Where in Bangkok can you get that New York taste?

It used to be that Au Bon Pain was the place in Bangkok to catch a bite of the curious round bread with a hole in the middle. But with the arrival of Dean and Deluca, and its typically New York-style salmon and cream cheese version of the hearty bagel, we can’t help wonder what else is out there for wheat dough enthusiasts.

Au Bon Pain

For a full list of branches, visit www.aubonpainthailand.com
A New Yorker won’t fall to the floor in nostalgic tears upon spying these, but Au Bon Pain does get credit for their daily offering of plain, wholewheat, poppy seed, sesame and onion bagels. And the option to have it with cream cheese or as a breakfast sandwich (egg, cheese and bacon/ham) reminds us of Brooklyn bodegas.
The bagel: Not the six slices of bread they say a bagel is worth, but we like the thickness, the dark color, the shine and the chewiness of the crust, even if the bread inside feels like it’s storebought.
The prep: Hard to go wrong with herbalicious cream cheese, but the industrial quality of the bacon and the factory-cooked eggs in the breakfast sandwich are scary.
How much: B55 with cream cheese and B80 with egg and bacon. Or B40 for a plain bagel, if you want to make your own sandwich at home.

Dean and Deluca

Mahanakhon Project, 92 Narathiwas-Rajanakarin Rd. BTS Chong Nonsi
With its New York City cred, Dean and Deluca has a lot to live up to, which is why we’re surprised they only do one, pre-prepared bagel sandwich. Still, we give them props for making it a salmon and cream cheese one.
The bagel: Covered with sesame seeds, the flavor is quite nice, but the taste of the actual bread is a bit insipid. The crust is suitably bagel-esque, though the body of the bagel is not substantial.
The prep: This would make a great platter, the bagel toasted and sliced and the salmon, cream cheese and onions (some capers would be nice) on the side. But they have them in a display case, ready to be stuck in the panini press. The cream cheese is a bit too much, but the salmon is nice and the crunchy onions do cut the creaminess nicely.
How much: B200—ouch!

Oriental Coffee Shop

5/F, The Emporium, Sukhumvit Road, 02-664-8000. BTS Phrom Phong
It’s a shame you can’t just take home an unprepped, plain bagel, because their baked goods are so mouth-watering. The onion bagel with turkey breast is one of their many sandwich options, one they’ve had for years and which delivers consistent quality.
The bagel: Hands-down the best bagel: dark, shiny, chewy crust and an inside beautifully pocked with different-sized holes (a sign of less industrial baking).
The prep: Lovely to behold, with generous amounts of turkey and greens. Also a nice, herby butter that is inconspicuous but imparts good flavor without making the whole thing soggy.
How much: B110


The Landmark, 138 Sukhumvit Rd., 02-254-0404. BTS Nana
You can get any of their sandwiches with fries for B250, but we say it’s way cheaper to get it to go at their cafe, where their sesame salmon bagel is made fresh everyday.
The bagel: On par with Dean and Deluca: nice crust, lots of sesame seeds, enormous size but uninspiring bread flavor.
The prep: The salmon is generous, and we like the textural contrast of the thinly-sliced cucumbers and onions. What is baffling, though, and a real deal-breaker is that instead of cream cheese, they do mayonnaise. And lots of it too, oozing out of the bagel hole. Gross! And with all the girth of a bagel and all that mayo, the fries are beyond overkill.
How much: B130 from the bakery

The Art of the Bagel

A staple in places with large Jewish populations, the bagel has many variations around the world. But it’s much more than just a roll with a hole. Not for low-carb diets, a good bagel should be thick with a dense interior and a chewy, slightly crisp crust—two qualities often achieved by boiling the rolled dough briefly before sticking it in the oven. The traditional New York bagel uses a salted dough, making it less sweet than its Montreal counterpart, and is boiled in water and malt, giving it a shiny crust.


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Top chefs embrace local produce.

A major phenomenon in Europe and the United States, the local food movement (LFM) is perhaps the most significant current food trend of all—yes, more than six-course wine dinners and guest visits by Michelin-star chefs. A direct response to the over-industrialization of food and the damage to farmland and farmers by big business, single-crop farming, the LFM is a revival of sourcing seasonal food from nearby small farms, not from countries far, far away.

At present, Bangkok’s diners still seem obsessed with fancy, foreign foods: French foie gras, New Zealand mussels, USDA beef, Australian lamb, Alaskan king crab and more. Thai produce and meat is still strictly for home use and street stalls, not five star hotels and fancy restaurants. Except that even here a rumble of counter-culture is taking place, spearheaded by a handful of inventive Thai and foreign chefs who, risking a break with money-making trends, are re-introducing us to food products made in our green Kingdom. Their hope is reduced carbon emissions, stronger local economies and, believe it or not, exciting and delicious food.

Why Local?

