On 2nd December, Seven Spoons restaurant in Bangkok hosted a seven-course dinner titled Taste Sustainability, featuring a menu of inventive and delicious dishes using organic, sustainably sourced ingredients.
The evening began with an informal panel discussion with speakers from the UN Environment Programme, ThaiHarvest|SOS, Siam Organic and Surin Farms, which provided a fascinating overall perspective on the organic farming and food industry in Thailand.
From UN initiatives such as Think. Eat. Save., to the work of social enterprise Siam Organic in its attempt to eradicate poverty in Thailand’s farming community, we learned of the trials and tribulations - as well as the inspiring stories - of people who really are making a difference.
Siam Organic focuses on growing pesticide and chemical-free vegetables to maintain the health of Thai farmers, and in turn, the entire country. The non-organic fruits and vegetables in Thailand are laced with unregulated chemicals having a devastating effect on both the consumer and the environment in which they are grown.
Our first course was sustainably fished calamari and green papaya from Kogama Organic Farm in Chon Buri. We progressed to more ‘exotic’ dishes i.e. cricket gnocchi. Dessert was a delectable ‘mon’ sesame halva mousse – the seeds has been supplied by a company in the North of Thailand whose provides jobs to migrant communities.
Market access is also a grave challenge for many small organic producers. Surin Farms (their pork and community-made pickles was the third course) opened our eyes to the realities of operating in a monopolized supply chain, as well as the intense bureaucracy necessary to be awarded the ‘certified organic’ stamp.
Also on the panel was ‘food rescue foundation’ ThaiHarvest|SOS. This NGO based in Bangkok rescues surplus food that would otherwise be wasted, and redistributes it to those in need. Although the importance of food waste prevention has been slow to develop in Thailand, ThaiHarvest|SOS have successfully established 22 regular food donors and have to date rescued 65 tons worth of food. The versatility of leftover food was demonstrated in our Welcome Drink: Seven Spoons’ signature Shrub mocktail was cooled with ice cubes filled with chopped fruit, which had been rescued by ThaiHarvest|SOS, from a 5* hotel breakfast buffet.
Although we learned the three largest meat producers globally produce annual carbon emissions equivalent to those produced by all of France (!) this wasn’t intended to guilt us all into veganism; the aim of the evening was to help diners reflect on the our daily food choices, and make us question the origin of the foods we consume.
We left motivated to seek out those places that prioritise the quality of their ingredients, the minimising their carbon footprint and the supporting of their suppliers. Worryingly, many of the best hotels and restaurants in Bangkok don’t in fact use organic suppliers, and serve the same hormone-pumped meat and genetically-modified vegetables as your local street food vendor.
So for your body – and your conscience – it’s worth dining at reputable eateries; those that are known for their support of smaller producers, use of organic sustainably-sourced or -grown ingredients and generate minimal food waste.