Text and Photos by Dave Stamboulis
We tend to take for granted all the good food we have in Thailand. But actually, the longer one eats here, the more one realizes that the incredible array of culinary offerings have started to become quite narrow. Everyone has had their fair share of kaeng kiaow waan (green curry) and pad thai, and, God forbid, yet another serving of pad kaprao, no matter how tasty it may be! This is all the more reason to be excited by the range and depth of the menu at the old school, yet elegant new restaurant, The Local.
The Local was started by Kan Markawat, whose family has been in the restaurant business for years, and is also responsible for the former Oamthong Thai and upscale Naj restaurants. Kan and his sister, Ploy, come from a family of traditional foodies, and they fondly remember going out to discover specialty street vendors growing up, as well as sampling a variety of regional cuisines, as their mother came from Trang in the south, and father from the floating market of Damnoen Saduak.
Many of Thailand’s old and traditional dishes are getting harder to find these days, and Markawat spent much time collecting recipes, researching cookbooks as well as visiting vendors. His wish was to carry on and preserve Thailand’s culinary heritage, and the fruits of his labor come well represented in his new eatery, which offers uncommon selections from every region in Thailand, giving diners a chance to sample dishes they probably have never tried before let alone even heard of.
One of the restaurant’s signature dishes is the gaeng lun juan, which comes from ML Neung Ninrat who was a cook in the Rama V Royal Court. This rare dish comes with beef or pork, laced with Thai herbs and shrimp paste, and is highly aromatic and bursting with flavor.
Another Local specialty is the pla tapien, which is a river fish stewed for 30 hours in sugarcane, ginger, and a homemade sauce, and is boneless and full of broth. Markawat says he is quite amazed when foreigners like this one, as it is a bit fishy, and very traditional Thai. One other menu winner is the gaeng kua pla bai som pan kee maa, a spicy yellow curry fish with hard to find orange leaves from the south.
Also highly recommended is the appetizer set, which features five traditional foods from different regions. The northern khao soy curry noodles are divine, thick and hearty, and the coconut, lime, and shallot mieng kham offering is done here with a lotus leaf rather than a chaphlu leaf, making it far tastier.
The surroundings are a fine compliment to the food, as The Local is housed in a 70-year-old traditional house, outfitted with antiques, wooden bird cages, old paddles from the floating market, and bookcases full of Thai cookbooks from throughout the ages. There are elegant private rooms as well as comfortable outdoor tables.
Don’t forget to save room for dessert, as Kan’s sister makes her own delicious ice cream, and the signature Safflower cocktail made with Mekong whiskey, safflower, and kumquat juice goes well with the food, as do the dragon fruit mojitos.
32 Sukhumvit Soi 23