Pushing, promoting, and reinterpreting “authentic” Thai recipes
There seems to be a conscious initiative to promote regional and bona fide Thai food with more restaurants pushing the “authentic” label. With the global, widespread marketing of Thai cuisine, something has been lost, and ubiquitous, MSG-laden dishes have spread the wrong message across international outlets. Now, restaurants such as The Local by Oamthong Thai Cuisine are among the most prominent exponents of Thai cooking, reviving and reinterpreting classic recipes.
The restaurant is located in a former home, a sprawl of disjointed spaces over two floors with several offshoot rooms for private dining and events. A fish stream cuts through the centre, dividing an on-site museum and a lower level dining room. I eat upstairs, in a lighter, airier space, with ample tables and bamboo seating; and a picture book menu with Thai and English descriptions.
The Appetizer Set (B250) is a multicoloured, tapas-style approach to the four regions of the Kingdom—including fish cakes, rice crackers, and chicken in pandan leaves—that works as a useful introduction to Thailand’s diverse culinary traditions in seven or so bitesize plates.
A rich profusion of curries follows, as though the Scoville Scale has been thrust in front of me. It’s guesswork, so I begin with the least dangerous looking: Yellow Chicken Curry (B350), but I’m deceived; it numbs my chops and stings the throat, a torrid slap, raising in warmth like a Satan fart in the mouth. There’s an accompanying plate of locally-grown vegetables, including lotus stem, undoubtedly meant to cool the mouth of a novice tourist like me.
I move on to Braised Spareribs in Red Curry Sauce (B380) and a more cooling offering with tender ribs marinated in a creamy sauce. Staff insist on changing my cutlery with each mouthful, which is a frustration, but this is all a preface for the main event and the signature dish of Gaeng Run Juan (B240), an ancient recipe derived from ML Neung Ninrat, a cook in the Royal Court of King Rama V. Thin strips of beef flank are marinated in coconut milk with curry and shrimp paste, then topped with garlic cloves, whole chillies (fiery red and burn-your-balls green), all seasoned with lime juice and shavings of lemongrass. It’s yet another tongue-burner, sending my lips aquiver. I repeatedly slurp my Thai Milk Tea (B80) for calm but to little avail.
Jasmine and Brown Rice (B50) is offered in traditional, woven baskets, with both executed to perfection. I have found that when a country takes its rice seriously (so often relegated to a simple side accompaniment in Europe), the entire meal is lifted, as it is here.
Desserts are mostly jellied, rubbery inventions, falling short of the savoury courses. However, there’s enough added sweetness to please. Mango and Sticky Rice (B150) is as good as any, and a selection of homemade ice-creams (B380) is pleasingly refreshing. In all, this is evocative cooking, celebrating and sharing Thai culinary achievements in a true and authentic style.
The Local by Oamthong Thai Cuisine
32, Sukumvit Soi 23
Tel: 02 664 0664
Open daily: 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-11:30pm