Samui Wining & Dining
Semper Fi

Organic super-yoghurts and a Greek restaurant all under one roof – at Fi.

17-(1)

Over the last few years there’s been a quiet revolution going on. In fact, you’ve probably read a lot about this in the press. Of course, there’s also the fact that everyone’s gone all health-conscious over the last couple of decades, anyway. But it seems that newer discoveries are emerging all the time. Take good old yoghurt, for example. It’s healthy and it’s good for you. It has protein and vitamins and the active bacteria help with digestion. It’s even said to boost the immune system, as part of a full-time diet. And if you don’t like the sugary stuff in the supermarkets, then it’s easy to make your own. All you basically need is some milk and an active yoghurt culture. Keep this thought in your mind for a moment . . .

Enter stage left Christos Panodimos. He worked in advertising and media relations before running his own restaurants in both Athens and Corfu. He’s a perceptive man, sensitive to changing times and social trends. And he’d also enjoyed holidays in Thailand. And so when, somewhere in the mid-2000s, the whole atmosphere of European tourism began to change, he made the break and came to live in Thailand. By the time 2010 came around, he’d settled on Samui’s north coast, in Maenam, setting up a small travel agency. And, a little while later, because he sensed a need for it, he also opened a small Greek restaurant next door. But right away, he hit a snag.

“It was the yoghurt,” he told me. “Greek yoghurt isn’t the same as normal yoghurt. And so much of Greek cuisine is based on this exceptional product that it was affecting my restaurant plans. You can’t buy it in Thailand, and of course,it has a limited shelf life. I tried to make it myself, but I just wasn’t satisfied with the results. I wanted it to be exactly the same as the yoghurt I was used to in Greece. So there was only one thing to do. And in 2011, I went back to Greece, specifically so that I could learn the correct way to make perfect Greek yoghurt.”

Interestingly, by doing this, the very astute Christos seems to have anticipated a worldwide trend. At much about the same time that he was heaving crocks of boiling milk and muslin cloths around in Athens, America was beginning to shout about the health benefits of the exact-same product. Greek yoghurt 17-(4) is thicker than the ordinary sort, less sugary, has zero cholesterol, and has more sodium, thus reducing the risk of hypertension. But, most importantly, it has double the amount of protein. Six ounces of this yoghurt has around the same amount of protein that’s found in half a chicken breast. And all of this was endorsed last year with America’s First Lady calling for healthier school meals. As a direct result of this, the United States Department of Agriculture began a pilot scheme, which has now put Greek yoghurt on the menu of some 100,000 Washington schools, and with 24 other states now implementing similar programs.

“If you Google how to make Greek yoghurt,” Christos continued, “then you just won’t come across the right formula. This was my problem. Certainly, it’s thicker, and 10 kilos of milk will only give you three kilos of yoghurt. But the real stuff is actually refined three times, each at different temperatures, using two different sorts of milk at differing stages and with two different organic cultures combined together. In Greece, we tend to smile at other yoghurts. We think of them as drinking yoghurts. But the Greek yoghurt is most definitely yoghurt for eating!”

And how true this is. Today Christos, together with his Thai wife and partner, Oi, are running the very successful Greek restaurant known as simply ‘Fi’, that’s to be found immediately opposite the exit from Home Pro at Chaweng’s Tesco Lotus. Their tzatziki cucumber dip is creamy and light, the hummus is densely mellow, 17-(3) and the tyrosalata (the spicy feta cheese dip) is fully fluffy enough to spread – all thanks to Christos’ super-yoghurt. The entire menu, in fact, is simply fabulous, yoghurt or no yoghurt! In addition, Christo’s designed the actual menu layout himself – it’s full of photos and colour, attractive and informative, and instantly reveals not only an impressively wide range of items (mainly Greek, but with International and Thai offerings, too) but really affordable prices. And if you’d like to sample the fare, pop in on any Friday evening – there’s a great buffet running for just 289 baht per head, plus 700cc carafes of wine for an astounding 530 baht.

But, at the core of both the restaurant and also now his successful dairy sales project, is that creamy Greek yoghurt. It’s available in four formats. Firstly it comes in the form of plain old ordinary homemade yoghurt, either plain-Jane or with a pure organic alternative. And then there’s the Greek variety, also available with normal or organic options. And then, as the Greek equivalent of ‘la crème de la crème’, we have ‘Extra Thick & Creamy Greek Yoghurt’ and ‘Extra Thick & Creamy Organic Greek Yoghurt’.

Although there is always some fresh stock each day, if you want the really thick and creamy Greek variety, to be certain of your order, call it in at least two days in advance. And, in addition, the tzatziki and eggplant dips are available, too, and with plans to further expand the range in the very near future. Anyone is more than welcome to pop in and pick some up, although it’s the premier resorts and restaurants that are forming the biggest queue, And with the yoghurts coming in all sizes up to five kilogram tubs, that’s not surprising (plus free delivery, too).

And the name ‘fi’? Well, it’s not only the Greek word for ‘food’, but it’ means ‘fire’ in Thai, too. And that’s not only altogether a winning combination, but it’s also something that we hope will be around for a long time to come – possibly even ‘semper fi’, perhaps?

          

Rob De Wet


 


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