On the hunt for organic produce and healthy eateries
Millennials are responsible for audaciously putting up a mirror to everyone else’s deviously, hedonistic ways. Be it, smoking, drinking, eating meat, late nights and not-doing-yoga. We look on enviously at those youngsters discovering new-found svelte figures and wholesomeness at the bottom of a smoothie bowl or an organic salad. The question however is… where do they find this stuff?! Where does this supposed born-again, washboard abs, well-balanced, health freak begin his or her journey to a more fulfilling life of healthy perfection? And of all places, how do they manage it in a city like Bangkok—hardly a place that conjures up images of a squeaky clean existence?
But dig deep and ye shall find. Here then are five suitable sustenance suggestions, all within easy reach of public transport, which can help open our eyes—and stomachs—to a righteous new world of well-being. Ultimately, there’s really no excuse not to seek out top-quality, healthy food in BKK.
Since 2011, Sustaina Organic Restaurant (2F, 1/40 Sukhumvit Soi 39) has established itself as one of the better-known, and best-loved, healthy food outlets for both the Japanese and Thais working and living in the Phrom Phong/Thonglor area. Upon entering, on the ground floor, customers will encounter a small, minimalistic organic grocery area, while up on the 2nd floor diners will find a healthy, Thai-Japanese fusion restaurant with a menu void of red meat, MSG, dairy, and white sugar. The restaurant also proclaims to use produce mostly from Harmony Life Organic Farm, and seafood caught in the wild. Unfortunately, the range of organic produce in their grocery is fairly modest, and indeed the prices are high, but unlike many other “organic” markets or grocers, Sustaina is meticulously clean and well-organized. And in terms of convenience, it’s a mere stone’s throw away from the Phrom Phong BTS station on Sukhumvit Road.
The new kids on the block, Ingreendient (44/1, Sukhumvit Soi 71) is a grocery shop and healthy café located in the very up-and-coming Phra Khanong area. They have taken a trendy approach to the health food store concept by offering a selection of low carb and sugar-free treats, served in eco-friendly packaging, along with offering visitors a dine-in vegan meal option, including fresh fruit juices and soy lattes at reasonable prices. They carry a limited selection of fresh groceries and seasonal vegetables, provided by a local farm, so you know it’s always going to be super fresh. Typically, you will find green oak, red oak, potatoes, carrots, and cherry tomatoes, as well as ginger and many other Thai herbs. Then there are Ingreendient’s pickled, dried, and raw products available on the shelves (all allergen-free), which can be used to brighten up a meal, or eaten as an on-the-go snack. Im short, it’s ideal for the modern, clean eating, inner-city dweller.
Now if you are looking for a traditional organic grocery store, Lemon Farm (whose flagship store is at 169 Pradit Manutham Road, Lat Phrao) have long been servicing the city’s clean eaters with fresh organic fruits and vegetables, including a large selection of mushrooms, organic lettuces, and even homemade nam prik jay. They have five branches all over Bangkok with their most recent going under the instructive moniker Be Organic by Lemon Farm (31, The Portico, Langsuan Rd). this newest outlet also incorporates a restaurant, with a menu consisting of tofu salads, Thai style spaghetti, pumpkin soup, and vegetable stir fries with brown rice—and nothing too extraordinary or exorbitant. Lemon Farm’s long-standing position in the health food market makes them an institution in this town, and probably your best place to start if you’re keen to cook at home, and/or make your own salads.
Royal Project Shop
Despite the somewhat misleading name, one of the most famous healthy grocers in the city would have to be the Royal Project Coffee Shop located at Or Tor Kor Market (1 Kamphaengphet Rd). The Royal Project Foundation was initiated by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej as a project to improve the lives of the Northern hill tribe people of Thailand. This was accomplished by eradicating the opium trade, and its ill effects on the communities, by endowing the local populations with the skills and knowledge to become self-sustainable farming communities. Nowadays these highland peoples grow a plethora of fruits and vegetables, and their local coffee has become famous both at home and abroad (hence the coffee shop, which is now a major part of the Royal Project’s organic supermarket). If you’re new to the city, this is the agricultural product market most expats swear by. And given that it’s just across from Bangkok’s largest outdoor shopping bazaar, Chatuchak Market, you may as well make a day of it.
