If you’ve been to a wedding in the past few years, chances are you’ve been handed a wedding program upon your arrival, featuring photographs of the happy couple, tidbits about how they met, details about their families or the story of their first date. Little books like these can frequently be found in Thailand as well, but not for weddings – for funerals.
In Thailand it has been a long-held tradition to give out gifts to attendees at funerals. These small memorial books called nang sue ngam sop, are typically written by the family of the deceased. The books are not unlike the wedding programs detailing various aspects of their loved one’s life, photographs from graduations, weddings or significant events, personal stories and anecdotes and quite often their favorite recipes.
One of the first examples of these memorial books had an especially tragic beginning, when King Chulalongkorn had 10,000 copies made to memorialize his wife and daughter:
Recipes from funeral books have been the main inspiration for Chef David Thompson, whose now closed London restaurant, Nahm, earned a coveted Michelin Star – the first for Thai cuisine. Chef Thompson has a collection of 500 Thai funeral books, each of them featuring a recipe. Bangkok has its own Nham location that was named the best restaurant in Asia at S.Pellegrino Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2014.
That’s right – the best restaurant, in the world’s largest continent sourced their recipes from funeral books.
Image of Funeral books by Richard S. Ehrlich
Image 2 via Wikivoyage
In Bankok, 500 Funerals and a Michelin Star, Amy Ma, The Wall Street Journal
The Final Chapter: Books of the Dead, Richard S. Ehrlich