Samui Wining & Dining
Tending to Trends

Food fashions? Sleepy Samui sets the style!



Trends come and go. Not merely in the shifting sphere of designer clothing but in lifestyles too. Twenty years ago, a spa was where your wife went for a suntan or to get her nails done. But over the last two decades our basic outlook has changed and a healthy lifestyle is now everybody’s aim. The watchword is well-being; regular exercise is in and ‘junk food’, out. And, along with an entire spectrum of associated activities, it’s healthy eating and good food that tops our list of priorities today.

Of course, food has its fads too – witness the Nouvelle Cuisine of the 1970s with its tiny portions on huge plates or the idea that curry and fries could be called ‘fusion’ food. But, if we look back at some of the ‘dos and don’ts’ that have emerged in the last few years, some things have become firmly established. Universal alarm about the use of additives, colourings and preservatives, for example. Battery farming using forced hormone-feeding is another red light. There’s now a whole list of requirements that intelligent and aware people are insisting on when it comes to their food. It’s one ‘trend’ that’s become firmly established.

But guess what? There are some places where these concerns just don’t apply. Places where the dash and hassles of city living aren’t relevant. Places where the fast food flood hasn’t happened; where life is stress-free, food is fresh and coffee doesn’t need to be spooned instantly from a jar. And one of them just happens to be the island of Samui.

            A glance around the internet and the online lifestyle mags and blogs discloses an interesting ‘must-have’ list. Right at the top is ‘fresh every day’. And connected with this is the idea of food having to travel – it’s no good having ‘fresh’ vegetables if they’ve had to be transported frozen from a cheap source somewhere miles away. This aspect’s become so important that one major chain of Japanese supermarkets is now especially bar-coding their produce. And shoppers can scan the code to discover where the items came from, when they were picked and when dispatched. In other countries, small restaurants are even beginning to grow their own vegetables; often on plots in sight of the dining tables. But on Samui, all everyday foodstuffs are fresh and nearly all of it is grown on the island and was picked only hours ago.

Connected with both of these aspects, the next emerging trend in industrialised nations is towards ‘small is beautiful’. The giant supermarket chains might be pennies cheaper but thousands of folks have been turning to the ‘mum and dad’ shops, of which there has lately been quite a resurgence. Quality produce bought-in from trusted local suppliers – sounds familiar? Yep, just like on Samui! Sure, we’ve got our mega-marts too, but they’re outnumbered 1000-1 by small shops and restaurants. There’s even a big, organic-based hydroponic vegetable farms here. Plus you can guarantee that all the local markets on the island are usually sold out well-before it’s time for breakfast.

And all tied-in with this awareness is the theme of conservation and sustainability. There’s now a huge and established drive towards this by the Thai Hotels Association Southern Chapter East Coast (THA for short). Nearly all of their member-resorts are recycling their waste, reducing their carbon footprint and insisting on organically-grown produce, with many of them growing their own fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices. It’s not just the small local restaurants which are clean and green!

Samui residents will probably respond with a small smile when they hear that there’s been a huge upsurge in popularity of street food stalls in some of the big cities in America and Europe. Vendors of Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese and, of course, Thai food are now taking to the streets and attracting attention and more than a few dedicated customers. It’s all about fabulous food that’s cheap, healthy and nourishing. If you’re staying in a big resort somewhere you simply can’t go home without experiencing the delights of noodle soup (gu-ay tee-ow), sitting at picnic-table furniture and out on the street; but it’s not exactly a new fad over here.

Another ‘trend’ that’s recently emerged from the lofty realms of haute cuisine is for the top chefs to have begun making their own in-house bread; they’ve become distrustful of the methods of outside suppliers. But, on our little island, that’s just about the norm, because we don’t have access to giant bakeries with mega outputs, in any case. You’ll find bakeries at resorts such as Anantara Bophut, Samui Buri Beach Resort and The Tongsai Bay: the list goes on. Plus there’s also an increasing number of ‘small is beautiful’ German, Swiss and French bakeries scattered around the island; all doing a thriving trade.

Interestingly, in response to all these trends it’s reported that the leading ‘fast-fooders’ have responded with some alarm and are now trying to woo back their former customers. McDonald’s and Wendy’s have both recently announced multi-million dollar refurbishments and rumour has it that an internationally-known big-name coffee-house chain is planning to also include food on their menu. Sigh. Samui got there first. We’ve got two superb coffee houses, both of which also offer an extensive range of Thai and international food, and at prices which make the big guys blush. Keep your eyes out for branches of Black Canyon Coffee and The Coffee Club.

The other lifestyle trend that’s been making headlines recently is the increasing number of men who are taking to the kitchen. Whereas professional male chefs are not exactly a new thing, domesticated ones seem to be! On Samui we can boast some top chefs, many of whom are distinguished by having previously worked at various Michelin-starred eateries around the world. And all of them appear to be male!

It’s hard to see what the fuss is about. Fresh local food, hydroponics, organics, street stalls, hand-made breads, small shops with quality produce and personal service? We got ’em all. And then you can add to that all the sunshine, sleepy beaches and dinners under the stars. Plus we’ve also got all the latest IPad apps about cooking and cookbooks, together with instant access to foody videos and online publications; all you need to do is to lie on the beach and download them – but that’s a whole new story!




Rob De Wet


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