We spoke to four such chefs from four different restaurants (See Meet the Chefs below) and each had their own reason for going local. For Nate Sarakossas, owner/chef of the new French bistro, Triplets, LFM is closely aligned with the anti-global warming movement. “LFM reduces carbon emissions caused by packaging, refrigeration and long-haul transportation of food,” she says, and she’s not alone. That temple of cool, Bed Supperclub, is getting in on the act as well with their once-a-month locavore menu, where executive chef Cameron Stuart serves up a five-course set menu showcasing the possibilities of Thai-made ingredients. It’s actually part of a larger, environmental commitment by the venue, namely the 10/10 initiative where businesses pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 10% in 10 years.

Still even if you aren’t worried about saving the planet, there are more patriotic reasons to consider. This is the case for Tee Kachorklin, former sous chef at the Michelin-star Roussillon in London, and now the owner of a charming and affordable bistro, La Table de Tee. “It’s not just about going to another country, working at Michelin-star places and then coming back to work at a five-star hotel. In using Thai products, I am trying to help the Thai economy, linking food with Thai farmers, not just the cook.”

But at the end of the day, the real value of the LFM comes down to the quality of the food and in turn the taste of the dishes. “It’s fresh,” says Paul Quarchioni, former sous chef of Le Normandie and now owner of La Café Siam. “We can get in live fish and live prawns, as opposed to imported fish. If it’s caught overseas on Monday, I can only get it on Friday.” Stuart also prefers the quality and convenience of ordering locally. “With import orders you get produce that’s coming in about once a week, so fruits and vegetables end up in your cool room for a long time. But local things, I can have delivered daily.”

Eggplants With Personality

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and hippie rainbows. If it were that easy then maybe more chefs in town would be emboldened to do the same thing. For starters, Thailand still suffers from a lack of sustainable farming and agricultural infrastructure. Stuart says, “We seem to have trouble with guarantees. We do a monthly menu, so I’ll say, ‘Will this product be available for the whole month?’ Then despite getting a yes, a week into the menu, I find it doesn’t exist anymore!”

Nate agrees there are issues with sticking to local. “The demand for local products is low, so prices are still high and quality development is still struggling. We all need to use more of the local products, so the price and the quality of the local products can be better.”

Quarchioni looks on the bright side: “In Europe, if you buy fifty eggplants they are all the same shape and size, the same shade of green. You know they’ve been genetically modified, or sprayed or grown in a greenhouse. But here things are pretty much grown on farms. I can buy a kilo of eggplants and I’ll get one this size and one that size. But that’s not that important if it’s fresh.”

The Chef’s Chops

Nate admits that she does face limitations trying to cook the French-way with all-Thai ingredients. “Not only do we have to go looking for ingredients in different places,” she says, “adapting to a particular cuisine is another issue. When we try to present a certain cuisine, we must obtain the essence of that cuisine. We have to adjust a lot.”

That might not be a bad thing, considering the opportunity for innovation it affords chefs. Our city, with its lust for expensive, old-school European food, seems to struggle to hold on to young talent. Jesse Barnes of Grossi and Nicholas Joanny of Le Vendome come to mind. At many high-end hotel restaurants, we barely know the name of the chef. Perhaps the dining scene is just too restrictive. What’s a young artiste to do when the moneyed clientele wants nothing more than pizza and pasta alla carbonara or authentic foie gras, coq au vin and Cotes du Rhone?

On the other hand, the beginnings of Bangok’s LFM movement are already producing restaurants where the chef’s sensibility is the driving force behind food. Despite his French technique, Tee does not think of La Table de Tee as a French restaurant. “It’s not about French or Thai,” he says. “It’s about me, the chef. I’m saying to the customer, ‘Look, I would like you to try my personal ideas.’”

Over at Le Café Siam, the emphasis on locally-sourced products forces Quarchioni to stretch his knowledge and skills with the menu, which changes every two days. “I don’t have a menu that I have to buy food for; I buy food and then write the menu.” Far from finding it daunting, he is invigorated by the challenge. “It does keep me on my toes. Otherwise it gets boring.”

In the case of Triplets, Nate’s talent led her to defy the widely-held belief among foodies that Thai-raised livestock is just no good. “I experimented with cuts and came up with a lamb shank stew with fresh apple juice, and a marinated beef tenderloin mushroom steak, which surprised customers. They couldn’t believe the meat was from local producers.”

Hopefully, despite the long way to go, the LFM is here to stay, leading to more happy famers, inspired chefs and adventurous, but satisfied customers.

