Samui Wining & Dining
Signature Dish

The Farmer Restaurant & Bar, set amidst Samui's only rice paddy, is renowned for its curries.

 

19Eating at The Farmer is not just a meal. It’s an excursion. Here, you get to experience your meal in the making – literally, as the restaurant sits amid a rice paddy which produces enough rice to supply the menu. The Farmer has 16 rai of land in Ban Tai just off the ring-road along Samui's northern shore – most of which is under paddy. As with most of Thailand's rice, jasmine is the variety grown here, and they harvest twice a year.

      In case you’re wondering, the rice is not the signature dish, but it is worthy of a mention. As the main accompaniment to the establishment’s famous curries, the rice here is not only tasty, but pretty too. As rice is such a feature at The Farmer, it comes standard with meals, and isn't charged extra. And this is no ordinary rice. No, here you don't get run-of-the-mill steamed white rice, but five herb-flavoured varieties neatly packaged in banana-leaf parcels and steamed. It makes quite a colourful accompaniment – there's original white, yellow turmeric, purple butterfly-flower infused, red rosella, and a green one coloured and flavoured with pandan leaf.

      As fancy as the rice is, the curries are what bring customers to The Farmer. The restaurant doesn’t use curry paste from the market. According to owner, Khun Lek, her recipes have been passed down in the family for

generations, and they are ‘top secret’, she says with a chuckle. Most dishes on the menu are traditional Thai, but some have the option of an unusual twist. Take the massaman curry for example – the signature dish. There’s the more common chicken version, but also a few variations you’re not likely to see elsewhere. The beef massaman is made with Kobe wagyu beef, and there’s a Phuket lobster option too, which looks very impressive as a whole lobster emerges from the sauce and takes over the plate.

      But it’s the lamb shank massaman that stands out from the ‘sea of massamans’ available on Samui. A whole lamb shank is slow roasted and simmered in Khun Lek’s famous sauce. Rather than pieces of potato usually served in the curry, with this lamb version a soft, buttery mash sits on the plate, and then the fall-off-the-bone shank is placed on top and coated with the thick, rich massaman sauce. The portions are generous too, so come hungry. And even if you’re full, you won’t be able to leave any behind. Khun Lek says that customers always ask to take the rest home, as it’s too good to waste.

       Now while she holds tightly on to the family’s secret recipe, she did reveal a few aspects of the lamb massaman, if you’re after a few pointers. Firstly, imported lamb from New Zealand is used, as lamb is not a common ingredient in Thai recipes. She doesn’t use any MSG in her recipes – and how could she, with a recipe that’s been in the family long before MSG made its mark on the lazy cook’s flavouring list? She also believes in using organic ingredients wherever possible, as they’re not only tastier, but healthier too. But that’s all she’s revealing about her sauce.

         It has just the right amount of heat too. The recipes are not toned down in flavour for the Western palate. But, should you want a milder version, just ask, and the only ingredient that will be altered from the authentic Thai version is the amount of chilli used. Massaman is the mildest of the Thai curries, so it’s a good introduction for those not yet used to the spice of Thai food. The green curry is equally as good, with its crisp, fresh heat and distinctive flavour. For vegetarians, let the kitchen whip up a vegetable and tofu green curry, which is particularly good.

         You’ll often find Khun Lek in the kitchen at The Farmer, where she acts as ‘quality controller’. She’s quite particular about the standard of food, and rightly so, as The Farmer has won several awards since it opened.

         And while you’re enjoying your ‘secret recipe’ massaman curry, you can enjoy the elegant furnishings as well. Khun Lek has an eye for style and a taste for Balinese furnishings (she owns a home and a business in Bali too), which fits in perfectly with the paddies outside.

         And if the quest for the perfect massaman curry is too far for you to travel, not to worry, as the restaurant offers a free transfer service from the Nathon to Bophut areas. Guests staying beyond this, pay only 300 baht per trip for up to 10 people in the minivan.

         

Rosanne Turner


 


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