a suitcase of ice (“We feed it every day, like a baby,” Andrei said.)
Tucked into a side soi off Pan Road, Sourdough Bangkok is a large, airy space two floors high, all white walls and wooden furniture. It’s roomy and sunny, a refreshing break from other cafes in the city which are only getting tinier and tinier, with microscopic tables.
And a Russian word of the day from the Matveenkovs: sourdough is xleb na zakvaske (хлеб на закваске).
Sourdough Bangkok is open from 9am to 6pm every day, except Tuesdays. The cafe is an equidistant 10 minute walk from either BTS Saint Louis or BTS Surasak.
This review is unsponsored and is based on a hosted visit.