The most obvious resource for organic grocers would be the local Farmers Markets which take place on a fairly regular basis. Of the two most well-known, the Thailand Farmers Market appears at K Village (Sukhumvit Soi 26) every second weekend of the month. The other, the Bangkok Farmers Market, springs to life outside the Gateway Shopping Center in Ekkamai (976/9 Sukhumvit Rd), during the second weekend of the month (overlapping with the K Village market).
Visitors to downtown Bangkok shopping malls such as Siam Paragon, Emporium, EmQuartier, K Village, and Terminal 21 will no doubt be familiar with Gourmet Market, a world-class supermarket brand and home to high quality food and produce from all over the globe. It’s a great place to shop for everything from local and imported seasonal fruits and vegetables, to cheese and charcuterie imported from Europe, choice meats from countries such as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA, and organic products and designed for specialty diets. It’s also a great place to stock up on top-end wines, fresh seafood, and locally produced Thai products. In all there are nine Gourmet Markets in Bangkok—other locations include The Crystal SB Ratchapruek, The Mall Bangkae, The Mall Bangkapi, and The Promenade—giving Bangkok residents plenty of options of where to shop.
However, a select few outlets—namely the Emporium, EmQuartier, Siam Paragon, The Mall Bangkapi, and The Mall Bangkae branches—also offer a new three-choice dining concept called the ‘Dine-in Experience’, where diners can select their own ingredients and get their meal cooked on the spot. At You Hunt We Cook diners can select the meat they like and the chef will create a special menu (you also get a chance to talk with the chef while your meal is being prepared). Meanwhile, at The Dock Oyster & Seafood Bar you can dine on fresh oyster and other seafood, as well as pasta, and at the Sushi Bar high quality, fresh sushi and sashimi, imported from Japan, is on offer. In addition, there are other customized items available at each branch, such as vacation platter, seafood platter, charcuterie and cheese platter, oyster platter, as well as Gift & Wrap.
With a mission to be the best and most successful supermarket operator in Thailand, Central Food Retail Company Limited (CFR) operates 210 grocery locations in six different formats. Bangkok shoppers might be most familiar with the iconic Tops Supermarket—which has branches throughout the Kingdom—but CFR also encompasses Tops Superstore, Tops Daily, Superkoom, Central Food Hall, and Eathai. The company also operates Central Wine Cellar and Segafredo Zanetti Espresso, distributes brand items from UK supermarket Waitrose at most outlets, and in 2015 their joint venture with Japan’s No.1 health and beauty store led to the opening of four Matsumoto Kiyoshi stores.
It’s already a lot of inventory to handle, but the company goes that extra step by sourcing only the freshest local and international products, and these products are guaranteed with credentials such as the Food Safety Excellence Award and GAP Certification, both awarded by the Ministry of Public Health. These certifications reflect the company’s dedication in guaranteeing customers the highest quality products and services when they shop at Central Food Hall and Tops. In addition, Tops contributes to a sustainable economy by aiming to provide income for many local farmers.
However, fresh produce, organic products, meat and seafood, ready-to-eat meals, fine wine, and assorted health and beauty products, are not all Tops offers. Customers can also conveniently order online or by phone, and home delivery is available for purchases of B1,500 or more. They also offer ‘Personal Shopper’ service (if you don’t have the time yourself), as well as a ‘Consultant Chef’ if you need cooking advice and/or suggestions (available at the Central Food Hall, CentralWorld, and Central Chidlom locations only).
Beyond the BTS
If it’s the larger or more unique health stores you seek, they exist, but are pretty much only accessible for those blessed (or cursed) with motor vehicles. The list includes Bai Miang Healthy Shop on Thakham Rd. (Rama 2, Bang Khun Thian), and The Organique on Sathupradit Rd. Or, if you’ve just finished two bouts of yoga class, and need to rest those weary bones, shop online at www.sunshinemarket.co.th. They have an extensive range of health food goodies which can be delivered right to your door.
Leading the Veggie Vanguard
After opening their first branch on Sukhumvit Road almost two years ago, Broccoli Revolution has now expanded and opened a second location on the 6th floor ‘Open House’ area at Central Embassy (1031 Ploenchit Rd), spreading their philosophy of a balanced lifestyle—starting with more vegetables. Expect all the best-selling items from the Sukhumvit location, but also take note of menu newcomers such as the healthy gluten free artichoke lasagna, the protein-packed Portobello steak, and the vegan Isaan platter. Or, just indulge in some fresh organic cold-pressed juice, vegan smoothies, homemade ice-cream, and vegan desserts. The new location is open daily from 10am to 10pm.
By Samantha Proyrungtong & Bruce Scott