Meet the Chefs

Nate Sarakossas
chef/owner, Triplets Bistro

After receiving her chef’s training in Chicago, Nate returned to Bangkok with a strong local-sourcing ethos. Her French-style bistro, Triplets, serves only locally-sourced food.
• 6/F Parnjit Tower, Soi Thong Lor, Sukhumvit 55,
02-712-8066. Open Wed-Sun 6-10pm

Chatree “Tee” KachorKlin,
chef/owner, La Table de Tee

After a stint at Michelin-starred French restaurant
Roussillon in London, Tee has returned to Thailand with
a desire to share his knowledge and flair for innovation
and to support Thai farmers and meat suppliers.
• 69/5 Soi Sala Daeng, 02-636-3220. Open Tue-Sun 6:30-10:30pm

Cameron Stuart
executive chef, Bed Supperclub

The new chef at Bed Supperclub, Cameron juggles the standard menu, the monthly menu, the weekend surprise menu, as well as an all-local “Locavore” set-menu that is available once a month and employs both Western and
Thai influences.
• 26 Sukhumvit Soi 11, 02-651-3537. Open Sun-Thu 7:30-9:30pm, Fri-Sat 9pm sharp for the set menu

Paul Quarchioni
chef/owner, Le Café Siam

Formerly the sous chef at the Mandarin Oriental’s French restaurant, Le Normandie, Paul has opened his own restaurant with a special emphasis on locally-made products and a menu that changes every two days.
• 4 Soi Sri Aksorn, Chuan Phloeng Rd., 02-671-0030.
Open daily 6:30-11pm

Coconut dumplings at Bed Supperclub
• Local ingredients: shredded coconut, palm sugar,
rice flour, coconut cream, pandanus, jasmine flowers,
rose petal
• Imported ingredients: none

Grilled Snapper at Triplets Bistro
• Local ingredients: l
otus root, fennel, snapper fish, potato, mushroom, tomatoes, jalapeno, hibiscus reduction
• Imported ingredient: olive oil

Rosemary-crusted duck at Le Cafe Siam
• Local ingredients:
duck, rosemary, potatoes, snap peas
• Imported ingredients: olive oil, vanilla bean

Where Else to Get Local Produce

Or tor kor market
The prices here may be higher than most other markets and supermarkets in Bangkok, but that’s because Or Tor Kor has a reputation for carefully selected meats and produce, including custom-grown cold-weather veggies. We’ve spoken to many chefs, including Bo and Dylan of Bo.Lan, who say they do the bulk of their shopping here. Parking can be a drag, so we suggest taking the MRT and going home in a cab.
• Kamphaengpet Road. Open daily 6am-8pm

Klong Toei Market
Catering to Bangkok’s many workers from the Northeast, this market is way cheaper than Or Tor Kor, but way crazier, too. Melting ice is dripping, chickens are squawking, butchers are hacking up large animals piece by piece, all before your very eyes. It’s an amazing, if squeamish, reminder that food comes from the ground and from cute, furry animals, not from boxes and plastic wrap.
• Rama IV Road. Open daily 6am-2pm

Lemon Farm
Lemon Farm is all about creating communities of farmers in order to source organic, macrobiotic, and yes, honest-to-god made-in-Thailand food stuff.
• J. Avenue in Chaengwattana, 02-575-2222. Open Mon-Fri 9am-9pm, Sat-Sun 8am-9pm. For other branches, see www.lemonfarm.com

Royal Project Foundation
A local wonderland of hard-to-find produce

Founded by His Majesty the King, The Royal Project Foundation in Chiang Mai has a three-fold mission: eliminating illegal cultivation of opium, promoting reforestation by dissuading hill tribes from slash-and-burn farming methods and strengthening the livelihoods of farmers competing with cheaper produce imported from abroad.

While most locally-minded chefs receive bulk deliveries straight from Chiang Mai, us home cooks can also partake in their fare. The annex store in Bangkok, the Doi Kham Shop next to Talat Or Tor Kor, receives fresh produce a couple of times a week and stocks locally-grown rarities like jalapenos, artichokes, Swiss chard, Japanese pumpkin, radicchio and much more.

• 101 Kamphaengpet Rd., 02-299-1551. MRT Kamphaengpet.
Open Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat-Sun 7am-6pm

Local Alternatives
Comparing costs on these ‘luxury’ goodies.

• Artichokes (Australia), B119 for one at Villa Market
• Artichokes (Thailand), B75 for two at the Doi Kham Shop

• 2007 Terra Maltum Altum Reserve Chardonnay (Chile), B999 at Wine Connection
• 2009 Monson Valley Colombard (Thailand), B600 at Wine Connection

• Starbucks Espresso Blend (International), B490 for 250g at any Starbucks
• Doi Tung Espresso Roast (Thailand), B234 for 200g at Villa Market

• Fresh sage (USA), B89 for one packet at Villa Market
• Fresh sage (Thailand), B10 for one packet at the Doi Kham Shop

• Buffalo mozzarella (Italy) is B135 for 100g, at Villa Market
• Buffalo mozzarella (Thailand), B85 from 125g, at Villa Market


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